However, that's not to say Filipino-style Halloween doesn't exist. Aside from the scary costumes decking the malls alongside Christmas tinsels(!), these are the other ways Filipinos get into the Halloween spirit come October 31.
Preparing for Undas
Halloween isn't a holiday in the Philippines, but November 1 and 2 (collectively known as "Undas") are. Undas is the time when Filipinos flock to cemeteries, pay their respects to their dearly departed and catch up with a relative or two. Often, they have to go all the way to their home provinces, which results in the "Undas rush" that you can fortunately avoid by following these tips.
Before their visit, Filipinos make sure their loved ones' graves are well-maintained. They clear the dust and dirt away from family plots, repaint gravestones and keep everything nice and spiffy. They also take care to bring candles, flowers and other goods, so that their dead will at least be as happy in the afterlife as they were during their time on Earth.
Prior to Undas, Filipino employees enjoy their last working days in October by throwing Halloween parties. They wear costumes, exchange treats and do other fun activities to ramp up the spooky atmosphere. And as long as their work isn't disrupted, most employers won't mind — and will even make room in their schedule to join in the festivities!
However, you won't find these sorts of parties in Filipino households, unless you happen to be dealing with a very unconventional family. More often than not, you'll see grandparents admonishing their younger family members to pay heed to ancient superstitions — or else. We'll be doing a post on Undas superstitions in the future, so watch out for that!
Telling Ghost Stories
Of course, no Halloween celebration is complete without ghost stories. During their visits to cemeteries, Filipinos will sometimes gather around graves and tell the most teeth-chattering tales by candlelight. If they're lucky, nothing out of the ordinary will happen after all the stories are done. If not…
Real life isn't the only place people can share spooky stories. When you type terms like "creatures from Philippine mythology" into Google, you're sure to find countless entries about the equally countless monsters within these 7,000 islands. You can also find several accounts about firsthand ghostly encounters, which you can judge for yourself whether they're true or not.
Ghostly TV Shows
Back in the day, local TV stations would pump out Halloween specials in droves. For example, years before Noli de Castro became the Vice President of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he hosted a show called "Magandang Gabi Bayan" ("Good Evening, Dear Country"). Every last week of October, "Magandang Gabi Bayan" would host a series of documentaries about real-life encounters with creatures from the other world, complete with dramatizations.
Other now-defunct Philippine shows that dealt with the supernatural include:
- !Oka Tokat (an inversion of the phrase "Takot ako!," which means "I'm scared!")
- Nginiig (named after "nginig," which is Filipino for "shiver")
- Wag Kukurap (translates to "Don't Blink," based on best-selling horror books like "True Philippine Ghost Stories" and "Haunted Philippines.")
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, shows like these are hard to find nowadays. Your best bet is to wait for the year-end Metro Manila Film Festival, which usually includes at least one Filipino horror film in its lineup, or look for other ways to send chills up your spine come All Hallow's Eve.
Other Traditions (Defunct or Otherwise)
Earlier, we mentioned that Filipinos don't practice trick-or-treat. Actually, we should've qualified that they don't practice trick-or-treat anymore. That's because, at one point, Filipinos did have their own version of that beloved Halloween tradition: pangangaluluwa ("ghost haunting").
Similar to their American counterparts, young Filipinos would dress up in white sheets and go from house-to-house every dusk or dawn. They'd ask for treats, and would even steal things like eggs, poultry and livestock when they have the chance. Needless to say, this practice has since been banned, probably because people objected to the "stealing" part of pangangaluluwa.
Surprisingly (or not surprisingly?), Filipinos still find time to be their happy selves during an occasion as solemn as Undas. They serve kakanin (sweets made from glutinous rice) to their friends and family, and have a beer or two while remembering the good times. Perhaps they know that their dearly departed wouldn't rest if their surviving family members aren't happy while they're alive?
What's Your (Halloween) Story?
Indeed, every country has its own version of All Hallow's Eve. Filipinos may not have the loudest or most colorful version of Halloween, but they still manage to enjoy it in a way only those of their culture can. So if you have stories of your own about Filipino-style Halloween, get them going in the comments!