Colored Cebu Customs
& Practices

pintos-festivalYoung and pretty dancers competing to win the festival!

Cebu Customs & Traditions

Cebu customs are quite unique on this part of the region. Although heavily influenced by foreign cultures, the locals are trying to conserve their wealth of culture and tradition.

Cebuanos, or Filipinos in general, have practices which are rooted from their various backgrounds including religious teachings, folk beliefs, superstitions, colonial concepts, and some regional variations of thoughts & beliefs.

Belief in Afterlife

Most Filipinos, even before Christianity was introduced, believe in afterlife which are evident in their ways of respecting or paying homage to the dead. At present, this belief is being reinforced by the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With the combination of indigenous and Christian beliefs, Cebuanos (or Filipinos) hold wakes to respect the dead from 3 to 7 days or so.

In the provinces, wakes are usually held at home, while in the cities these are held at funeral homes/parlors. Usually the coffin (casket) has a glass window for the dead person to be seen openly by the grieving family, relatives, friends, or any visitor.

Superstitious beliefs during the wake

During those long days, you are...

  • not supposed to take shower, bathe, or mind too much about cleaning up yourself because it is an insult to the dead, and your are suppose to be grieving by showing that you don’t care about your self.
  • You are not even allowed to comb or brush your hair but just arrange them with your hand so as not to look too messy.

In addition, since there are many people coming in and out (especially in the house) the place could be a bit untidy and the floor dirty. Even then, you are...

  • not suppose to clean up the floor by using any cleaning tools (such as a broom). You can only pick up some pieces of waste to clean up the place.

Wake or Vigil

One peculiar aspect of Cebu customs and traditions is the practice of 'wake' or vigil, which is longer compared to other cultures' practice I know of.

Wake will usually last from five to seven days (or longer). The wake could extend longer days if the bereaved family is still waiting for someone coming from distant provinces or from outside the country. The dead body is being preserved by embalming it and placing it in a coffin with some ornaments, including flowers, photo of the dead, and funeral lights.

During those days of waking, visitors are given something to eat, such as snacks or meals. Since the dead should not be left alone, family members or anyone should stay awake the whole night and may go to sleep during the day time. Also, during night time various forms of activities are done to keep people awake, including...

  • playing board games, cards, and some are even doing gambling to pass the time and to keep them excited, thus, keeping them awake;
  • drinking coffee or some a bit of alcohol
  • or simply talking about the dead persons good life and other family related topics.

Also, there is a regular time to pray for the dead, such as saying the novena and other forms of prayer.

guadalupe-caveCebuano people's customs and beliefs are almost always tied with religious beliefs especially Catholicism

Funeral Day Ceremonies

It is a common practice and part of Cebu customs to have a procession towards the church and cemetery during the burial day. The coffin with the dead inside it is either will be carried by family members (or male relatives) or loaded into a hearse.

Usually everybody will follow this funeral march until they reach the cemetery where another prayer ceremony will be held. The grieving family and relatives usually wear black colored clothing to symbolize their grief or sorrow.

After the burial, there is an evening prayer for nine day (pasiyam). Nine days is believed to be the day when the soul of the departed leaves the world of the living. Usually, the family does not hold any celebration for a year.

After the nine-day prayer (or novena) a forty-day prayer is also a common practice – saying the rosary, litanies, novenas, and Latin prayers, together with the chanting of the Pahulayng Dayon (Eternal Rest) or the “Gozos for the Dead”. Again, there is a one year anniversary for the dead and goes on for some few years.

Superstitions Still in Practice

The things that is most peculiar among Cebuanos (or Filipinos in general) is that although they are not totally convinced that a particular is actually effective or not, they still carry on with it with the hope that some good things will come...

For example, some are the following quirky ones:

  • place a worn mourning pin on the coffin during the internment;
  • prevent tears from dropping onto the glass of the coffin (for the dead to leave peacefully;
  • place a chick on the coffin to hasten the forgiveness of his transgressions;
  • wear black garments to deter one from seeing the ghost of the dead;
  • relative passes through under the casket before it is loaded into the hearse to let the living relatives move on with their lives;
  • Passing over a smoke at the gate of the cemetery to prevent the spirits of the dead from entangling with the bodies of the living.

Of course, it is a universal truth that each culture has its own mysterious and unfathomable belief systems and cultural variations.

If you have some comments regarding Cebu customs & traditional beliefs, you may write it below. But if you have a great story to tell, you may write and send it to Cebu Bluewaters for publication. Your contribution will be gladly welcomed and credited here.

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