Gambling & Dead Bodies
For Westerners, or any other foreigner for that matter, the words ‘gambling’ and ‘dead bodies’ will never go in the same sentence. Gambling will never be associated with dead bodies just as century eggs will never be associated with hamburgers. However, this is not the case in the Philippines. The dead is used as an excuse to gamble during wakes. What is even more surprising is that despite it being illegal, it remains evident in the society.
The practice of mourning for the dead has remained the same in all social classes in the Philippine society. Each family is given an ample amount of time to grieve for the loss of their loved one. Traditionally, wakes were held inside the homes of the lamenting families but nowadays, mourners prefer to hold wakes in funeral homes or chapels, as they believe that the spirit of the departed may remain in their homes. In addition, holding wakes in funeral homes are more convenient due to the fact that employees who are tasked to assist clients are always within reach. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford renting a room or chapel for their departed loved one thus, they still choose to hold wakes in their humble abodes.
Many lower class Filipino families rent tents from their respective barangays and position them outside their homes as there is usually not enough space inside. This practice already appears normal in the Philippine society. What seems out of the ordinary is that there is always a large wooden table beside the casket with alcoholic beverages and playing cards on top. To add to the strange aura, these families often mourn for more than a week, which exceeds the normal duration of wakes. There are times when these wakes even reach months.
So what’s the explanation behind this mystery?
I got the chance to interview a man who grew up in the “slum” area of Pasay City. He is in his mid-thirties but asked to not be identified in the article for security purposes. He explained that the reason for the large wooden table with liquor and playing cards on top is so that the mourning family can invite their guests to gamble with them. They do this in order to earn money to pay for the expenses of the wake.
In middle to higher class families, guests would usually give abuloy to the family of the deceased, but lower class families, knowing that most of their connections come from the same class as they do, result to gambling in order to earn money to pay for expenses. This act, however, is obviously illegal in the country so how do these families get away with it.
My interviewee narrates that the people with authority who usually monitors these wakes are none other than the barangay. Families of the deceased would usually give some of the day’s tong or income that came from the game to the people who work for their barangay to escape the law. Bribery, for short, is practiced.
But how do they get these wakes to last for months?
Technically speaking, it would be impossible to keep the dead inside the casket for months if you do not have enough money for maintenance, but how do these families do it? My interviewee shared that although there is always a casket on display, the person inside is not always the same. Often times, the person inside would only stay there until 2 weeks, and then if ever someone in the community dies, neighboring families would talk to the family of the deceased and ask if they could borrow the body for a week so that they would have a reason for gambling. Likewise, they would have to give the barangay an incentive so that the government unit will be able to defend them from higher officials if ever they are questioned. “Nagdadalamhati pa yung pamilya”, he said is usually the lines that barangay officials would reason out to higher officials when they are questioned.
This practice is obviously wrong but it still openly practiced. How do they do it? Now you know. Has anyone ever attempted to stop this practice? Maybe, but this practice is still very much evident in the “slum” areas in the metropolis until today.
Saying goodbye to a departing loved one is one of the hardest things to do. It’s not because of the fact that you have to say your ‘goodbyes’, but the mere fact that you will never see them again. You will never see them physically again. They will be a part of your memory, and you will never get to see that person, and communicate with him or her personally.
There are people who prepare their funeral preparations before hand, just in case something happens to them so that their families can save time and effort in setting the necessary preparations prior to the death of the loved one. This is a quick guide to preparations prior to both unpredicted and predicted deaths of a person, and how it is much advantageous to prepare in advanced instead of arranging the necessary materials after the person passed away. This procedure is easier because it can also entitle you to have free will when it comes to the different preferences such as how you dispose the body, where you would be buried, etc.
A few of the things you need to prepare for is a will. It should be done with an attorney and has to be in a state of proper mind and spirit so that it will not be nullified. There are people who put specifications on their last will and testament such as how the body will be disposed, where his remains should be buried, etc, and as the family members, they should make sure that the final wishes of the deceased can be followed. Next are the different aspects of your funeral, meaning the funeral homes of choice, type of burial, the cemetery, etc. There are a lot of funeral homes in Metro Manila; in Araneta Avenue alone there are different kinds of funeral homes such as the Sanctuarium, Arlington and La Funeraria Paz; in the Southern Area of Metro Manila, you can fine a lot of places such as your Manila South Cemetery and Manila Memorial Park. You should also consider having a insurance so that in case they could cover a few fees for you.
Pre-plans depend of include the type of casket, can be made out of wood, steel, metal, or cloth. It can also be in the open or enclosed in a glass. Most Filipinos prefer their loved ones being enclosed in glasses. Another thing that one should plan is the funeral home where his or her relatives and friends can see the corpse before its final burial in the cemetery. There are a lot of funeral homes around Metro Manila, and St. Peter’s being one of the most popular choices because of its unique and versatile features and it is easier and more convenient because online planning can be also done by this funeral home. Other than that, they also have e-libing and e-burol that can be convenient for those who have a lot of relatives abroad. Choosing a good funeral home is the most important because they will also have control over the plans that you would wish to make, and the accessibility of the relatives and friends prior to the area.
There are two ways to dispose of the deceased body. One is through the traditional burial process. This is where the corpse is buried below the ground and will let the body decompose until it eventually comes back to the ground. The other way is cremation. It is the burning of a body until it becomes ashes. The later is much more practical nowadays because compared to the former, the cremation does not take too much space, easier to maintain and money saver, as compared to the traditional burial process which requires a lot of time and effort.
The final stage is the burial, the final rest of the deceased body. There are a lot of cemeteries in Metro Manila, such as your Manila South Cemetery, Paco Cemetery, Libingan ng mga Bayani, American Cemetery, Manila North Cemetery, Loyola Memorial Park, Marikina and a lot more. There are some people who prefer to be brought back to the province with their ancestors, so some go all the way to the province just to bury the person. They can be placed in the ground with tombstones, they can also be in mausoleums. Some even have their private cemetery at their backyard and they prefer their deceased to be there instead.
It is important for people to pre-plan not because one is expecting to pass away soon, but because it becomes less of a hassle for the people whom you have left with. It would be better if these steps are prepared before something happens so that everything is set and organized. It will save not just time and effort but it will also avoid conflicts of the living family members.
The business of Funeral Homes in the Northern Metro Manila
The Filipino death rates are about an average of 5.02 deaths/ 1,000 population (Philippine Demographics Profile 2012). Filipinos see the importance of paying respect for those who have the deceased, as well as to give their condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones. They make it to a point to visit the dead at least once, offer their prayers and see them for the last time before their final rest. This is important not only to pay respect for the deceased, but also to give moral support for the families who have lost an important person in their lives.
In Metro Manila, there are a lot of places that offer services for the dead. One of the popular places
would be around the Araneta Avenue and Quezon Avenue area. These areas offer quality services for those who live around the area. There are times that we associate these areas, especially the Araneta Avenue with anything that has to do with the dead. This is where you can find a one-stop packaged deal for those who would want to see their beloved ones before the funeral rites. Araneta Avenue can be found around the area of Santa Mesa and Quezon Avenue Area. It’s near establishments such as the LRT. When you pass by Araneta Avenue you will pass by several buildings and establishments that offers services for the dead. Famous and familiar areas include Sanctuarium, Arlington, La Funeraria Paz and St. Peter’s.
People who pass by the intersection of Araneta Avenue and Quezon Avenue may notice a tall building that has a façade that somewhat resembles to a hotel. It has tall pillars it looks like a grand tower. The building that you see is called “Sanctuarium”. Because of its statuesque architectural design, people assume that the establishment is a hotel, and for those who are familiar with the area, it is known as the ‘hotel for the dead’, a facility where the ashes of the deceased loved ones are ‘checked in’. Only by looking closely will you notice that the top floors tend to resemble to mini vaults which is where they can “check in” the cremated remains of a person. A hotel wherein the dead people can check in? That’s very interesting. Sanctuarium is one of the few funeral homes that offer a place for the dead, or columbarium.
Other than Sanctuarium, St. Peter’s are also one of the popular companies that offer funeral services. This company is associated with the ‘dead’ being famous for their “e-burol’s” and “e-libings”, a website wherein you can see and ‘visit’ your loved ones online. This is helpful especially for those who live overseas and wish t see their loved ones burial, without necessarily being physically in the area. E-burol and e-libing has been one of the interesting amenities provided by St. Peters, available not only within the country but also accessible for those living in the other countries as well, targeted mostly to the people who will not be able to attend in person. St. Peters have been one of the most popular funeral homes easily identified with a nearly all white façade with green fonts that are very eye catching and easy to spot.
Other than St. Peter’s and Sanctuarium, La Funeraria Paz and Arlington are popular choices as well. All of these are found around the Quezon Avenue and Araneta area. Although these are the popular areas wherein a person can find their ‘funeral needs’, there are also places around the Metro, which can offer the same needs as the areas mentioned above. There are a few around Commonwealth Area, St. Peters opened a branch near Matandang Balara area, and there are alot around the area, some establishments that are around and existing.
If the burial rites are preferred to be held at home, families can also make prior arrangements to transfer the casket from the morgue to the home in time for visitation of the family, relatives and friends of the deceased. Several plans may be arranged, depending on the deceased or the family’s choice. People living in the province usually prefer home services there are not much establishments that offer funeral homes and services. People from the Metro, on the other hand prefer funeral homes, much convenient in terms of the maintenance of the vicinity and easier access to visitors. Some funeral homes can actually provide a few beds to sleep in if the family would prefer to stay or would want to rest. Other provisions such as the transfer of the casket to either the funeral homes or, at home, rentals for caskets, embalmment, make up and wardrobe and several other provisions are also provided by the funeral homes.
Other than funeral homes, there are also places around the Avenue wherein you can order flowers to offer for the deceased. It is the closest place to get quality flowers, depending on your budget and preference of design and arrangements. It is also a popular place to by other than Dangwa (a place where you can buy cheap flowers for any occasion).
The business of funeral homes and services has been really popular because of the number of people who pass away every minute. Death care services are offered in advanced for those who would want to prepare in case of untimely accidents. In that way, everything will be taken care of and will be arranged immediately. For every funeral home, each has its own unique services and facilities that can cater to the families needs. Around Araneta and Quezon Avenue seems to provide all the facilities needed that can suit to the needs of the family and also to the wishes of the deceased. Giving a decent and proper burial is a sign of respect to the deceased and also a proper way of saying farewell to our loved ones who have passed away.
e-Burol and e-Libing: A Cyberworld Revolution
Technology became part of man’s way of life long before radio, television and even computers were invented. The technology that was discovered by man evolved from just two wooden sticks rubbed together to create a magnificent fire all the way to what we are now so accustomed to these days – cyberspace.
Cyberspace is not something that is tangible like objects present in the real world. As defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, it is a notional environment where communication over computer networks occurs. Although the content that can be found in cyberspace branched out from ideas in the real world, the way it functions is different from that of the real world. It would be an overstatement to say that cyberspace has learned to defy time, but in truth, it has allowed man to use the time that is available to them more efficiently. What used to be just a thought or imagination become real with the presence of cyberspace. Now, people do everything online from interacting with one another regardless of the distance, shopping without having to go to the store, to something as extreme as E-Burol – a service which allows one to pay his respects to the departed without having to go to the funeral chapel.
E-Burol sprang from the innovative minds of the employees of St. Peter Life Plan, Inc., a Pre-paid DeathCare company located at Quezon Avenue Corner No. 2 West 4th Street, Quezon City. Mr. York Vitangcol, the President of the St. Peter Group of Companies, revealed during the 2009 JCI Entrepreneurs’ Summit that the idea came from the front desk employees who directly dealt with the customers of St. Peter’s. The name E-Burol is derived from two root words – E, which stands from electronic and Burol, a Filipino word that literally translates to the word ‘wake’.
The concept of E-Burol is similar to that of Philippine reality television shows such as Pinoy Big Brother, where Internet protocol cameras are installed in strategic areas in the funeral chapel. This service is available in all 40 chapels of St. Peter. It provides a 24/7 live streaming in real time. Clients are then given a password which they have to input onto the website in order to login and view the ongoing wake. Users may also chat with other relatives and visitors who are currently online while witnessing the wake. St. Peter has provided a 4-page guide, complete with photos in order help clients access E-Burol.
Another innovative idea that complemented E-Burol is E-Libing, a service that is similar to the previous except it covers the burial of the departed. The word Libing literally translates to ‘burial’. Unlike E-Burol, E-Libing is a video coverage of the funeral that can be uploaded online after the ceremonies have happened. It covers the last night of the wake all the way to the internment ceremony and the last rites of the departed. A similar way of accessing the coverage can be done like that of E-Burol. Clients simply need to get the password from the funeral director and login to the website to view the video.
Many who dislike going to wakes may wonder why St. Peter came up with such an idea of showcasing such a gloomy event for everyone to see. Skeptics may even come to a conclusion that those who avail of the service are probably aspiring artistas, hoping to be discovered as they grieve for the death of their beloved. However, this service does not wish to address such desires. Both these services aim to cater to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s).
Filipinos have always been known for their close family ties. Unfortunately, with the economy taking its toll on Filipino families, some members are forced to work overseas, away from their families. In the unlikely event that a loved one passes away, some OFWs are faced with tricky situations that hinder them from fly back home to pay their respects. Some may not have enough money to do so, or time constraints or health issues may play a role in obstructing one’s desire to be physically present in the wake. With this, E-Burol and E-Libing are options family members can take into consideration. Relatives and friends residing abroad who cannot personally attend the wake may now view their departed loved one online. Since only those who are knowledgeable of the username and password will be able to access the page thus, the online gathering will still allow intimacy among mourners.
St. Peter Life Plan, Inc. has definitely revolutionized the age of technology through this innovation. They have integrated a combination of both television and the Internet in their business and have come up with an unconventional system that is parallel to man’s way of life today. This contemporary system has helped families economically by instantly connecting them despite the distance. Although conformists may argue that this may not be the right or acceptable way to grieve or pay due respect to the departed, modern times require people to be more practical. In the end, it is best to utilize what is available in order keep up with our fast-paced world.