Filipinos paint the tombs of the departed in preparation for the observance of All Souls' Day. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)
Filipinos who live outside the country can offer Masses and prayers for their dearly departed on All Souls Day through the internet.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines revived a "virtual cemetery," which was first launched in 2011, in time for this year's observance of All Saints' and All Souls' Day next week.
The observance of Undas, or Day of the Dead, is a major family affair in the Philippines.
Everybody in this predominantly Catholic country goes to a cemetery on Nov. 1 and 2, a public holiday to mark All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
Tombs are cleaned and repainted, candles are lit and flowers are offered. Traditionally, Filipino families spend a night or two in the cemetery near their relatives’ tombs, playing card games, eating, even drinking, singing and dancing.
For Filipinos who cannot be home, however, the country's Catholic bishops offer an alternative.
"For those who cannot make it to your parishes, especially Filipinos in other countries or seafarers, you may request for Masses to be celebrated for your beloved dead," said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, director of the media office of the bishops' conference.
One has only to visit the website www.undasonline.com, click the "Prayer Request," and list down the names of the dead for whom Mass or prayers are to be offered.
Masses will be held at the chapel of the bishops' conference in Manila starting Nov. 1.
The website also posts prayers and catechesis on the significance and liturgical meaning of the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
A "donate" button, which Monsignor Quitorio said is not obligatory, is also available on the site for those who wish to make a donation or give Mass stipends to the priests who will celebrate the Masses.
Filipinos in the country, however, are encouraged to visit cemeteries, oratories, and churches.
Monsignor Quitorio said the website is designed to make Filipinos who work abroad feel like they are also in the cemetery with their loved ones.
During its launch in 2011, the site received 20,000 requests and garnered "positive feedback" from Filipinos around the world.