Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos flocked to various cemeteries in Metro Manila yesterday in observance of All Saints’ Day to remember their departed.
At the Manila North Cemetery — the country’s biggest — the police registered at least 1.3 million visitors as of 4 p.m. who endured long lines for around 20 minutes just to get inside.
Its counterpart, the Manila South Cemetery, had visitors numbering to about 300,000 people during the same time, according to initial crowd estimates.
Senior citizens and persons with disability were allowed to pass through a “fast lane” as the number of visitors arriving in both cemeteries kept doubling almost every hour.
In other areas around Metro Manila, crowds grew to tens of thousands, like the Libingan ng mga Bayani, where 51,152 individuals are buried, including four Philippine presidents and 51 national artists.
National Capital Region Police Office Director Guillermo Eleazar, in a radio interview early morning, said at least 140,000 Filipinos already visited their departed on the eve of All Saints’ Day.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), on the other hand, estimates that around 14.6 million Filipinos will be visiting cemeteries across the country throughout the four-day Undas weekend.
About 17,100 individuals went to the La Loma Cemetery while the Manila Chinese Cemetery had 1,200 visitors. Both locations had tight security since early morning. Authorities have also recorded an estimated 16,576 visitors at the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque.
The police have also confiscated a high number of banned items from visitors, including 220 packs of cigarettes, 220 flammable items, 55 bladed weapons and 11 gardening tools at the Manila North Cemetery.
In addition, 65 flammable items, 39 bladed weapons, 13 gardening tools, two packs of playing cards and 38 other items were seized at the Manila South Cemetery.
The PNP had deployed more than 4,000 police officers across Metro Manila to ensure the security of individuals, according to Eleazar.
“What we are doing is we are focusing on the effective supervision of the commanders in the ground to go rounds and make sure that what we have planned is being implemented,” he added.
At the Loyola Memorial in Marikina City, enterprising merchants took advantage of the influx of people by jacking up prices of food and drinks sold near the cemetery, with some even more than doubling the usual price.
A small bottle of mineral water for example, which usually costs around P10 each was being sold at P15 yesterday. Boiled eggs are sold for P18 each, while a sandwich with cheese spread costs P20, ham and egg for P50 and an egg sandwich at P35.
Bottled carbonated drinks are peddled between P20 and P55 each, depending on the size.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar personally visited the Manila North Cemetery to show government’s unity with Filipinos observing Undas 2018.
It is the first time the Presidential Communications Operations Office joined “Operation Laging Handa” as Andanar joined in distributing free coffee, bottled water and food.
“You see private media companies do this every year. This year, I said it’s time all government media — Radyo Pilipinas, Philippine News Agency, PTV and the Presidential Communications Operations Office proper join in,” Andanar said.
“It’s good for the public to see the presence of the government media here at the Manila North Cemetery. Why here? Because Manila North Cemetery is one symbol of how we remember and show respect to our departed loved ones,” Andanar added.
With Kristina Maralit and Francis Earl Cueto