October 31 to November 2. Those are the days when I absolutely avoid traveling by road in the Philippines (aside from Holy Week, if I can help it). No, it's not because I'm afraid of fictional Freddie, Jason, or Chuckie. They're icky now, not scary. And certainly not because of ghosts, ghouls, trolls, or poltergeists... JK Rowling has helped popularize them in a kid-friendly way.
I don't like traveling on those dates because the roads to the cemeteries become parking lots. Vehicles are in a standstill while passengers just get off the vehicles and walk. And if I'm fortunate enough to be able to navigate the car through the barely moving traffic, there comes the question of the parking space inside the cemetery... particularly where my late paternal grandpa, who we grandkids call Lolo Batangas (the grandpa from Batangas), is buried: the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat Paranaque.
My solution: visit him way ahead of the All Saints' Day crowd. This year, I dropped by a week before the holiday. I wasn't the only one, I found out; other people had started putting flowers and candles on grave sites. However, the atmosphere in the Manila Memorial Park was still peaceful because the place wasn't crowded yet. No blaring music, no vendors selling candles and flowers, no ropes to cordon off people from the road. Perfect setting to enjoy the place and to reflect upon happy childhood memories here.
|The man-made lagoon|
My family used to visit Lolo Batangas on his birth and death anniversaries, aside from All Saints' Day. Back then, we'd bring roller blades, bicycles, tents, and picnic on the grass beside his grave. One of my elder cousins used to practice driving over the bridge and we'd occasionally ride with her as she took her place behind the wheel. We also used to visit the zoo within the memorial park... there were monkey there. Lots of good memories.
Eventually, we didn't do those anymore lest we disturb his "neighbors". By the time I was in college, we'd just drop by, say a short prayer, and greet him. And with Lola Batangas (my paternal grandma) becoming frailer as she goes into her late nineties, she couldn't join us when we'd go even if she wanted to.
|This is the garden where Lolo Bats now rests|
Now with my family in opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean or on different schedules, visiting Lolo Bats as a unit has become even more of a challenge. So on this beautiful afternoon, I went -- even on my own -- to say hi and to get his grave cleaned up (since I got ahead of the rest of the clan).