Kalag-Kalag: Beyond candle lighting and Mass offering


“Ang essence sa Kalag-Kalag is to remember our dead loved ones, pero wala na mahuman sa pagpamisa ug dagkot. Kita g’yod mismo. Kinsa ko? Nakapaunsa nako ang kamatayon sa akong mama, sa akong papa? Kinsa ko atubangan sa kamatayon?”

(The essence of Kalag-Kalag is to remember our dead loved ones, but it does not end in offering Mass and lighting candles. We should (ask) ourselves (and know the answer). Who am I? What have the death of my mama, of my papa done to me? Who am I in front of death?)

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Bisaya phrase “Kalag-Kalag,” which refers to the dates of October 31, November 1, and November 2 when the country observes All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, should not simply imply a passive kind of celebration involving visiting graves, candle lighting and Mass offering.

It must be viewed more seriously as a chance to explore one’s understanding of death.

CDN Digital spoke with Fr. Loreto Jaque, a missionary who served in Lima, Peru, for eight years, on the significance of commemorating All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day each year.

The terms “remembering, memories, grief dreams, and death” was part of the priest’s reply.

Jaque has training in expressive arts and play therapy.

And through his help, this article discusses the art of remembering and the people’s relationship with the death.

“Ang memories of our loved ones, dili siya passive lang. Ang atong relasyon sa atoang nangamatay, dili lang taman sa pagbutang og kandila, sa pagpamisa para nila,” Jaque explained.

(The memories of our loved ones are not a passive one. Our relation to our dearly departed ones does not end in putting a candle at their grave, in offering Mass for them.)

Fr. Loreto Jaque is also trained on nature therapy and biodanza, a system of movement for well-being that started in Latin America in the 1960s. He is also teaching Creative Dreamwork at the Spiritual Pastoral Formation Year Seminary inside the Archbishop’s Residence Compound in Cebu City.| contributed photo via Wenilyn Sabalo

Act of remembering

In Catholic teachings, November 1 is dedicated to all the saints who served as models of the Catholic faith, while the day after it is devoted to the beloved departed.

These are different dedications, but all with the theme of remembrance, which has to do with memories: remembering memories.

Jaque, however, defined memory not as a mere passive depository of events that happened, but as something that shapes people as individuals. Those that hold significant influence on how one functions within himself and as a community.

“I believe that the contents of memory are within us as a vast landscape called “psyche,” which holds both the known and the unknown, or what is personal and transpersonal,” he added.

Memory as a process, Jaque said, is “dynamic, evolving, living and embodied.”

In the same way the living should not just passively honor the memories of their dead loved ones.

Any memories the living has with their dead loved ones, the priest said, are living and embodied.

“Nakaapekto siya (memories) nako. Naka-influence siya nako. Nakatabang nako sa pagdiskubre nako kung kinsa ko sa akong individuality, bisan kon sila nangamatay na,” he said.

(It has affected me. It influenced me. It helped me discover who I am as an individual, even if they have passed away.)

“Okay ra ko sa pagpamisa, sa pagdagkot ug kandila, sa pag rosaryo. Pero, dili lang unta taman lang dinha unya huwat na pod ta sunod tuig aron ta makapamisa kay passive ra kaayo na. Kita ug ang minatay, psychologically, we’re connected. Nagtinabangay,” he added.

(I’m okay with offering masses, lighting candles, saying the Rosary. But it should not only be that and then we’d wait for another year again before we offer masses because that’s very passive. We and the dead, psychologically, we are connected. We help each other.)

Conscious relationship with death

Jaque furthered that the most important lesson one can get from commemorating All Souls’ and All Saints’ Day is one’s awareness and relationship with death.

Is death something to be afraid of?

Death, Jaque said, is part of life, and one can only appreciate life if one has a conscious relationship and awareness of death. One must also be prepared for it.

The priest also brought the concept of grief dreams, which help the families of the dead loved ones form an internalized relationship with them.

“Pananglit, ang pagpakita sa mga minatay diha sa atoang damgo magabii. Dili na tuod na sila physical bodies pero naa lang gihapon sila as imaginal bodies,” he said.

(For example, the presence of our departed loved ones in our dreams at night. They are not physical bodies but they are there as imaginal bodies.)

“Ang pangutana, unsaon nato nga mapalawman nato ang relasyon nato nila, gikan sa physical ngadto sa imaginal. Gikan sa corporeality ngadto sa imaginal reality. Mao nay dakong hagit para nako,” he added.

(The question is, how do we deepen our relationship with them? From physical to imaginal. From corporeality into imaginal reality. That’s the biggest challenge for me.)

The church, he said, should help the bereaved family in accepting the transition, as the challenge for the living is accepting that their relationship with their beloved departed would become “imaginal” from physical.

An active way of commemorating Kalag-Kalag is having and taking part of a grief circle where one could talk about their dead loved ones, his vision in life and his values.

It is also at this point that he said that having a special Archdiocesan ministry, composed of individuals trained on the psychology of death and dying, could help.

A ministry that could not only provide an environment for the dying to die comfortably, but also give grief sessions to the families of the beloved departed; a ministry that could give them space for their tears and a space for their pains.



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