MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Filipinos waded their way through dense crowds of both the living and the dead in cemeteries on Thursday, a supposedly silent tradition that is now colored by pomp and pageantry mainly due to the upcoming elections.
Manila North Cemetery, one of Metro Manila's largest cemeteries, has already drawn 1.1 million people as of 2 p.m. The high volume of visitors prompted the cemetery administration to open additional gates.
Security was tight in the 54-hectare cemetery, with at least 200 policemen roving and inspecting the visitors' belongings for any prohibited items such as alcohol, lethal weapons, playing cards, and metal objects, including belt buckles.
So far, 42 people have been apprehended in Manila North Cemetery. Twenty-two were caught in a drinking session inside the cemetery while five were arrested for allegedly using illegal drugs.
Eight were caught in a scuffle, while seven were caught gambling.
The smaller Manila South Cemetery in Makati reported around 500,000 thousand visitors this morning. At least 300,000 more are expected later today.
The cemetery provides visitors aid in finding the tomb of their departed loved ones. Information for those who died from 1994 until the present can already be found in a computer database.
Philipine National Police chief Nicanor Bartolome, who was at the at the Manila South Cemetery as of this story's posting, said no any untoward incident has been recorded in the area so far.
Bartolome also touted the "airport-like" inspection in Metro Manila's cemeteries, saying this is helpful in preventing crimes. He also defended the ridiculed policy of not allowing even belt buckles and metal utensils inside the cemeteries.
"Dito sa ginawa nating security arrangement ay lalong napaigting ang pagche-check sa ipinanapasok na mga bagay. Wala man tayong mga X-ray machine gaya ng sa paliparan, pero mahigpit pa rin ang pagpaptupad ng [pagskumpiska sa mga ipinagbabawal]," Bartolome told dzMM.
Bartolome assured the public that the confiscated items can still be claimed upon leaving the cemetery premises.
'Epal' politicians, famous dead people
Despite calls from various groups and even members of the clergy, several politicians still used the season to campaign for the elections.
Tarpaulins and tents bearing politicians' photos and names were set up near cemeteries. The politicians' volunteers were offering water supply and food, while some set up first aid stations and information centers.
"Bagama't hindi bawal, pero kakapalan pa rin po ng mukha 'yan. Kaunting hiya naman po sana," Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes said.
Meanwhile, at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque, visitors paid tribute to democracy icons Ninoy Aquino and his wife, former president Corazon Aquino.
They offered flowers and candles, and prayed at the tomb of the Aquino couple.
At least a million are expected in the Manila Memorial Park today.
Security was also tight at the cemetery, with at least a hundred police on patrol.
Fans are also expected to visit the tombs of famous personalities such as Fernando Poe, Jr., AJ Perez and Rico Yan who are also buried at the Manila Memorial Park.
The "Undas" season is also not without Filipinos grabbing the chance to earn money by selling various items, from food to Halloween costumes.
But Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag warned Filipinos against buying in unsanitary food stalls.
"Beware of food sold in and around cemeteries as these pose risk of food poisoning," Tayag said in his Twitter account.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, also asked the public to avoid generating too much garbage inside cemeteries. - reports from Francis Faulve, Jerome Lantin and Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News; Noel Alamar, dzMM; ANC