Wenceslao: Burying a colleague

SUNDAY was I think the third time I went out-of-town to bury personalities I knew.

I could no longer remember the year but I went to Boljoon to witness the interment of the town’s former mayor, Dr. Rene Amper, my favorite Cebuano poet and who, like me, was a former staff member of The Quill, the official student publication of Southwestern University.

I went to Argao years later to witness the burial of my former manager at radio station dyLA, Cerge M. Remonde, who was a Cabinet member at the time of his death. I was joined by my wife and two children when we attended the burial of SunStar Cebu news editor Olga Marie “Gingging” Aledo-Campaña yesterday.

For Filipinos, or at least us Catholics, the burial ritual is a hallowed observance. Here, the presence of the body is crucial because activities revolve around it, from the wake to the burial. This is among the reasons why in accidents like a sinking of a ship, relatives always demand proof of death for the missing, which is the body of the victim.

Burial rites involve bringing the dead to the church for the mass, then after the mass the relatives and friends follow the coffin and the hearse in a procession to the cemetery. In Gingging’s case the mass was at the St. Catherine Church and the interment rites were at the St. Lazarus Catholic Cemetery more than a kilometer away.

The burial rites usually involve a novena before the coffin is placed in the ground or inserted into the crypt. Then the crying comes. A Tagalog movie once depicted the life of a woman hired to do the crying. That has made light of this part of the burial ritual. Relatives crying silently or wailing during the burial symbolizes the act of finally letting go.

It is a difficult act, especially for those used to the presence of the person who died when he or she was alive. I think that is one problem with familiarity. We her colleagues have become so used to Gingging’s presence that it has taken time for us to adjust to her absence. Or we have gotten so used to her presence that we overlooked that very presence and recognized it again only after her passing.

Which brings me to the way we approach somebody’s passing. It is not often that a person’s death is met with sadness and the feeling of loss. I remember reading the admonition of a known materialist who instead admonished that death be met with the banging of drums and rejoicing.

This is because he saw death in a different light.

These materialists see “contradiction” in every thing or processes, a “unity of the opposites” that moves forward these things and processes. In mechanics, action and reaction, in physics, positive and negative electricity, in human existence, life and death. These materialists welcome a process that is completed, And so when death triumphs over life, that they say would be an occasion for rejoicing.

While Christianity takes a different view, it should have been one with materialists in treating the death of relatives. Because they believe in the after-life, Christians see death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life. Shouldn’t we therefore rejoice instead of being sad for our loved one who dies?
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