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Contemporary Undas practices derived from pre-colonial influence, beliefs – cultural anthropologist



The traditions practiced during Undas (All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day) are not just products of Western and Catholic influences. A cultural anthropologist explained that they were also derived from pre-colonial beliefs. 
 
According to Professor Nestor Castro from the Department of Anthropology in University of Philippines-Diliman in an interview on GMA News TV's News To Go on Friday, most of the practices today are a convergence of different cultures without losing the real essence of being a Filipino. 
 
"Ganoon ang katangian ng ating kultura. 'Yung iba sinasabi na sponge, hiram ng hiram. Hindi ko gusto ang sponge. Halo-halo tayo, pero mas masarap kaysa sa hiniraman natin. Ang basic na sangkap, nandoon pa din," he said. 
 
He added that trick-or-treating during Halloween and other practices observed during Undas are not entirely Western.  
 
Pangangaluluwa, PHL's original trick or treat 
 
Although the concept of Halloween is commonly believed to be derived from Western culture and traditions, the Philippines already had its own version when the Spanish colonizers came. It's called "pangangaluluwa," Castro explained. 
 
Pangangaluluwa occurred when early Filipinos visited houses swathed in blankets to represent ghosts while singing. It's like Christmas caroling, but during Undas. If the owner of the house failed to give biko or rice cakes, the "nangangaluluwa" would play tricks and try to get the owner's chicken. 
 
Castro said it's a documented practice in Katagalugan, in places like Quezon. Until today, this is practiced in rural areas. 

READ: The batibat, the numputol, and other Pinoy creatures that go bump in the night
 
Remembering the dead
 
Remembering and respecting the dead was an established practice even in pre-colonial times. For instance, before the Spaniards came and introduced the concept of the cemetery, the Filipinos already had burial grounds, for instance. 
 
One such pre-colonial practice is the "pag-aatang," which is from Ilocos. It is when families set aside food for their loved ones who have already passed away. Until today, this practice is very much alive in urban settings. 
 
Castro explained, "Itong pag-practice natin ng pagpunta sa sementeryo, nagdadala ng pagkain (ay) continuation ng pagpa-practice nitong atang."

READ: Beautifully macabre: Remarkable burial grounds around the globe
 
Meanwhile, having an exact day to remember the dead is an influence of Mexico, where inhabitants celebrate Día de los Muertos, or the "Day of the Dead" in festive fashion. 
 
Castro noted that in the Philippines, remembering the dead is more about strengthening family ties —Undas is usually seen as a chance for family reunions. 
 
Another pre-colonial tradition still being observed today is "paglalamay." It is from the belief that an "aswang" would take the fresh remains of the dead. Hence, the family must look after the the body of their deceased. — Trisha Macas/VC, GMA News
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