Grave settlers clear areas for All Souls’ Day

AT the Cebu Chinese Cemetery in Barangay Hipodromo, Cebu City, informal settlers living there become literal “ghosts” on All Saints and All Souls Day.

Some families living in mausoleums there will “disappear” on All Saints and All Souls Day to give way for their original owners to visit their loved ones.

Since last week, informal settlers who had made the graves and mausoleums their own homes have started clearing the area of their stuff to make way for visitors on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bea Villarino, 32, said she and her husband started pulling out their personal belongings off the Ang Kao Kian mausoleum and transferred them to a makeshift tent nearby.

For a year, they have made the old mausoleum their home after losing their old house during a demolition.

Villarino admitted that despite living in the mausoleum for a year, she and her family never knew who owned it.

She doesn’t even know the name of the person buried on the niche that served as their bed.

Even though some of their neighbors told them that the owners of the mausoleum have never visited it for years, Villarino said she will just temporarily leave it, just in case.

“Maniguro lang mi kay basin mutunga nya ang tag-iya (We’ll just do it just in case the owners arrive),” Villarino added.

Like Villarino, Elvie Catibay, 38, is also busy preparing to leave the mausoleum her family has been living in for many years.

Despite being the wife of one of the caretakers of the cemetery, Catibay said cleaning and leaving their makeshift homes during All Saints and All Souls Day has become a “tradition” for some of the cemetery residents.

“Amo na man gud naandan. Amo sad ning pagtahud sa mga tag-iya sa mausoleo nga nitugot namo nga mupuyo diha (We’re used to this. This is also our gesture of respect for the mausoleum owners who allowed us to stay here),” Catibay said.

Catibay said she and her family of four have been living in the cemetery for more than 30 years.

They currently reside in the mausoleum where a certain Gregoria Ybañez is buried.

Every year, they clean and fix the mausoleums.

Every third and fourth week of October, Catibay and her family would become busy preparing their personal belongings and transferring them to a temporary site at the cemetery.

On the night of Nov. 2, she and other residents there would then return to the mausoleums to sleep with the dead once more.

But while some disappear from the mausoleums during the two-day holiday, some like John Mateo, 29, have been literally sleeping among the dead all their lives without fear of being removed.

Mateo has been living with his family on top of a mausoleum at the Calamba Cemetery for more than two decades.

Mateo told SunStar Cebu that he and his family serve as caretaker of the mausoleum of the Gabutan Family.

As a favor for guarding their relatives’ tombs for many years, the surviving Gabutan kin allowed Mateo and his family to live on top the mausoleums so they can closely monitor their dead loved ones.

For many years, Mateo said his family has made it a living to clean the Gabutan mausoleum.

Despite living on top of the dead, Mateo admitted that they were far better off than those living in crime-infested areas in the city.

“Walay kulba uy. Maypa nang patay, dili man na manghilabot nimo (We’re at peace. The dead are better since they don’t bother us),” Mateo added.
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