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Philippines ups security for 'Day of the Dead' festival

Travel chaos expected as Catholics gear up for holiday considered almost as important as Christmas and Holy Week
Philippines ups security for 'Day of the Dead' festival

Every year Filipino Catholics troop to cemeteries to visit the tombs of their departed loved ones, causing massive traffic congestion. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

Published: October 25, 2018 05:02 AM GMT
Updated: October 25, 2018 05:08 AM GMT

Philippine authorities are ramping up security measures ahead of this year's observance of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day on Nov. 1 and 2 respectively.

The two-day observance, called "Undas" by Filipinos, has become an annual security nightmare as people visit cemeteries or travel to provinces, causing massive traffic congestion.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines expects crowds to flock to at least 20 airports as people scramble home for what will be a long weekend.

Aviation official Don Mendoza said his office will implement from Oct. 27 an operation plan to ensure "efficient, convenient and safe travel" for air passengers.

In the capital Manila, at least 3,400 policemen will be deployed to patrol cemeteries during the religious observance.

Guillermo Eleazar, head of the National Capital Region Police Office, said the officers would be guarding 80 cemeteries and 30 columbaria (where the remains of cremated bodies are kept) in the capital.

"Target-hardening measures" will also be implemented to deter possible criminal and terrorist acts like bombing and other attacks, he said.

In Manila’s Quezon City, bomb-sniffing dogs will be deployed along with uniformed police personnel in public transport terminals.

Joselito Esquivel Jr., head of the Quezon City police office, said security preparations to ensure peace and order and a smooth flow of traffic are all set.

The military is also expected to augment security in areas around the country, although no security threats have been reported.

Authorities have reminded people to refrain from traveling with prohibited items such as firearms, bladed weapons, alcoholic beverages, gambling paraphernalia and videoke sets.

The observance of Undas, from the Spanish "andas" or Day of the Dead, began when Spanish friars first came to the country.

The first two days of November are considered very important holidays by many Filipinos, after Christmas and Holy Week.

Remembering the dead and visiting their tombs in cemeteries during the first two days of November has become part of Filipino tradition.

More than the offering of prayers and flowers and the lighting of candles, the two-day holiday has also become an occasion for family reunions where people spend a night or two in a cemetery.

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