Funeral Traditions in the Philippines: How Do Filipinos Mourn Death?  

Funeral traditions all over the world vary immensely. People always have their own way of mourning someone they have lost. In the Philippines, mourning traditions are quite different and peculiar than the usual wake. It involves a lot of extra preparations and days of entertaining. This article aims to show readers some of the very distinct customs that takes place in many Filipino wakes. This will hopefully provide readers a few tips to remember the next time they are asked to pay respects.


philippinewake1In the Philippines, wakes traditionally last from 3 to 7 days in many neighborhoods. This is usually done to give leeway for relatives and friends long distance to visit. The departed is usually placed in a casket throughout the wake period. Most wakes host an open casket ceremony where the deceased is shown all dressed up with a made up face in proper resting position.

Filipinos usually invest a lot in wakes. Usually, the setting welcomes visitors and guests with catered food, which is served by the family members themselves. It’s a customary way of showing people appreciation and gratitude that made the time to pay respects to the dearly departed.

Late Night Vigils

People who visit to grieve with the family usually come with flower arrangements and mass cards dedicated to the one who passed. Visitors also offer their condolences in monetary donations as a sign of respect and consideration for the rest of the family. Family members who are responsible for such arrangements also hold out a registry book for guests to sign and to be recognized for coming to the wake.

It is also a custom for family members to take turns guarding the casket and overseeing the late-night vigils. This is usually made up of reminiscent conversations, singing, guitar playing, and even card games to help everyone stay awake and present with the deceased. It’s the deceased’s loved ones’ way of being present with them one last time.

Peculiar Rituals

Throughout the wake, people visiting or guarding the deceased often partake in some bizarre rituals that don’t entirely make sense, but are known to drive away other unwanted spirits. These are also done to make sure that the deceased’s soul has a safe transition to the afterlife. The following are some unusual practices most Filipinos abide by.



  • Do not take a bath or brush your hair in the home or venue the casket stays. It is said that people who do such can cause their own deaths.
  • People who pay respects should avoid wearing red, specifically adults. Children on the other hand, are encouraged to wear red since it was said to guard them from seeing unwanted spirits from the death.
  • When burying the dead, placing the shoes beside or near the feet is the proper way to do dress them. It is said that the deceased should not be wearing shoes in the casket, since their spirit could still be roaming in the premise which hinders the rest of the loved ones from hearing their footsteps go about.
  • Leftover food catered or served in the wake or funeral shouldn’t be brought home. It is said that this brings home the spirits that have surrounded the deceased.
  • People who attended a wake should not go directly home. It is said they must make a pit stop somewhere to shake off the probable spirits they may have picked up from the wake.

Funeral Services


After the wake period, the funeral service commences with a hearse. It arrives and picks up the casket to bring to the church for a funeral procession. The hearse then takes the casket to the burial where the guests and loved ones proceed with a rosary novena. Funeral goers customarily wear white, black or just a black pin to show their mourning for the deceased. Family and loved ones proceed to taking turns with throwing soil or flowers on the casket. This is done to symbolize their last goodbyes.

Departing with Respect and Gratitude

No matter how bizarre some customs are during Filipino wakes and funerals, their respect and gratitude for the dead is incomparable. The Philippines is known to have a holiday for honoring and remembering the dead called All Souls Day. When it comes to wakes and funerals, they do not fail to deliver and honor the departed. From pulling off all-nighters for visitors to properly placing shoes beside the deceased’s feet; indeed, it is the most gratuitous form of love and deference for the dearly departed.

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