Two days to remember this November
How and in what way do Filipinos and Canadians remember their family, friends and loved ones who have passed away? This question appears to be worth asking this month. As Filipino-Canadians, we have the opportunity to celebrate from our two traditions. From our homeland, especially among the Catholic majority, we commemorate All Saints Day or what some may refer to as “Remembrance Day.” However, as Canadians, Remembrance Day takes on another meaning for many among us who have grown to honour the traditions here. There is a big difference in how the two Filipino and Canadian holidays are celebrated, but the similarity nonetheless is how they serve to help us commemorate or remember.
In the Philippines, I remember starting each November 1st or All Saints Day off amidst a crowd of people walking along the busy main road. Together, we would walk towards the cemetery to visit with friends, family and love ones who have passed away. It would appear that everyone will make a stop there because many will have already taken the time to clean, paint and maintain the graves of their dead just days before. People buy many candles of differing colours, shapes and scents in the local markets along with a variety of flowers freshly picked from a native farm to place near the headstones. I think the flowers serve as a living memory to symbolize the fact that these people had been at one time close to us and they, like us, had once been fascinated by the beauty and colour of life. Lighted candles likewise signify the love, hope and joy they shared with the people they had left behind. The flame indicates a desire to keep this memory forever burning and alive even though we may understand that they have met their destiny somewhere else or even in the arms of the Heavenly Father. I remember “All Saints Day” also as a time to pray for their souls so that we may guard, love and respect them as our friends and relatives even if they are no longer around.
In Canada, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Canadians honour their fallen soldiers each November 11. Ceremonies throughout the country take place as people stand in silence to honour and reflect. Remembrance Day ceremonies first began to commemorate the end of the First World War or “Great War”. Today, ceremonies now embrace those who have fought in recent military missions like that in Afghanistan. It begins with the playing of reveille by a traditional trumpet, after which the national anthem, O Canada, is then played. Following, everyone is given the opportunity to share a silent prayer as a chance to remember all those who fought and died in battle. It is a solemn holiday set aside to remember the dead also by simply listening to the poems, songs and speeches. For weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, the red poppy is worn by the public. According to the famous poem In Flanders Fields by Lt. Col. John McCrae, this red flower was once found in the battlefields of Europe and is now worn to commemorate the blood and suffering that once took place there. Remembrance Day is a time for Canadians to remember the sacrifice of life for the country.
In the Philippines, All Souls Day is a time to get together, to celebrate, and to remember each life that once crossed into our lives. As friends, relatives, and loved ones, their joyful memory is kept close to us on this day. In Canada, Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the lives of those who fought for this country. It is a solemn holiday that ensures we remember the sacrifice of Canada’s soldiers. For us Filipino-Canadians, this month is a time to celebrate and respect the lives from our two worlds as they come together. Although these two holidays are celebrated in differing ways, they work to help us remember.
Luis Enriquez immigrated to Winnipeg from Batangas in 2006. He recently graduated from Daniel McIntyre Collegiate and is now a student at the University of Winnipeg. He aspires towards a career in Nursing. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org