All Saints’ Day in the Philippines

Oct 2, 2016 · 3 min read

By Timothy Losbog

Photo credit: Jacob Maentz at

October has just rolled around the corner. You know how it goes this time of year: the costume shopping, the bat decorations, the spooky-scary-skeleton theme, and the much beloved pumpkin-spice everything. Halloween is on a lot of our minds and right after that, we go straight into November and thinking about Thanksgiving. But for some, October 31st and the following November 1st hold a different meaning. In the Philippines, as well as for Catholics around the world, October 31st marks the night before All Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ Day began as a pagan holiday meant to give peace to restless spirits, but the two days have transformed over the centuries into a commemoration of the lives of the saints of the Church, beginning the evening of October 31st and ending on November 1st. The customs for celebrating All Saints’ Day vary depending on the region you’re in. For example, America celebrates All Saints’ Day in the form of Halloween the night before. That’s right. For those in the United States, the largely secular holiday spent dressing up and trick-or-treating is just a variant of All Saints’ Day. However, the religious meaning is lost to most, save those of, say, Catholic background.

On the other hand, the Philippines, one of the few Asian nations where Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, maintains the religious value of All Saints’ Day, and their customs are more in line with that of other regions with some slight differences. Known as “Todos los Santos” (Spanish for “All Saints”) or “Araw ng mga Patay” (Tagalog for “All Soul’s Day” or “Day of the Dead”), the two days are spent visiting the graves of relatives. There, vigils are held and candles are lit in honor of the deceased. Since the majority of graves are above ground, Filipinos take the time to clean, repair, and repaint the graves, polishing tiled floors, weeding surrounding debris, and beautifying their lost loved one’s area.

Some stay at the graveyard for around two hours, while others may even spend the whole night. In any case, All Saints’ Day remains a celebration for the Philippines. Among the prayers and due respect given to the deceased, there’s food, singing, and dancing that, accompanied by the candlelight, gives the night and day a festive, rather than strictly solemn, atmosphere. All Saints’ Day is a time of unity and celebration, rather than one of mourning, spent with those who are lost but ultimately not forgotten.

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The official blog of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers


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