Cost of dying

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

WE KNOW of cost of living so much that government has even required a cost of living allowance on top of the minimum wage. But no one wants to discuss the cost of dying.

The topic of death is such a taboo to many such that the business of death grows by leaps and bounds with no one keeping track and complaining in the way that everyone complains when the price of gas or food goes up.

From just burial, cremation has become an accepted option and this development is not even two decades old yet.

Thus, while everyone rushes to choose a coffin when someone in the family dies, now the first step is to agree on what to do: burial or cremation?

In this discussion are several factors, including cost.

For funeral services, one can choose from a variety of caskets; the color, size, design, and the prices of each depend on where you are buying these from. Some memorial chapels that are pushing for the mainstreaming of death and dying into regular topics and concerns like the latest iPad version are pushing chic colored coffins where used to be there were just black and brown and white, and some dark blues and maroons. Now, every once in a while, we get a peek of violets and mauves and pinks and greens from some display area.

Now the cost.

A pauper’s coffin costs P8,000 to P10,000, which is packaged with the five days wake in some small funeral parlor in the suburbs or one that is targeting the lower income market. In a high-end funeral parlor, however, the cheapest will be P15,000 up to P30,000 for the package of five days wake.

The most expensive casket that is in stock in one funeral parlor here today is a carved top mahogany casket that costs up to P500,000. This is just for the casket alone. An additional cost is required for the traditional five days vigil, which increases per day when burial is not yet possible within five days.

Cremation too is more than just having the body burned to a powder form. It also comes in packages, including whether the family would want a viewing of the body in a casket before cremation.

The cost to cremate someone is about one-third that of a traditional funeral, but this can easily be offset by the cost of the urn (some can cost just as much as a casket), and the funeral accommodations and facilities required.

But because cremation makes for a smaller urn and area for rest, it is becoming more popular today.

For one, the cost of a cemetery plot is becoming way beyond what the poor and middle income can easily afford.

Another is the image that has been planted into many a person’s image of dying where scattering ashes to the wind whether on land or at sea has earned a romantic appeal. It also removes the need to buy a cemetery plot.

But like a regular funeral service, cremation cost ranges from a relatively low, to very high.

The lowest is P20,000, that’s good enough if you do not intend to go into some romantic cruise and cast the ashes to the wind. The P20,000 cremation isn’t as dry as you’d want ashes to be.

What is called powder fine costs P150,000.

The cost of a cremation service also varies depending on the final disposition of a person's remains. When there's a viewing of the body and funeral services, the cost of cremation can be about P140,000 to P150,000.

Caskets for viewing can be rented and contain a removable container. Most crematories require that a body be placed in a non-pliable container before cremation.

Again, there are funeral homes that just caters to the basics and thus offer cremation complete with the five day memorial service at just P20,000 to P40,000.

Remains can buried in cemeteries, on private property or placed in a niche columbarium. A columbarium is a grouping of small openings (niches) that hold urns or other containers housing cremated remains, that will amount to P20,000 to P29,000.

However, looking for a place to bury the dead is another thing, a memorial lots? price happens to be very expensive if it is an on-the-spot buy in than to have paid for it for years before one’s death.

A lot can cost a fortune if bought on the day of one’s burial. One plot can cost between P500,000 to P1-million.

“Saving for the rainy day is indeed a practical motto when it comes to dying. The business, after all thrives on grief and the desire to give something that has not been given in life” Ergo, the craving to spend more.

The lots available for amortization only cost P30,000-P100,000 depending on a memorial sanctuary. There are high-end cemeteries now that is not that expensive, a monthly amortization of P1,000-P3,000 can be had.

Who says dying ends all miseries?

Public Cemeteries are another story, a lot only cost P1,000 a year of rental fee and there are even lower rental fees in the public cemetery in the provinces that only cost P300-P500 a year.

In Davao City, the most known public cemetery is the Wireless Public Cemetery and here the rental of a niche would cost P1,000 a year and there is a five-year contract wherein if you are not able to pay the rental fee, your remains will be exhumed and buried in one mass grave.

“Wala man mi mabuhat ana. Sakit gud huna-hunaon nga wala na sa inyong gilubungan ang inyong patay pero ug wa jud mi ikabayad, wala jud mi mahimo (We can’t do anything. It hurts to know that the loved ones you buried are no longer there because we cannot afford the fees, but what can we do),” said Lauro Oligarte, a tricycle driver who had his mother and father buried 10 years ago in Wireless Cemetery.

He added that others may seem to think that they have no respect towards the remains of his parents but what can a family man do when he still has live mouths to feed?

“Makabisita man pud gihapon mi didto ang kalahian lang dili na sarili. Daghan na sila. Wala man jud ta’y mahimu ana (we can still visit except that they are no longer in single niches, the remains are there all together),” said Angie Santos, a vegetable vendor with a brother buried at Wireless Cemetery.

“Naa naman sila sa langit, ang lawas na lang nila ang naa diri sa yuta. Ug mao ng desisyon sa atong gobyerno para sa kaayuhan sa semeteryo, kinsa man mi mga kabus mopalag (They are now in heaven, it’s only their body that remains here and that is the decision of the government so who are we to go against that),” said Dominador Pentejos, a shoemaker who opted to transfer the remains of her wife and daughter somewhere else after hearing about the exhumation.

He said that he brought their remains back to the province and had them buried outside his parents’ home where a family cemetery has been set up since the 1940s.

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