Tradition lives on in local cemeteries

“PALINA” is a tradition that cemetery-goers practice during All Souls’ and All Saints’ Days.

Just before leaving, they allow themselves to be covered in smoke from a heap of burning weeds or leaves.

Outside the Talisay City Catholic Cemetery in Barangay Poblacion, the “palina” is tended by Michael Sabequil and a group of friends.

The 48-year-old Sabequil said he has been doing this since he was a teen.

According to him, majority of cemetery-goers won’t leave until they drench themselves in smoke from the “palina.” They believe the practice cleanses them of the bad essences as a result of their proximity to the dead, such as misfortune, disease or worst, death, he said.

Payment mode

Sabequil admitted that they gather outside the cemetery and create mounds of “palina” to earn an extra buck.

He clarified that they don’t force those who drench themselves in their smoke to pay. It’s all up to them, he said.

Wala may pugsanay. Kung pila ang ilang ihatag, amo rasad dawaton (We accept whatever amount they give),” Sabequil said.

Since a lot of people had complained about the smell the smoke left on their clothes, Sabequil said they’ve added frankincense powder to the “palina” to make it more fragrant.

However, Sabequil said the number of people who undergo “palina” has dropped over the years.

“It all depends on whether they believe in the practice or not,” he said in Cebuano.

Cleansing ritual

Although the practice is often observed in various Catholic cemeteries, it is not part of Catholic doctrine, said Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Binghay told Sun.Star Cebu that “palina” is a cleansing ritual similar to what other religious cultures in various parts of the world practice.

“If the Jews and the Muslims have their own cleansing ritual, the Catholics, particularly the Filipinos, have the ‘palina’,” Binghay said.

Binghay said that while the church tolerates the practice, it is not part of its doctrine.

He also said he frowns on the practice being used for commercial purpose. “Dili na sad na mao kung pabayran nila ang palina (They should not charge),” he said.

For Maria Nita Alcoseba, the 49-year-old said she never leaves the cemetery without undergoing palina.

She told Sun.Star Cebu that she has passed the practice to her children and her grandchildren.

Wala man say mawala nimo kung mutoo ka o dili (No harm will come to you if you believe or not),” Alcoseba said.
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