Making a living from the dead

So they make coffins in Betis, Pampanga.

We in Gapan City provide the rest -- including the cold bodies.

There are four cemeteries in my city, all located beside/across each other in the same barangay, so you can imagine the awful traffic situation during All Saints Day. The three private memorial parks were answers to the congestion in the public cemetery which by the way is bigger in area than the one in Cabanatuan City. It doesn't help either that a Gapanense who dies elsewhere always gets a final wish -- to come home and be interred in his native city.

There are five or six brass bands here, earning hefty incomes from playing in funeral marches that at times total three a day and which sometimes cross paths -- I know, because they all pass in front of my house on the way to and from the church which is just at the next block.

Here, one can discover many fine male and female singers capable of belting anything from old tunes to classic Tagalog melodies to top hits, if one does the round of wakes that feature a lot of singing to entertain/keep awake the bereaved and their guests.

Clustered in my barangay for reasons I don't know are three or four funeral homes with a couple or three more located elsewhere in the city. They try to outdo each other in offering perks, from free tents to hot/cold water dispensers to tacky animated angels whose heads and arms turn to the left and to the right.

One funeral home almost became my next door neighbor until the owner changed his mind when it finally dawned on him that his funeraria and his wife's medical clinic could not possibly co-exist in one place.

There are two flower shops in my street, with two more at the other side of the block.

There are lots of RTW stores here where one can buy attires for any occasion, including one's lying in state.

A grocery a stone's throw away makes a killing from selling standard fares at wakes -- coffee, candies, biscuits, juice in tetra bricks, butong pakwan and cigarettes.

That's how life is around here -- people making a living from the dead.

[November 15, 2007]