Happy Mourning: How Ilokanos cultivate tradition from the ground

April 30, 2018

Leslie Joy Tajale, Region XI student journalist
I am so fascinated with history, with scenery that depicts the past, with cultural practices, and everything that brings my feet to the old times, just for a week or two. And Vigan City was my answered prayer.
I was about to cover the basketball match of our region at Caoaian, Ilocos Sur when suddenly, I heard drum beats and trumpet noise which caught my attention. I thought it was a fiesta, and I became giddy with excitement, becayse festive occasions mean food to me. So I ran to see what the celebration was all about. I went to the street and saw a marching band pleasantly serenading my ears with the song ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’.

To my surprise, it was followed by a horse-drawn Calesa. While waiting for the horse to turn and pass by, I was amazed to see a glass encasement being carried by the horse-drawn carriage. I was shocked to see a casket inside. I came back to my senses when I realized that it was a unique funeral ceremony. I tapped our photojournalist to capture the scene. It was a sunny day, a great morning for me but not for the bereaved family – it was a gloomy mourning for them. But I got curious with the love song that is being played.

 “In our practices, during the last night of the wake, the grieving family would offer music of love to the deceased family member as a sign of last respect for the dead,” Barangay Tanod Editha Amaw shared in an interview.

The 53-year-old resident further relayed that this is how they handle stress, and that this is also a form of farewell for the departed as he or she fulfills his/her last pace here on earth.

“That’s why some of the Ilokanos who are rich give the best comfort to their beloved dead family member including a funeral service with marching band and elegant calesa to transport their loved one all the way to the church,” Amaw said.

Oh! So that was their purpose. When I asked them what if a maiden dies, Ilocos Sur National High School teacher Ken Palacpac shared that the family would dress the lady with a beautiful gown.

“The purpose of that tradition is giving the deceased lady a chance to celebrate her femininity, experience a debut party or cloth her with a wedding gown if she is unmarried. A serenade is usually done during the last night of the wake,” Palacpac said.

I asked a local of the nearest funeral service company and headed towards the address while trying to synthesize the testimonies I gathered. Good thing it was just a stone’s throw from our billeting school. The staff shared the concept of their services in offering a special package for the bereaved family which links the old practices with the modern times.

“We offer creative services to our people and at the same time, we will bring the tradition that would last a lifetime,” Holy Angel Funeral Service staff Elena Castillo said while on duty at Ayusan Norte, Vigan City.

It was supposed to be a simple coverage but what I have discovered made my stay in Vigan City extraordinary. The place is more than just a beautiful scenery; it has stories worth telling. I share the same sympathy with them in losing a loved-one, but what I am feeling right now is the appreciation of their rare tradition in handling pain and brave acceptance of the inevitable course of life.