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How Covid-19 has changed the way we grieve

Filipinos and their deep-rooted tradition of remembering departed loved ones

The Philippines is perhaps one of many countries in the world with deep-rooted traditions that involve the family. Be it the Lenten and Easter season, Christmas and New Year, or important occasions like birthdays and death, these are moments where Filipino families can gather for planned or impromptu reunions and cherish the memories of being together.

But then Covid-19 happened. At this time of the year known as undas, Filipinos usually flock to cemeteries and columbariums to observe All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day, a time-honored tradition of the living in paying their respects to departed loved ones. For the first time, we are unable to fulfill the very fundamental need to visit and pay our respects to our beloved departed. The customary act of pagdadalaw has been taken away from us. Even funerals and wakes have restrictions because of stringent health quarantine protocols that prohibit large gatherings of people in order to prevent the further spread of the virus. We have lost the means to experience closure—gone are the comforting words and hugs that in the past were offered by family and friends as they console the bereaved. 

Tradition remains strong as we are forced to change the way we grieve

Though the public is barred from going to cemeteries physically during this Undas and attending wakes and funerals have been challenging due to the restrictions, Filipinos still found ways to cherish the memories of their late family members and friends. One of which is through the use of online platforms. The implementation of various health protocols that prevent the holding of face-to-face events like funeral wakes or even transactions on death care forced memorial park companies like Forest Lake Memorial Parks to think of ways to service the needs of Filipinos amid this pandemic.

Adapting to change

Since these needs are new to Filipinos and to Forest Lake itself, Marc Encarnacion, operations head at Forest Lake, said they are undergoing a shift to provide online handling of transactions. 

“We have developed a customer portal that soon will cater to all our parks allowing our customers to manage their accounts online such as purchasing lots, paying for their monthly amortizations as well as online bookings of interment,” he says.

Elizabeth Lorenzo, Forest Lake Services director, said they are in the process of setting up online funeral services like livestreaming of wakes, funerals, funeral masses, eulogies, and other ceremonies to allow those who are unable to physically attend these rites to show their respect and express sympathy. 

“We are also looking at using cashless transaction portals and other available digital resources for the usualabuloy or donations to the family to help defer funeral expenses,” she says. “We are working on having these services available soonest.”

Latest trends in death care

Arnel Lacorte, Forest Lake Chapels general manager, said they are already anticipating the emergence of new trends in death care in the Philippines, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. They believe that customers’ needs will most certainly evolve and hence, Forest Lake will need to adapt to the changing times when it comes to remembering departed loved ones.

He says funerals can still be in person if and when the pandemic ends, but they still see online streaming of funeral events happening so that anyone of the family’s relatives, particularly those abroad or those with physical challenges, can still participate. Lacorte adds that even memorials will be done online and through social networks in order to expand awareness even in non-traditional platforms. 

“We have already seen newspapers embrace online notices and memorial books and burials are more likely to be personalized and eco-friendly or green,” he says. “There are also those who place ashes in non-traditional storage areas like jewelry or something modern and transient and not anymore in urns.”

In hindsight, Lacorte observed that the pandemic, in a way, accelerated Forest Lake’s activities and other initiatives in order to stay ahead of the curve with regard to funeral servicing. 

The death care industry in the Philippines will surely evolve in the very near future, if it hasn’t already, says Lacorte, though he did not discount the fact the return of the traditional viewing events and funerals in chapels is still highly anticipated to return as soon as this pandemic is over.

“We know for a fact that traditional viewing or funeral wakes at chapels are still expected to return,” he says. “Many Filipinos still look at it as a way of moving forward psychologically and providing closure to the grief or emotional pain felt by family members over the demise of a loved one. But the pandemic surely changed a lot of perceptions when it comes to death care here in the country.”

Whatever those changes may be, Lacorte assured that Forest Lake will be ready to deal with these changes and adapt accordingly. He is confident that through Forest Lake’s brand values of personalized service, professionalism, teamwork, value creation, innovation, and creativity they will continue to lead the way when it comes to the death care industry.

Virtual mass celebrations 

As a service to Filipinos who wish to honor their beloved departed during Undas, Forest Lake took to social media as a platform to offer online masses. In partnership with Manaoag Church and Diocesan Shrine of Jesus the Divine Word, masses were celebrated on Facebook Live on Oct. 16 and 23, respectively. The latter was celebrated by Father Jerry Orbos, SVD. Another service was offered by Forest Lake Chapels Binan who invited the public to submit names of their departed loved ones to be included in the “Virtual Prayers For The Soul” through Facebook. Forest Lake also invited the public to submit their requests for prayers, holy mass and donations to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through Facebook. On Nov. 2, an All Souls’ Day Remembrance mass also celebrated by Father Jerry at the Diocesan Shrine of Jesus the Divine Word, livestreamed on Forest Lake’s Facebook Page. 

Advocating mental health and well-being awareness

Forest Lake, according to Lacorte, is also mindful of the feelings of people who may have lost a friend or loved one during these pandemic times. As part of their efforts to reach out to those who are grieving, Forest Lake introduced a short heartwarming video entitled “Walang Paalam” that advocates to the public to reach out and not to grieve alone. Another worthwhile endeavor the company has embarked on is Creating Better Days Webinar Series. 

“At Forest Lake, one of our advocacies is ‘Creating Better Days’ Webinar Series where we hope to spread awareness about well-being and mental health,” Lacorte adds.

Forest Lake in partnership with Plus Network is inviting the public to a free webinar entitled, “The FUNDamentals of Creating Better Days,” a financial wellness webinar featuring speaker Edric Mendoza, a registered financial planner, former lead anchor and writer of ANC’s On The Money and currently the host of Plus Network’s FUNDamentals. This will be a Zoom webinar hosted and moderated by Daniel Laurel, news anchor at One News where she leads the main broadcast of “BusinessWorld Live.” Webinar attendees will learn how to prepare for the inevitable and give you the essential principles on why it is important to be ready today.

Register for free here and get a chance to be one of five attendees to experience a one-hour one-on-one online financial wellness consultation with Edric Mendoza.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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