Forgotten Memories – Part V

WHEN I was a child, it was a big thing when November 1 and 2
approached. Preparations were made on the days previous.

My mother, my grandmother and my aunt Magda went to the flower market in Carbon, in front of the Recoletos church in Freedom Park, there to order what flowers would be needed and at what price.

The most in demand flowers were the white azucenas grown in Mantalongon, Dalaguete, or in Busay. They were rather pricey but they lasted for several days. There, too, was the velvety red cock’s comb. Fern-like stems served as fillers.

The flowers were obtained the afternoon of October 31, or early in the morning of November 1. That was quite hectic as November 1, feast of All Saints, was a day of obligation and masses were only in the morning.

Our family’s graves were in the Spanish cemetery in the middle of the Archdiocesan cemetery in Carreta. It was the concern of La Association Benefica Española to which yearly dues were paid by its members.

In the late 1940s family had only three tombs to care about. There was my maternal grandfather Col. Jacinto Rodriguez, my paternal grandfather Bartolome Picornell, and Lus de la Riva, mother of our uncle Manolo, whose wife Magda was my father’s sister.

They had all died during the war of health complications which could have been better treated had there been medicines. Another tomb was added in 1950 upon the death at 97 of my great grandmother Evarista La Torre de Vecani, maternal grandmother of my father.

For me, it was an adventure to go to the cemetery on November 1 shortly after lunch with family members and the maids.

The flowers were all wrapped in banana leaves. We brought
scissors and bottles with water to put on the cement urns that were part of the tombs.

We discovered that within the cemetery grounds was a faucet from where we could draw water for free, and there we lined up for our turn to fill the emptied bottles we had brought.

On days previous, the grown ups had made arrangements for electric bulbs to light up the tombs on the evenings of November 1 and 2. My father would do this little service for friends who were no longer in Cebu to take care of their dearly departed’s tombs.

When we had done our work, we all hurried home to change, and when dusk approached, we’d

return to the cemetery. In a group we’d pray at the different tombs. We also met many friends there, and it was an occasion for updating on each other.

The pantheon of the Moraza family stood out as the most beautiful. It was actually a gothic shrine beneath whose arch stood an angel carved in fine white marble. It had come piece by piece from Italy.

In the center of the Spanish cemetery stood a pillar reminiscent of an obelisk. From it, at half mast, flew the red-and-gold Spanish flag.

We would stay for quite a while at the cemetery, going home in time for supper. At times, the grown ups returned and stayed there until about 10 p.m.

Next day, November 2, “All Souls Day,” my grandmother reminded us was just as important as November 1. “It is when you have to pray harder, so all souls can go from purgatory to heaven,” she said.

We would return to the cemetery in the morning and put more azucenas, add water, and spruce up the tombs further. Less people came because it was a working day.

These days, aside from the Feast of the Santo Niño, were when we experienced traffic jams, yet nothing like we seen on an ordinary day now. We would park near Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion and walk the distance to the cemetery.

Its only access was the old arched door, and this narrow
passage was divided into two lanes, one for entering, the other for exiting. People shuffled rather slowly which made it quite exasperating.

Comments among the grown ups were always about which tombs were best adorned with flowers, bulbs, candles, or votive glass lamps. Also which tombs were the most neglected. My mother and aunt always brought extra bunches of flowers to put on tombs whose families were no longer here.

As small kids, we were bound to get in the way as the grown ups did their work on the tombs. When we grew up, we became more helpful, cleaning the tombs, stuffing the flowers into vases and making sure there were lit candles.

On November 3, we returned to the cemetery to retrieve whatever we could bring home and use next year. Others unscrewed the steel letters that were rampantly stolen.

One particular tomb that had shiny steel letterings was that of the late Spanish Consul Don Silviano Cermeño. His widow, Doña Susana Recio de Cermeño, would spend the day in front of the tomb comfortably seated, shaded by a large umbrella.

Sometimes she was accompanied by her two adoptive daughters Coring (Valencia) and Carmencita (Fernandez).

When November 1 and 2 were gone, Cebu started to get ready for the Christmas season. Stores would unfurl signages of white
coco cloth proclaiming “Christmas Sale.”

It was actually the culmination of a year that had a New Year Sale, a Valentine Sale, a Graduation Sale, a Summer Sale, a Back-to-School Sale, and so on.

TAGS: aunt, azucenas, Bartolome, Benefica, Busay, Carbon, cemetery, Christmas, Dalaguete, death, Española, flower, flower market, grandmother, La Association Benefica Española, mantalongon, mother, Picornell, preparations, preps, Recoletos, recoletos church
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