My host-family invited me along to the wake of one their recently deceased relatives. A wake is essentially a week long, food-filled funeral, where family and friends have the opportunity to say goodbye to- and celebrate the life of- their recently departed. Naturally, I was curious to find out how a Filipino funeral plays out by comparison to the standard UK ceremony...
...and there was, without a doubt, an emphasis on the celebratory side of things.
Now don't get me wrong- British funerals also try to celebrate life and not just commiserate death. I have attended several 'colour' funerals and listened to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" playing as my Granddad's coffin was brought down the aisle. In a sense, it is just the British way of 'looking on the bright side'. Yet, the Filipino funeral I attended was, by comparison, a party- complete with a live band and an endless supply of snacks and drinks. I didn't think the ceremony could get anymore bad taste...until I was requested to sing Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive", merely 10ft away from the open casket! As it turns out my family had set me up to sing for the ceremony, bragging to locals that I am a "big UK actress". (NB. Despite continually telling my family that I am a actress- slash- waitress, they still assume that I am the next Keira Knightly...!) So the white western girl was handed the task of entertaining a crowd of mourning Filipino's. Luckily, they weren't a tough crowd to please and before the night was out I had serenaded them with several party classics including "And I will always love you", "Rolling in the deep" and my personal favourite- "Let it go" from Disney's 'Frozen'!
I want to retract my earlier comment that it was 'bad taste' - because when I saw the smiles, the laughter and the joy in the people around me, I realised the positive impact that this party was having. After all, a funeral is not really for the dead but for those left behind. Life goes on. So I guess- in a way- the lyrics of "I will survive" sort of sum this up:
"At first I was afraid I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side...But I grew strong, and I learnt how to get along..."
Now I'm not suggesting that this song should become a regular in funeral playlists! But it wasn't quite as bad taste as I first thought. Not when I looked over the microphone and saw the grieving widow crack a smile... and even laugh when I failed to hit the top note!
The Philippines will never cease to amaze me! Even funerals can be fun in this bizarre but brilliant place. However, it's important to note that this really is a heterogeneous culture. This was also the first wake 'party' that Sophia had experienced: the Filipino funerals she has attended have been quite traditional, adhering to the more 'sombre' formalities of the ceremony. So although this is common for Cabiao, it does necessarily cover 'ceremony' for the whole of the country. This is true for all of my Filipino generalisations, as I am basing my perceptions on one small community. A community with its own unique culture and character.
So strictly speaking this blog should be called "Katie in Cabiao"...