OPINION: Undas and the Saints

Tin Bartolome

Posted at Nov 07 2018 08:44 PM

Like most Filipinos, our family honors our dead. We do it in different ways, on different days. We visit my father’s grave before Undas to avoid traffic. Besides, his birthday is just about a week shy of All Saints’ Day. This year was no different. We brought him and my uncle (whom I never met) the usual flowers. We lit incense sticks because the place was so windy! 

Our duty done, we went to the wet market to buy fish and fruits and later, to a bookstore on November 1. There were hardly any vehicles, even during rush hour! While out-of-town vacations over the long weekend could have accounted for the nearly empty streets, most malls and stand-alone establishments traditionally open late or remain closed all day. Employees are given the chance to pay respects to their dead as Undas is as sacred as Christmas.

Certainly, we do not worship our ancestors, but we revere them. There is a saying that goes: “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan”. It teaches gratefulness and respect for elders, the living as well as those who have passed on. We also revere saints, humans who led extraordinary lives, often giving up their own lives for their faith.

Anyone who attended Catholic school would at least have some knowledge of who these saints are and why they are honored as such. Sainthood is not easy to achieve. Neither declared nor “made”, it is merely a recognition of a virtuous life already lived. A Catholic blog explains that recognizing a saint is a five-step process that involves meticulous investigations on the lives of the candidates and verified miracles. Miracles are difficult to pull off—and those tasked with investigating the lives of candidates for sainthood require more than one!

So, even if the disappearance of billions worth of drug shipments and the Chinese control over the West Philippine Sea can be considered miracles, meticulous investigations into the life of a self-proclaimed saint will have to be done. Of course, before he is declared a saint, he should be “six feet under” already!

Many Catholics are unaware that many of the saints we revere today have gone through dramatic conversions: St. Paul the Apostle, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Augustine and even St. Francis of Assisi. Conversions have happened before they began leading lives worthy of sainthood! They were neither chosen nor elected, but merely recognized.

When we pay respects to our dear departed, we recognize the roles they played in our lives, we are grateful for whatever memories they left behind. So, even if they would not qualify as “saints”, we honor them. And, just like utang na loob or debt of gratitude, it is uncouth and totally absurd for anyone to demand the respect normally accorded the saints and the dead—whether or not it is said in jest!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.