Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Catholic, Chinese, Irish Funeral

When it comes to funerals, being Filipino-Chinese (full-blooded Chinese living in the Philippines) is quite interesting because I'm baffled by all the practices and no one really knows how one funeral is set up. For example, during my paternal grandfather's funeral, there was a Catholic mass followed by Buddhist funeral rites. Anyway, my uncle's funeral proved to be just as interesting.

For the most part, it was a very Catholic funeral, with a priest giving mass and funeral rites. However, being Chinese, my relatives were looking for warm bodies (and perhaps that's why Chinese families are big clans, because they need all the warm bodies they can get). Apparently, my uncle was born in the year of the Dragon (Chinese Zodiac) so they needed men born during the year of the Dog to not face the urn and to chew on grass (I kid you not on either part). Well me and my cousin were born in the year of the Dog so we were off facing the opposite direction of the urn and I practically held in my hand a leaf of grass. (Actually we're just not supposed to face it when it's moving so we were able to attend mass but we were pretty much blind when it came to transporting the ashes.) Of course not seeing the funeral procession, my cousin didn't know when it was time to chew on the grass so we never got to that part.

What I found strange, even by Chinese standards, is that there was a guy in a kilt and performing in bagpipes. After the funeral, I asked what the deal was, why did we suddenly get an Irish funeral hymn. Apparently it was part of the funeral package. It's just weird already with the melding of Catholic and Chinese rites. Throwing in the kilt and bagpipes made it surreal.


pgenrestories said...

Even being Tsinoy like you, I don't recall about the chewing of grass thing. But I do recall some clan members, depending on their astrological sign, having some responsibilities like the turning away from the urn (if their sign is the opposite of the deceased), and running around the wake area, cymbals and gongs clanging, incense smoke trailing behind you). But I'm an Earth Rooster, not a Dog like you, so that grass chewing was never required of me.

But the bagpipe/kilt thing! What was that? Part of the package? What funeral plan did your Uncle get before he died? Was your Uncle a fan of Sean Connery?

I can already imagine the number of stories you can weave around such a scene.

Charles said...

My mom bought a plot of land in a cemetery in the far south (past The Fort). I guess they decided to bury my uncle there (my uncle left his family xx years ago and fled to the US, crippled by a stroke there) and part of the funeral package was the bagpipes.

No cymbals but definitely turning away from the urn.