AFTER Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domogoso declared that all public and private cemeteries would be closed during the observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 1 and 2, respectively, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella followed suit.
However, Labella, in his Executive Order 092, included memorial parks and columbaria. He also lengthened the closure to five days, or from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.
I think this is a very wise move.
Earlier, Mayor Isko Moreno ordered the closure of all public and private cemeteries in Manila starting on Oct. 31 up to Nov. 2. This is to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus disease 19 (Covid-19) as it is very hard for cemetery-goers to observe the minimum health standard on social distancing.
Moreno justified his action by saying that thousands or even millions of people will troop and flock to various cemeteries in Manila, the country’s capital. With that scenario, Moreno said it is hard for authorities to control the movement of those who will visit their departed ones and enforce social distancing. Only burials will be accommodated and allowed during those days.
Labella came up with the same justification after observing the influx of people going in and out of the city’s cemeteries in the past. Other local chief executives in Metro Cebu have yet to announce their decision on the matter.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is inclined to adopt the same policy, said retired Gen. Restituto Padilla, IATF spokesman.
Visiting the graves of our departed loved ones and offering prayers and flowers and lighting candles are old Christian traditions, especially for the Roman Catholic faithful. It’s a universal observance. In fact, Nov. 1 is a holiday to allow people to visit the cemeteries.
People have been holding festivals for the dead for quite a long time. In the 10th century, St. Odilo, the abbot of Clury in France, proposed that the day after All Saints’ Day be set aside to honor the departed, particularly those whose souls were still in purgatory.
There is now a conflict between protecting public health and tradition amid the coronavirus pandemic. Can we break tradition? Of course. Why not? It’s to protect the public from a highly infectious disease.
We were able to endure when the government placed the country’s major urban areas on enhanced community quarantine, which greatly affected the economy and livelihood of the people. So why can’t we set aside tradition in the meantime.
Even though most of the local government units (LGUs) in the country are on modified general community quarantine, which has fewer restrictions on people’s movements, we still have to be cautious and big gatherings are still discouraged.
Still, some LGUs like Cebu City has not allowed the re-opening of entertainment and leisure centers, cockfighting arenas and the holding of concerts because it will violate the health protocol on social distancing.
We limited the attendance of religious gatherings to 50 percent capacity. We cancelled face-face classes and we required public transportation to adopt a new setup. And yet we would allow the observance of big occasions like All Souls’ Day? We should not take chances.
I hope our other local chief executives in the urban areas like the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay and even the province can take the cue from the decision of Mayors Isko and Labella. Anyway, we can still remember our dead by offering prayers, flowers and even food at home. If, indeed, human beings have souls, they will understand the situation because we are in the midst of a health crisis.
Besides, if our local chief executives have decided to close cemeteries on Nov. 1 and 2, we still have more than a month to visit and pay our respects. At least, within this period, people will be scattered and we can observe social distancing.
Is it really obligatory, compulsory and mandatory that we visit our departed loved ones on All Souls’ Day in the cemetery? We can pray for them anywhere and anytime. Other religions don’t even remember their dead. For them, once you are dead, you are dead.