This article is available in Spanish.
Mexicans set up altars in memory of their departed during the Day of the Dead (“Día de los Muertos”) celebration, which lasts from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.
This custom dates back to pre-Hispanic times, when civilizations such as the Aztecs remembered those who had died and gone to the underworld, which was ruled by ancient gods. With the arrival of the Spaniards on the American continent, this commemoration took on Christian overtones, eventually becoming the syncretic event that it is today.
As it does every year, the Embassy of Mexico in the Philippines honors the deceased in Mexico, the Philippines, and all throughout the world with an “Altar de Muertos” exhibit.
This year’s Altar de Muertos honors Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernández, a cultural icon with over 100 albums and over 30 films, and Filipina actress Susan Roces, the “Queen of Philippine cinema.”
Coincidentally, there aren’t many differences between Mexico and the Philippines when it comes to this affair. From Nov. 1 to 2, the Philippines observes “Undas” or “Araw ng Mga Patay,” during which time families go to cemeteries to pay respects to their loved ones who passed away. Some even set up camp near graves and prepare a feast there.
The Mexican embassy’s Altar de Muertos, meanwhile, includes catrinas and sugar skulls, pan de muerto, salt, and cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, the scent of which is thought to charm and attract souls. Their “ofrenda,” or offering, also contains colorful papel picado in remembrance of life and the prospect of a quick visit from dead loved ones.
The altar also features Philippine elements such as banig, rataan kwintas, abaniko, coconuts, and palm leaves.
Since 2018, the Embassy of Mexico in the Philippines has hosted a public viewing of its Altar de Muertos. “Let us celebrate the Day of the Dead with respect and affection for those who have gone before us, and enjoy with our families these significant dates for Mexico and the Philippines,” it said in a news release.
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