On the first two days of November, I would look out our apartment window at night and see a stunning view—the soft glow of a thousand candle lights. It was a peaceful view, one that never scared me, even if it was the season of gory film fests and eerie Magandang Gabi, Bayan episodes.
Some wax poetic about simpler childhoods, invoking memories of climbing trees, eating freshly picked aratiles, and concocting the perfect bubble solution of Tide and gumamela; mine also include running through rows of tombs and jumping over their varying heights, as if in a maze, stopping only to admire those that stood above the rest. (I was particularly drawn to marble gray—the purely black ones have become available only in recent years.)
When a neighbor died in a tragic bus accident, we would sometimes accompany his mother, the sternest lady among the neighbors, to his grave. She loved him dearly—the older ones in our compound whispered among themselves (loudly enough for us kids to know) that he was the favorite among the brood of three. Every afternoon, she would make the two-minute trek to the cemetery, just around our corner, and bring fresh flowers and candles.
The son’s grave was almost the size of a sedan, a massive slab of pebbled gray-concrete with roofing. At the head was a little memorial, a casing for his photo, secured by metal bars and a lock. It was my first brush with death and grieving—until then, death to me was a childhood playground and the soft glow of a thousand candle lights.
Updated (August 30, 2016):
The matriarch died yesterday morning.