Every year, on November 1st, my mom would set a place at the head of the table with chocolates, an unlit cigarette, sometimes a bottle of San Miguel, and a chair that would always be empty. Then she would gather us up—us two girls, my grandmother and my aunt—and drive to Sta. Cruz, the town where she grew up.
We would buy flowers from the same roadside shop each year and do the same circuit of relatives’ houses, before finally heading to the town cemetery. There we would stay until after dark, spending time with our fathers—my mother’s father was buried there too—in the only way that was left to us.
For as long as I can remember, our family was part of that nationwide exodus known as Undas, All Souls’ Day. Moving away from home in 2007 put an end to those visits for me, and I haven’t celebrated All Souls’ Day in years. It seems outside of the Philippines, nobody celebrates it quite like we do.
So when I found out about Allerzielen in het Vondelpark (All Souls’ in the Vondelpark), right in the heart of the city, I felt like I had found a little piece of home. From 7pm to 8:30pm on November 2nd (the actual All Souls’ Day, not November 1st like we do back home), lanterns are lit in memory of loved ones…
… and in true Dutch fashion, are set sail as boats on the water. In this case, the water was the big pond at the Vondelpark, near the Van Eeghenstraat gate.
From the Allerzielen website: ”Everyone who is busy cycling through the Vondelpark, on the way home from work or to the pub, can be a witness. A simple and nice gesture, an accessible way to show how loss is part of life. Because it is so, and so can be difficult.
Everyone is welcome to launch a burning light in memory of someone special. And to celebrate life.”
Volunteers provided floating lanterns, candles and matches; a table with paper, markers and paste was available for children to write notes.
I didn’t write any notes, but I came with old photographs of my dad…
… and my grandparents: Dadu and Dima on my father’s side, and Nanay on my mother’s side.
Marlon and I put the lanterns in the water and watched the wind blow them gently across the darkness. I followed them along the muddy shore of the pond, where they washed up against the “boats” of others loved and lost…
… and somehow found their way back to each other. I like to think that this is how I’ll find them when we meet again someday: all together, shining, and filled with light.
The weather was freezing, rainy and awful, so there wasn’t much of a crowd. It seems last year they had masses of boats, which made for beautiful photos. Still, it was a special moment of stillness on a busy Friday night in the heart of the city. One that made me feel just a little closer to home.