PIESTA MINATAY 2022: Traditions and safety amid pandemic

Visiting the dead to bring flowers and food and say prayers are part of Filipino culture during All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. (Arnold Almacen photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera

After being halted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for over two years, thousands of people are anticipated to pack cemeteries and columbaria in Iloilo for this year’s observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days or “Piesta Minatay” on Nov 1 and 2, 2022.

But the question is how safe is it for an individual to join crowds and mass gatherings in cemeteries and other public places?

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas and Iloilo governor Arthur Defensor Jr. were consistent in reminding the public to still observe and follow the proper health and safety protocols as they visit cemeteries during “Undas.”

Treñas issued Executive Order 085, series of 2022, laying out health and public order protocols for the observance of Undas in the city.

The city government will only allow individuals who are partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter cemeteries and the city teams will be stationed at the entrances starting today, Oct 31 until 11:59 of Nov 2 to check their vaccination cards and identification cards.

Full vaccination means the person has been administered the second dose in a 2-dose series or a single-dose vaccine.

The EO also prohibits overnight visits and bans vehicles, flammable materials, liquors, firearms, and other deadly weapons, speakers, videoke machines, and playing cards inside the cemeteries.

The Iloilo Provincial Government would also implement a similar policy, but they would only allow fully vaccinated persons to enter cemeteries and memorial parks.

Defensor also said that those who are unvaccinated and only partially vaccinated can still go to cemeteries in advance, citing that mass gatherings in observance of “Undas” mostly start on Nov 1.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) has already mapped out security preparations for the “Undas” as they will strictly implement the “no vaccine, no entry” policy in the city.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is also on full alert status and at least 300 ICPO personnel will be deployed in various cemeteries, transportation hubs, major thoroughfares, and other public places.

The Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (ICDRRMC) Operations Center (OpCen) is also on “blue alert” starting Oct 29 to Nov 2 as all members of ICDDRMC were ordered to conduct monitoring and report to assigned response clusters all related incidents to ensure coordination with concerned offices or agencies.

The Philippine Coast Guard District Western Visayas (PCGDWV) was also on heightened alert from Oct 24 until Nov 4, 2022.

They also activated “Oplan Biyaheng Ayos: Undas 2022” as help desks were put up at seaports and PCGDWV members were also on standby at the ports, including medical teams and K-9 units that monitor cargo.


It is a common and important practice for Ilonggo families and Filipinos, in general, to visit their departed loved ones in cemeteries and memorial parks to light candles and pray for them every “Undas.”

Another common tradition is to pick the departed’s favorite flowers, as people believe that the dead will be happy if they give them something they adore, although others also opt to just purchase arranged bouquets.

Some also offer food to the dead. In Iloilo, some people call it “butang sa ba-id” or “pakuyang”, where a set of food is placed on the grave, in front of the altar, or in front of the dead’s photographs at home.

Just like any important holiday, Filipinos also attend masses and recite prayers every “Undas” because they believe that prayers will bring rest and peace to the souls of the dead.

Another tradition that Ilonggos also practice every “Undas” is lighting candles at their doorsteps as it is believed to guide the souls towards a brighter path on their journey to the afterlife.

“Kakanin” or rice cakes of all kinds are, of course, cooked during “Undas” as these sticky desserts such as “suman”, “ibos”, “bahi-bahi”, “kalamay hati”, and “alupi” serve as perfect representations of the affection of Filipino families and for them to ‘stick together.’

Ilonggos also believe that preparing these “kakanin” delicacies will invite the souls of departed family members to dine so that the souls will not disturb other family members inside the house.