As I was laying in bed on Sunday evening, my cell phone chimed that I had received a text. I "opened" my text and saw that it was from my Language Instructor, Roritz. She told me that she was heading to a wake (a very good friend's mother had died). I asked her when she was going to get home and she replied that she would be spending the night at the funeral home.
WHAT?! I asked. I thought I read the text wrong at first. A flurry of texts back and forth ensued. Will you stay awake the whole time? Yes. How long is the wake? Five days. WHAT?! Is that normally how long a wake is? Yes. Why do you have to stay the whole night? Because it appears that you're not doing your duty if you leave the body unattended. What do you do all night? Talk, pray, sing; I'll be singing Amazing Grace...do you want to come?
I had already gotten ready to wind down for the night so I said I'd take a raincheck. Roritz replied that she would be going again the following night and I was welcome to come if I wanted. I thought, sure, why not!
I didn't really know what to expect. I met up with Roritz and we were off to Paz Funeral Parlor. This place was enormous! At least 10 different viewing chambers. We got to the one designated for her friend. It was uncanny how familiar of a setting it was. It could have been a funeral home in the states! Anyway, Roritz introduced me to several of her friends. There was chika-chika (basically just talking and gabbing), food, joking, and not a tear in sight.
The coffin was in front of two rows of pews. Filipino coffins are just a little different from the States. Instead of the casket being open, there is a glass barrier over the top. Roritz explained that most of the time, this barrier is removed right before burial because there is a superstition that when the wood gives way, it will break the glass and damage the body and in response, the sould of that person will return to its family members.
We stayed for at least three hours. I got to meet several new people, a few of Roritz's family members, practiced Ilokano, and had a good laugh. Very unexpected to have such a good time at a wake!