The mayors of Metro Manila agreed to close cemeteries on Undas, the Philippines' annual holiday to commemorate the dead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such closure of cemeteries is a first, at least in recent history, in this predominantly Catholic country where it is a tradition to visit and pray for the dead while also holding family reunions every November 1.
In a text message to Rappler on Sunday, September 13, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jojo Garcia confirmed that local executives of the National Capital Region (NCR) unanimously agreed to implement this plan, based on their group chat.
This is to "avoid mass gathering and transmission of the virus," explained Garcia.
They will all meet Sunday night to iron out the guidelines, including the days covered by the closure, he added.
As a result, Metro Manila residents would not be able to perform the annual tradition of visiting their departed loved ones in cemeteries and other resting places during Undas – on November 1 or All Saints' Day and November 2 or All Souls' Day, both Catholic observances.
Metro Manila is still under a general community quarantine (GCQ), along with a handful of areas, until September 30.
With the coronavirus cases in the Philippines still rising, public health and safety protocols remain in place, like physical distancing and restrictions on public gatherings.