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Filipinos urged to protect environment on All Souls’ Day

Environmental groups call on Catholics to reduce trash during trips to cemeteries

A woman visits the grave of a loved one at the Heroes Cemetery for Filipino military personnel in Manila on the eve of All Souls' Day on Oct. 31, 2018

A woman visits the grave of a loved one at the Heroes Cemetery for Filipino military personnel in Manila on the eve of All Souls' Day on Oct. 31, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 26, 2022 10:44 AM GMT

Updated: October 26, 2022 10:58 AM GMT

Filipino Catholic environmentalists have urged people to protect the environment by bringing only environmentally friendly materials to cemeteries on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2.

The campaigners on Oct. 25 called on millions of Catholics ready to flock to cemeteries to bring only biodegradable materials.

“We urge our fellow Christians to be mindful of the environment during our visit to the graves of our deceased relatives and loved ones. We know everyone is excited but let us be mindful of the waste we will leave in the cemetery,” Jovert Donglao, executive director of Group for the Environment, told UCA News.

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Donglao was referring to the Filipino tradition of camping out in graves while eating and drinking with the entire family.

“Perhaps many of us want to do what we had failed to do because of the pandemic. We want to party in the cemetery, to be with our loved ones both living and the dead. But we can help both by reducing our waste by not partying in cemeteries, if possible,” Donglao added.

The environmental group launched a national donation drive to gather over 5,000 trash bins to be distributed in public cemeteries in the Philippines.

The project aimed for visitors to separate their waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable trash.

“One of the keys to lessen pollution is to make trash bins visible and to separate biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste. When people see trash cans, the temptation to throw away garbage anywhere is reduced, if not removed,” Donglao said.

The Church’s social arm, Caritas, also has raised concern about waste management in the country’s Catholic cemeteries on All Souls’ Day.

Caritas urged Filipinos to minimize their trash to preserve the sacredness of the cemetery.

“We appeal to our fellow Filipinos to make this year’s observance of All Souls’ Day different from the pre-pandemic celebrations, which were marred by tons of garbage left by cemetery visitors and vendors,” Caritas executive secretary Father Antonio Labiao told UCA News.

The clergyman said that every Filipino has the obligation to be responsible and to take care of the environment for the sake of future generations.

“It’s our shared responsibility to ensure that our environment, which includes us all, is protected against practices that pollute and degrade it,” the clergyman added.

In 2019, over 13 million people visited cemeteries throughout the archipelago, according to the Philippines Information Agency.

The number drastically decreased in 2020 because of the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic.

“Here in Manila, from more than 5 million, we only had 50,000-60,000 recorded visitors in the cemeteries in 2020. People were afraid because of the Covid outbreaks,” Department of Health medical doctor Peter Ruzgal told UCA News.

He said government guidelines on group gatherings affected the mentality of Filipino people not to congregate so as not to create a “super spreader” event.

“The pandemic taught us to be more careful not only for ourselves but for our loved ones with comorbidities. The pandemic is not over yet,” Ruzgal added.

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