How do we spell ‘Halloween’ in the Philippines?

Zombies, draculas, witches. It’s that time of the year again! Halloween, that is. In the Philippines, however, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are spelled differently, i.e. U-N-D-A-S!


All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are two of the special non-working holidays in the Philippines. Although technically, November 2 is the day for the dead, Filipinos commemorate their departed loved ones on November 1. In fact, there were years when October 31 was even declared a non-working holiday to give way for the preparation of the Filipinos in celebrating the feast of the saints and the souls.

Much time is needed because most travel back to their provinces to be united with their loved ones—and together, they remember the souls of their departed family and/or friends.

N-ights at the cemetery

For almost 362 days, cemeteries are dull and lifeless, creepy even. Come October 31, people start to gather and camp on the graves of their beloved. Some come to visit for hours; and some, to stay overnight. Believe it or not, the ambiance becomes festive. There are those who take the opportunity to repaint the tombs. Others offer flowers and candles; and after saying a prayer, the rest of the day (and night) becomes a reunion among the living relatives.

People cry as they remember their loss; but eventually, they begin to laugh it off, with tears on the corners of their eyes. Very Filipinos, eh?

D-ares, games, and stories

Here is something perhaps every Filipino could relate to: dares about reading the names and years of death engraved on the neighboring tombstones, or making wax balls out of the melted candles, or exchanging ghost stories. Those are what kids normally do while their parents are sincerely praying for the souls of their relatives.


Because the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, Filipinos believe that their departed loved ones are in purgatory – a state after death wherein souls are made pure through sufferings before they can enter heaven. That’s why at least once a year, if not every day, we pray for their souls.

S-ouls and Saints

Why is there a need to pray for their souls? The Catholics believe that the dead cannot do anything about their state anymore. They have done their part here on earth: if they were good, they will suffer a little while in the purgatory; otherwise, they will suffer more.

That is where the living, the “Militant Church”, comes in – their prayers will help ease the sufferings of the souls in purgatory, called the “Suffering Church”. When they are purified in purgatory, they enter heaven – thus, they become saints and become a part of the “Triumphant Church”. Since they are now closer to God, they then intercede for the living. It becomes their turn to pray for the Church on earth. That is the cycle Catholics believe in.

If the All Souls’ Day belief is real, and faith tells the Catholics it is, the souls will be feasting on the prayers! Good news, it’s not just during these two days that you can make your dearly departed happy. By including them in your everyday prayers, it is also everyday that their sufferings are eased.

Well, if you get to remember your beloved in a not so pleasant way, then it might mean that they are asking for your prayers. Or maybe they just want to greet you “Happy UNDAS Day!”


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