MANILA -- San Juan City on Monday started implementing scheduled and regulated visits to its cemetery.
The Metro Manila Council unanimously approved last week a resolution encouraging local government units to close cemeteries and memorial parks on All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).
The council, in its resolution, said cemeteries and memorial parks had been ordered shut from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.
To manage the crowd at the San Juan City Cemetery, the local government relaunched its online booking system for cemetery visits, with only two people allowed per booking.
From Oct. 18 to 28, and Nov. 3 to 7, only those with appointments will be allowed inside the cemetery. They can choose one of the six available time slots:
- 8 - 10 a.m.
- 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
- 12 - 2 p.m.
- 2 - 4 p.m.
- 4 - 6 p.m.
- 6 - 8 p.m.
San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said those visiting their dearly departed need to present the text message confirming their booking at the cemetery gates.
They should also bring a valid ID and be ready to fill up a health declaration form, he said.
“Pinatupad namin ito noong nakaraang taon. Last year, naging effectivce sapagkat ang kultura naman ng Pilipino ay gusto natin dumalaw sa mga mahal sa buhay na pumanaw kapag Undas,” he explained.
(We implemented this last year. It was effective because it is really part of Filipino culture to visit our departed loved ones during All Saints and All Souls Day.)
Among the first ones to enter the San Juan City Cemetery on the first day of scheduled and regulated visits is Margaret Villa.
Villa said she wasn’t able to visit the graves of her parents and brother last year because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mas maganda ang ganito kasi hindi sabay-sabay, hindi siksikan. Mas makakadalaw ka nang maluwag,” she said.
“Birthday ng mother ko Oct. 9. Hindi ako nakapunta kasi umulan. Nang nalaman ko kahapon [na may online booking], nag-register ako kaagad para makadalaw ako.”
(This is good because visitors are not coming together. It's not crowded. It was my mother's birthday on Oct. 9, I wasn't able to visit because it was raining. When I found out yesterday that online booking was available, I registered right away so I can visit.)
Eliza Robles, meanwhile, traveled from Bulacan to visit the grave of her husband, who died last April.
“Talagang sabik na sabik kaming dalawin ang mga mahal sa buhay… Kamamatay lang ng mister ko, ilang buwan lang nakaraan. Kada maluwag ako, dumadaan ako kahit hanggang gate lang ako. Naiintindihan ko naman ang sitwasyon,” Robles said.
(We are really excited to visit our loved ones... My husband died just a few months back. Whenever I have the time, I visit even though I'm only allowed up to the gate. I understand the situation.)
She went on, “Tuwang-tuwa ako, hindi ko inaksaya kahit isang minuto. Nagpa-online registration kaagad ako. Babalik din ako sa November 28, nagpa-schedule na ako.”
(I'm really happy, I didn't waste even a minute. I registered right away. I will be back on Nov. 28, I already booked a schedule.)
Zamora said multiple reservations for various schedules are allowed. At a given schedule, a maximum of 300 people—30 percent of the cemetery’s capacity—can be accommodated.
He said walk-in visitors will be accommodated as long as the 300-person limit per batch is not breached during their preferred schedule.
“Kung buong araw ninyo gustong nandito, pwede ‘yun. Kumuha lang kayo ng maraming timeslot,” he explained.
(If you want to be here the whole day, that's possible. Just book many timeslots.)
"Once we hit 300, hindi na pwedeng magpapasok sa loob. Kailangan nilang pumila sa next timeslot. For walk-ins, they just have to go here directly. Kung hindi naman na-fill up ang 300 slots, pwede sila papasukin."
(Once we hit 300 visitors, no one will be allowed inside anymore. They need to try for the next timeslot. For walk-ins, they just have to come here directly. If there are less than 300 people inside when they arrive, they will be allowed to get in.)
Zamora said that 15 minutes before the end of each timeslot, people inside the cemetery will be asked to pack up and leave to give way to the next batch of visitors.
"Fifteen minutes bago matapos ang two hours, may public address system na magsasabing patapos na ang two hours ng pagdalaw (Fifteen minutes before the two-hour time limit is up, a public address system will announce that time is almost up). We’ll make sure everyone in the cemetery exits first,” the mayor said.
He also reminded visitors: “Bawal ang kainan at kumpulan sa loob ng sementeryo. Bawal ang inuman. Wala ring pinapayagang magbenta ng anumang pagkain o inumin sa sementeryo, kahit mga bulaklak at kandila. Kaya mas mabuting magdala na ng sariling mga bulaklak at kandila.”
(Eating and sticking together won't be allowed in the cemetery. Drinking is not allowed. We also won't allow selling of flowers or candles in the cemetery. So it's better to bring your own.)
Around 35 policemen are deployed at the entrance and inside the cemetery to ensure peace and order, and that health and safety protocols are followed, according to the San Juan City Police.