The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will study a proposal to close all public and private cemeteries in the country during this year’s All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, or “Undas” to avoid massive gathering amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a virtual presser on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he will personally bring up the topic during the next IATF-EID meeting.

He acknowledged the importance of providing alternative days for the public to honor their departed loved ones to prevent crowding of people in one place.

“Titignan po natin kung merong mga alternatibo dahil naniniwala naman po ako na importante sa mga Pilipino ang Undas. Tayo lang po ang may ganyan sa buong daigdig (Let’s see if there are alternatives because I believe that Undas is important to Filipinos. We are the only country in the world that observes the holiday),” he said.

Roque said he will recommend to the IATF to allot at least four to five days to give the public time to visit their dead before the closure.

“Ang aking rekomendasyon gawin nalang natin na hindi All Saints’ Day kundi mag-allot siguro ng apat hanggang limang araw depende doon sa family name ng namatay kung sino ang puwede pumunta sa mga sementeryo nang hindi po lahat magdagsaan sa isang araw lamang. (Instead of visiting on All Saints’ Day, my recommendation will be to allot four to five days depending on the family name of the dead, on who will be allowed to visit the cemetery so we can avoid massive gathering in one day),” he said.

He, however, said it will be up to the IATF-EID to decide on his recommendation.

“Limang araw na color-coded kumbaga na pagdalaw sa sementeryo dahil ako po importante sakin yung pagdalaw sa mga mahal ko sa buhay (A five-day color-coding scheme on visiting cemeteries because it’s also personally important for me to visit my departed loved ones),” he said.

According to Roque, he has also made it a habit to visit his departed loved ones even without any occasion.

“Ako naman miski hindi Undas, e nagpupunta sa semeteryo at inaalala yung mga mahal sa buhay na namatay na (Me, even if it’s not Undas, I visit the cemetery and remember my departed loves ones),” he said.

On Tuesday, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno announced his directive to close cemeteries from October 31 to November 3–the usual days people converge on cemeteries to pay respects to their departed loved ones.

More local governments have followed suit but others are still studying whether to adopt the same measure.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed support for the closure of cemeteries.

They urged the Catholic faithful to light a candle and attend online masses to remember their departed loved ones at home instead. (PNA)