Government ordered close all public and private cemeteries from October 29 to September 4 during ‘Undas season’ or the week of the All Saints and Souls Day, traditional public holidays that Filipinos mark with visits to their departed loved ones in their final resting places.
In the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 72 signed on September 17, aside from closing all cemeteries in the country during said period, the government policy-making body for COVID-19 response also limited these final resting places to 30% venue capacity and observance of physical distancing, wearing of face masks and face shields.
Age restrictions would also not apply to visitors in the memorial parks, cemeteries and columbaries.
The Undas season is a crowded affair in the Philippines’ cemeteries where final resting places of the dead range from quiet fields of white crosses to dense “apartment” tombs stacked from the ground up to 10 tombs or more.
Local governments order cemeteries closed for Undas
Mayors of the 16 cities and 1 municipality in Metro Manila have ordered closed or looked to the issue closure of cemeteries in their own cities during the height of Undas season even before the IATF order.
Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso was first to order cemeteries in Manila closed from October 31 to November 3. He announced the decision in a Facebook live broadcast on September 8, but said he is open to rescind his order should the health protocols prescribe by the national government change before Undas.
The whole National Capital Region is still under general community quarantine.
The mayor said Manila North Cemetery in Santa Cruz which has 105,837 graves, is estimated to receive about 1.5 million visitors. Meanwhile, the Manila South Cemetery in San Andres, which has 39,228 graves, is estimated to receive about 800,000 visitors for the period of Undas. These are the two most visited cemeteries in the region.
The oldest cemetery in Manila, the La Loma Cemetery established in 1882, also remains in use while another cemetery, the Manila Chinese Cemetery was also among the biggest and oldest in the city.
Meanwhile, on September 10, Valenzuela City announced the closure of all cemeteries in the city from October 30 to November 3. Everyone, except those 20-year old and below, are encouraged to visit before and after the ordered dates of closure and all Halloween activities such as trick-or-treat were declared not allowed as per Executive Order No. 2020-205.
A similar order was issued by San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, FMZ-049 Series of 2020, closing all memorial parks, cemeteries and columbaries from October 30 to November 3 and prohibiting all Halloween activities except in the confines of one’s own homes and observing health protocols.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro also mulled the closure of cemeteries from October 31 to November 2, and also designating window hours and issuing visitor and car passes for visits from October 15 to November 30. The city, however, did not see it would issue passes for those below 21-years old and above 60 years old that the IATF prohibited from leaving their homes. Marikina City has four cemeteries: Loyola Memorial Park, Barangka Municipal Cemetery, Aglipay Cemetery, Holy Child Cemetery, and Our Lady of the Abandoned.
Mandaluyong City Mayor Menchie Abalos has also ordered the temporary closure of all public and private cemeteries in the city from October 30 to November 3.
The local governments of Malabon, Makati, Pateros also announced they would temporarily close their cemeteries, while Taguig and Pasay would announce their decision after the meeting of Metro Manila mayors. The Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) is in Taguig.
After the meeting of Metro Manila mayors on September 13, it was made known that all mayors agreed to close the cemeteries for Undas.
Metro Manila Council Chairman and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said all 17 local chief executives in the region agreed to have a “unified policy” to not allow visitors in public and private cemeteries from October 29 to November 4, but the IATF has then not yet decided on the date and duration of the implementation.