I Have Never Seen A Dead Body

Hindi ko isipin tungkol sa mga patay pero sa Pilipinas kahit saan ito. Wala akong pakialam kung tao magsalita tungkol sa mga patay, at kamatayan ay hindi kahit ano nakakatakot sa akin. Pero, kapag nakikita ako ito araw araw para ng buong linggo ay hindi kahit ano gusto ko.

Sorry, just practicing I have a language test soon.

Anyway, I experienced death all week this week. Nobody close to me died or anything, but let me explain. In The Phillies there is a day called Undas. It’s Called All Saints Day or The Day of the Dead in other countries. Um, it is celebrated in an interesting way. All of the relatives of those who have passed away go to the cemetery and . . . drink. No, not everyone. Basically, everyone just hangs out. It felt a lot like 4th of July actually. There were several people all grouped together according to their families. They were all eating a ton of food. There was beer there and a lot of children and vendors. The only thing missing was fireworks, but there were several fires. Just candles, don’t worry. It was a very interesting experience. I actually enjoyed myself a lot. It’s not every day you can sit atop a grave and eat spaghetti whilst drinking RC Cola. Off topic: RC is the popular carbonated beverage here. In the states I’m lucky if I see an RC for an entire year, but here RC is the big man in town. Anyway, I got back home and felt somewhat strange about being around death for so long, but having the time of my life.

That was Sunday. Then yesterday (Tuesday) I went to a Patay. Patay literally means dead in Tagalog, but in this case it is a burial ceremony. I didn’t know the person. And the person I went with was only a friend of a friend. I tried to explain to my family that in the states, you don’t generally go to the burial of someone you’ve never met before. And you certainly don’t go if you don’t know anyone related to the person. But they assured me that in The Phillies it ain’t no big thang. So, I went. Reluctantly, but I went. We got there and I watched several people bless their elderly. The way the blessing is given is interesting. You say “mano po” which in spanish would mean “hand”, but mano doesn’t have the same meaning here. Here it means you grab the hand of an elderly person and touch the back of their hand to your forehead. I’m not sure if you’re blessing them or that they bless you in this way. Though I do remember after the kids did mano some of the elderly would cross the child.

Anyway, I went into this room. It was beautifully decorated and there were several people eating and merry making inside. Oh. And there was also a casket. I have never seen a dead body in real life. And that night didn’t change things. I watched as my host mother looked into the casket and sat back down. I watched several people, children included, look into this casket. I knew that there was some dead woman I didn’t know inside. There is a part of me that has a healthy respect for the dead and thus looking into the casket of a woman I’ve never met before is just unacceptable. However, there is a part of me that is naturally curious about something like this. Despite my natural curiosity and the obvious difference in culture when it comes to the dead . . . I couldn’t get my feet to move. I was paralyzed. I walked out of the room and just sat outside. I tried desperately to use my broken Tagalog to communicate with the other members of the party. I think I made some progress, but I eventually gave up and just stayed close to my host family and teased some little girls that were extremely curious about this random black guy at their house.

The Patay will last for a week.

The two experiences hitting me back to back just forced me to think about things I don’t generally acknowledge. Like death. I thought about how I’d feel if anybody in my family died while I was overseas. Would I leave? Would I drop the peace corps? How would I take it?I do not think I’d handle it well.

I wish I was Filipino. I’d just party for a week and all would be fine. But I’m not. And if somebody close to me died . . . a part of me would die.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

p.s. – do not die


2 thoughts on “I Have Never Seen A Dead Body

  1. I love happening to click on your blog when a new post is up. This post is great, what an amazing experience. Everything is so incredibly different. Miss you baby.

  2. Lance says:

    It’s ironic that you wrote a post about death. I’m writing this from the front desk of a funeral home that I’m sitting in by myself, waiting for someone to die and their family to call me. Did I tell you I got a job as a secretary at a funeral home? I think a conservative estimate of dead–and yet, very tastefully lifelike–people that I’ve been in proximity to would be about 20 altogether. Good times. Glad to see you’re getting along well!

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