“Cemetequette” – The Pinoy Cemetery Etiquette

(Eddie Leanillo, Remate)

A waste and pollution watchdog has released what it calls a “Pinoy Cemetery Etiquette,” or simply “Cemetequette,” ahead of All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day as record numbers of people from all walks of life get ready to visit cemeteries, as well as columbaria, to pay their respects to their departed family members and friends.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a steadfast advocate of eco-friendly observance of timeless Filipino customs and traditions all year-round, crafted the “Cemetequette” to promote environmental responsibility and other “good manners”in the cemeteries, and draw attention to practices that inadvertently disrespect the dead, as well as the living.

“Our intent is not to preach, but to offer reminders and suggestions that could put to rights some unfitting practices, especially during the observance of Undas, which, in all honesty, bring shame on our beautiful and undying culture of remembering the dead,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Cemetequette” is essentially an application of the golden rule “do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you” in a cemetery setting, according to the group. As “Dear Abby,” the famous advice column, put it: “treat the graves as you would the graves of your parents, or as you would like your own to be treated.”

The “Cemetequette” benefited from the practical inputs provided by Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. and environmentalists Noli Abinales, Beau Baconguis, Manny Calonzo, Froilan Grate, Romy Hidalgo, Dr. Helen Mendoza, Rene Pineda, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Cathy Untalan and Chot Velasquez, as well as from applicable rules and regulations.

The EcoWaste Coalition urges cemetery visitors to bear in mind the following reminders and suggestions for a respectful, eco-friendly and toxics-free Undas, even as the group invites everyone to “be the change you want to see in the world” as Mahatma Gandhi stated.

I. Clean, scrub, polish the tomb of your departed ones in a safe and ecological manner. If you are repainting the tomb or parts thereof, pick latex paint, or enamel paint with no lead added. Be careful not to dry scrape or disturb old paint coatings, which may contain lead. Also, take precaution when wiping up, installing or replacing mercury-containing fluorescent lamps to avoid breakage. Keep the discards to the minimum and manage them properly sans dumping or burning. Be considerate: do not not dump thrash on other people’s graves. Shun open burning as this unlawful act releases loads of microscopic particles called PM or particulate matter, and other major pollutants such as dioxins, one of the most toxic poisons known to modern science.
II. Enjoy the serenity and peace of a cemetery. Heed the police directives for your own and your family’s protection: do not bring beer and liquor, firearms, knives and other bladed or pointed objects into the cemetery. Cemetery policies, for instance in the Manila North and South Cemeteries, further prohibit visitors from bringing pet cats and dogs, kites, guitars and loud sound systems, including karaoke and videoke.

III. Refrain from playing blaring music with car stereos, CD players, mp3s, iPads, iPods, iPhones or radios. The cemetery is not an amusement park or a place to show off your new gadgets; use a personal headset so as not to get in the way of other people.

IV. Use your cell phone sparingly as sound tends to travel in open spaces like the cemetery; tone down your ringing tone or keep it on silent or vibrating mode.

V. Be happy with your departed loved ones without being boisterous. The cemetery is not a fish market or “palengke,” tone down your voice so as not to disrupt or infuriate others.

VI. Refrain from engaging in disruptive or raucous activities such as playing board, card or computer games, bingo, mahjong,“truth or consequence,” “spirit of the glass,” etc.

VII. Be courteous (and stay out of trouble) by not walking over the tombs or standing on top of a grave.

VIII. Keep watch over your children and do not let them run wild around the place. Show them the meaning of paying respects to the dead. The cemetery is not a playground nor a theme park; no running over the graves and no fights and shouting matches, too.

IX. Take care of the plants and the trees; keep off the plants; do not pick flowers, even wildflowers; do not break tree branches; do not hammer a nail into a tree, which may hurt and damage it.

X. Walk, ride a bicycle or pedicab or take public transportation to the cemetery. If you are driving a car, coordinate with your family members for maximum carpooling. You do not only save on gas, but also help in decongesting cemeteries and nearby communities.

XI. Turn off idling engines to reduce energy consumption and avoid emitting toxic fumes.

XII. Follow the traffic signs, rules and regulations as instructed by the cemetery management or the local barangay or police.

XIII. Refrain from distributing real estate brochures, political leaflets and other promotional materials that could only add to garbage woe of the cemetery and its host community.

XIV. For your own convenience and safety, opt not to remain in the cemetery after dark, especially in places with no adequate lighting and security.

XV. For a zero waste, toxics-free observance of Undas, please consider the following:

1. Pick lead-free, clean-burning candles that do not yield black fumes or soot. Set alight a limited number of candles to reduce heat and pollution. Do not let candles’plastic receptacles or holders to burn.

2. Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones, or consider bringing potted plants and flowers instead. Simple, inexpensive flowers will do. Avoid wrapping floral or plant offerings in plastic, which will sooner or later end up as trash.

3. Bring your own water jug to avoid purchasing bottled water. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem. Plastic bottles, which are petrochemical products, also require lots of oil and chemicals to manufacture. Please watch The Story of Bottled Water to find out why: http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/

4. Go for waste-free meals. Say yes to reusable carriers, containers, and utensils such as lunchboxes and thermos, cloth napkins and silverwares. Say no to throw-away bags, wraps, foil or Styrofoam, paper napkins, and forks and spoons. Also, refrain from patronizing junk food and go for simple yet nutritious home-prepared baon.

5. Buy less or only as much as you know you will consume in terms of food and beverage to avoid spoilage or wastage. Bring bayong or other reusable bags to carry your stuff and purchases, and refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

6. Cut your waste size by not creating trash in the first place such as by purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and avoiding single-use plastic disposables.

7. Don’t litter, dump or burn trash in the cemetery. Do not throw cigarette butts, candy wrappers, discarded packaging, fruit peels, etc. on the ground. Remember to leave the resting place of your loved ones litter-free.

8. Put your discards into the recycling bins if available. Better still, bring your own discards bags and bring them home for sorting, reusing, recycling or composting.

9. Relieve yourself only in the proper place where one should. Keep the urinal or toilet bowl clean as a courtesy to the next user. Do not defecate or urinate in public places.

10. Refrain from smoking in the cemetery. Be considerate to the children, the elderly, pregnant women and others around you who may be saddled with respiratory and heart ailments.