There are two times during the year when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, wherever they may now be living in the country, return to their hometowns to rejoin their families. These are on All Saints Day, November 1, and Holy Week in March.
On these two occasions, bus terminals, airports, and interisland ports all over the country, particularly in Metro Manila, are jammed with entire families seeking transportation to their provinces. Police mobilize to provide security at transport centers and along the highways. Motoring and other civic groups set up assistance outposts to help the host of motorists along the nation’s highways.
All Saints Day and Holy Week are religious holidays but the mass movement of people is more in the nature of a tradition, like the annual migration of Chinese across Asia during the Spring Festival. While Filipinos make it a point to attend Church ceremonies during these holidays, it is the reunions with families and with neighbors that drive them to go back to their hometowns. On All Saints Day, the reunions take place in the cemeteries by the tombs of their departed loved ones.
Because of the great distances that must be travelled, Metro Manila residents start leaving for the provinces days before the actual holidays. Today, the streets of Metro Manila will be deserted – a welcome contrast to the traffic jams that have plagued the metropolis for years. The travellers should start returning to the city tomorrow, which is why they were hoping that November 2 would be declared a special holiday by Malacanang, as in previous years.
Malacanang, however, has chosen to just stick to the 10 regular holidays and six special non-working holidays listed in the President’s Proclamation No 831 issued on July 17, 2014. Tomorrow, November 2, may be All Souls Day on the Roman Catholic Church calendar — actually the more proper day to honor the memory of a family’s loved ones – but, because it has not been declared a special holiday, all have to be back in offices and schools by tomorrow.
The traditional reunions will just have to be cut short this year – perhaps with greater emphasis on the religious observance of All Saints Day which, in Catholic theology, is dedicated to all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven and is also observed in many other Christian churches as a day to honor all Christians who have passed on.
There will be greater opportunity to stay longer in the old hometown and with the old folks for the traditional reunions this coming Holy Week in March, 2016.