A birthday cake for All Saints’ Day

By , on November 1, 2013


My youngest brother, holding his birthday cake
My youngest brother, holding his birthday cake

All Saints’ Day is not just like any other holiday for our family. Yes, we gather at one place, prepare some food, catch up with each other’s lives, but we don’t just light candles beside the tombs of our departed loved ones—we also light a birthday candle—for my youngest sibling.

A celebration of life that was taken and life that was renewed. It is indeed ironic, but we, Filipinos are known for our ability to make things a bit less complicated—and that’s we have been doing for the past 23 years.

We have to admit that it’s quite difficult to commemorate the dead and celebrate life. Sometimes, our emotions are also confused as to what emotion to show—especially when our loved one has just died.

The memory of our beloved grandmother passing away unexpectedly around the time of All Saints’ Day is still clear on my mind. We were actually preparing for my brother’s 16th birthday, when suddenly our ‘mamang’ (that’s how we called her) complained that she could hardly breathe. As we reached the nearest hospital, her heart also stopped beating.

In an instant, the idea of a perfect party has turned into random thoughts on how we would arrange mamang’s burial. The birthday party was cancelled and on the eve of All Saints’ Day, we cried as we ate the supposed birthday cake, mourned as we counted the strands of spaghetti in our plate and watched as the ice cream melted before our very eyes—instead of a birthday song, we chanted a prayer for our dear grandmother.

Mamang is known to be a very strong person. She is the foundation of our family. And though she has passed away, she continued to help us stay strong amid a family tragedy.

On the last few days of her burial, my auntie (Mamang’s daughter) said that she saw mamang smiling at her. She was said to be ‘at peace,’ wearing a beautiful smile. As her family, we were somewhat relieved hearing about this.

Next year’s All Saints’ Day was still a painful one for us. But unlike the first one, we tried our best to celebrate it a bit lighter and happier.

We even consulted a priest as to the rules of celebrating a birthday around the time that our loved one also died. The priest simply smiled at us and said, “All Saints’ Day is not just about mourning for the dead. It is also celebrating the life that the dead has had.”

True it is.

So, from then on, we have found more reasons to celebrate All Saints’ Day—the wonderful life that my grandmother had and the promising life that my brother continues to live.