of melted candles and change

last sunday of the month. it’s a long weekend holiday, since it is all saints day on the first of november, a tuesday. so tomorrow, monday, has been declared a holiday already. well, even if the government doesn’t declare it a holiday, pinoys will not go to work anymore since a lot will be going home to their provinces, visit their deceased loved ones and a chance to meet up with old friends and family.

for the past 30 years of my life, i’ve never really gone anywhere else during these days (except maybe when i’m called for a work-related travel that falls on these dates), the cemetery we visit where my lolos and lolas are buried are just nearby. i used to look forward to november 1, actually. my excitement of this day reflects my age, i suppose. when i was 10, i enjoyed going to the cemetery and gathering the melted candles from those that we light up on my lolos and lolas tomb. i would roll them up like a ball. i never really understood why i enjoyed doing that. just that i kept those big balls of melted candles, a mix of different colors, and it just gathered dust on my shelf. this was long before i even learned that i could sell those balls, which the vendors would price at maybe 1peso a kilo.

as i grew older, i graduated from collecting melted candles to meeting up with friends, hoping for a chance to see an old crush, a classmate from elementary or high school, childhood friends from church, those with whom i used to play with who’ve grown up to look so differently when we were kids. i’d gossip with my best friend, on who has  a boyfriend, whose relationships in high school kept on going, who have broken up, who are now together. college was a different world already and keeping up on news with old friends was something to look forward to during november 1.

in the past five or seven years, spending the day in the cemetery meant contemplating more, praying for my lolos and lolas and tita. not that we never prayed before, because of course we did. but as i got older, collecting melted candles and gossiping with old friends have become something that i just used to do, something that i’ve outgrown. not even my nieces and younger relatives collect melted candles anymore. it’ll be a miracle to even have them stay in the cemetery longer than 3 hours. i used to spend the whole day there. my mom and i would just rely on relatives who would bring us lunch or snacks. it was like camping out the whole day, making sure that the candles never burn out, the flowers still intact, and receive candles from relatives who just passed by.

now, with my parents getting old, they would no longer stay that long because it gets too hot mid-day. i have to stay behind since both their parents are buried there, so i have to represent both families. i used to just bring with me a book to while away the hours, one time i even brought my crochet stuff, hoping to get something finished but that never happened. people come and pass by, making small chit-chat, asking about relatives and family. i still watch over candles not burning out, flowers still in place, catching up with relatives who will stop by and spend an hour or two with me. i get to observe a lot of changes around, how the kids who visit the tomb across us have grown, how the old folks who used to pass by and greet us now have a place of their own and are being visited as well. paper fans being given out by volunteers at the entrance bearing the name of a certain councilor are used by most of those who are also on watch over their relatives’ tombs. food being passed around, vendors going around offering water or soda or any kind of junk food. church people also doing their rounds, praying over the dead, prayer book in one hand, holy water in the other. kids going from tomb to tomb, crouching over melted candles and collecting, not making them into balls but just making sure that they get enough of a heavy amount to get a higher price when they sell it by end of the day. i have to shoo some kids away because they collect even those candles that are still lit. my friends don’t pass by anymore, they all have families of their own anyway.

i suppose it will be the same thing this year. all by myself, watching over my dead grandparents and relatives tombs. i’ll probably bring a book again, and will likely not get to read it anyway. i will likely have my mobile data work overtime, if network signal over at the cemetery won’t suck. maybe sneak in some writing, maybe not. hopefully some friends will still pass by. my relatives will definitely stop by, stay for awhile. i’ll probably won’t stay that long as well. i don’t know. it seems all souls day has become too much of a holiday and not much as a day to remember the souls of loved ones who have passed on. kinda sad, really.

maybe that’s why when we get home, we always light up candles around the house. in as much as candles have been lit and burned at the cemetery, the solemnity of paying respect is not there. and no matter how much has changed every november 1st, the sincerity of offering a prayer and remembering our deceased loved ones should never change. this, we should always hold on to.



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