‘Kalag-kalag,’ not Halloween-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
CALL me conservative or what, but I frowned when I checked my table-top calendar and found the number “31” in the October page printed black as if it is a holiday.
Underneath the number was the word “Halloween.” I was puzzled because “Halloween” is definitely not in the list of holidays released every year by Malacañang.
I double-checked the calendar and realized it was given to me by a representative of a big mall in Cebu City. Establishments have this habit of juxtaposing this American celebration over our traditional practice of All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2 for commercial purposes. That explains the calendar’s reminder of the practice of “Halloween” today.
By the way, my son Rick-rick accompanied me while I went to a roadside store near our house to buy something. While waiting for our turn to be served by the salesgirl, Rick-rick noticed the paper masks printed with faces of zombies there. He asked me to buy the green one showing a wrinkled face with nails protruding from the head.
That paper mask was a poor imitation of rubber masks adorning some stalls in the city’s malls and department stores. The sale of masks and related apparels props up the promotion of Halloween by establishments. For traders, these items provide a bigger margin of profit than selling candles for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
But the Philippines is not the only country where the celebration of Halloween is being aggressively promoted, local culture be damned. An Oct. 28, 2013 report by The New York Times (nytimes.com) noted how Halloween, which it described as a “ghoulish celebration,” has become the third biggest event in Britain after Christmas and Easter.
The report noted that for today’s Halloween celebration, “skintight full-body leotards” manufactured by the Scottish company Morphsuits are a sellout in Britain.
“We are very much in the throes of Halloween mayhem at the moment,” Gregor Lawson, one of three founders of Morphsuits, told The New York Times. “Halloween seems to just get bigger and bigger and bigger, in more and more countries and the United Kingdom is certainly catching up.”
Sale of Halloween items in Britain is expected to reach $525 million. In the United States, it is a $6.9-billion business.
The report attributed the “added enthusiasm for Halloween in the last decade” to “widespread marketing efforts by retailers” and the influx of American movies and television series” like “The Walking Dead.” Incidentally, those zombie shows have become Filipino kids’ favorites.
But I don’t want to see the day when Halloween becomes a bigger celebration than our observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This is because the essence of Halloween is very different from that of our “kalag-kalag.” We were not taught to fear or mock the dead, rather, we were told to pay our respects to them.
So instead of attending Halloween parties, I ask parents to encourage their children to visit the cemetery to offer flowers and light candles to their departed relatives.
Better yet, we can follow the tradition that some rural villages still hold on to.
There, they slaughter pigs and cook food, some of which are offered on the altars while the rest are being feasted on by relatives and guests after prayers for the dead have been said. In these villages, Nov. 2 takes on a fiesta-like atmosphere with almost all families offering food to visitors, who are mostly their relatives.
There are rituals we Filipinos should shield from commercialism and the profit motive.
Kalag-kalag is one.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 31, 2013.