Friday, October 23, 2009


Just a week from now, the nation will mark yet another All Saints' Day and with more chaos, bedlam and pandemonium than in previous years. Untold miseries will be experienced again by those who will be going to cemeteries to visit their dead. This yearly ordeal has given rise to demands that this time-honored tradition be given up altogether.

Even the church hierarchy has been asked to endorse this proposal. Some church leaders are seriously studying the demand. After all, the solemnity of the yearly celebration to honor the dead has vanished entirely, giving way to materialism, frivolity and revelry.

Due to the prohibitive cost of burials and the lack of burial space, many Filipinos continue to opt for cremation. The meddlesome Catholic Church, which banned the practice for a long time, is now allowing it.

If cremation becomes a widespread practice, All Saints' Day will be celebrated differently. The urn containing the ashes of the departed can be kept at home and be accorded reverence each day of the year instead of only once every first day of November.

Among the early Greeks and Romans, cremation was closely associated with valor, manly virtue, patriotism and military glory. It was regarded by many as the only fitting end to an epic life.

Cremation was introduced to the western world by the Greeks in 1000 B.C., although it was practiced long before then by northern tribes. The Romans adopted it. The word cremation comes from the Latin cremare, meaning "to burn up."

In the United States, cremation is more popular than burial because of lack of space for cemeteries. An average of 5,000 individuals die every day in the US. In Japan, cremation is way ahead of burial and we soon have to follow suit. Here in the Philippines, a baby is born every 3 minutes, and the runaway population increase demands more living space, which include those wide memorial parks which can be turned into badly-needed housing projects.

The costs of burial in memorial parks are now so high that only the rich can afford such. It costs up to PhP200,000 for a small burial plot and additional thousands more to entertain friends and relatives during the wake.

In contrast, cremation can be as cheap as PhP1,500 at the San Lazaro Crematory and up to PhP7,500 at those memorial parks which have crematories.

Advocates of cremation argue that they are spared the horror of knowing that their loved ones would be eaten by worms. They also say that cremation will kill the germs that caused death.

It is good that the Catholic Church now allows this practice. Protestant churches actively promote cremation, and among the Masons, cremation is compulsory.
Image above is a Viking cremation.

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