1.There were certain portents of death that old Kapampangan folks believed in: the appearance of a black moth, a dog digging up the ground for no apparent reason, the dreaming of a loss tooth, combing one’s hair at night. To avoid untimely deaths, one should neither position his bed towards the door nor join a picture-taking session if the number of subjects is either 3 or 13. If the toes of the dead curled inwards, beware of another impending death.
2.As soon as someone died in the neighborhood (indicated by loud wailing), neighbors knew exactly what to do next. Members of the grieving family were not allowed to do any work, and so the neighbors took over. There were no funeral services, no embalming, and so everything that needed to be done must be done quickly, before decomposition set in (burial must take place within 24 hours)
3.Early Filipinos believed in the mystical number 7, representing the 7 holes of the head. Our pre-colonial ancestors thus covered their dead’s faces with a death mask cut out with 7 holes. But Kapampangans also believed that an invisible 8th hole exists at the crown of the head of certain special persons, gifting them with the power to liaise between the dead and the living.
4.The deceased was laid on his bed decorated with hangings (black for an adult, white for a child). If the deceased did not own a bed, he was laid out on a mat (dase or banig) on the floor. A black cloth is draped in front of the house to signify a death in the household.
5.The grieving family would have nothing to do but stay beside the dead to weep (they had less than 24 hours to say their final good-byes). If they had to talk to visitors at all, it should be about the life and legacy of the departed.
6.Meanwhile, the teenagers stayed up all night to keep watch and guard against the magcucutud (or manananggal), the airborne supernatural creatures who stole corpses. They entertained themselves by playing card games like entre siete and pierde y gana or playing the traditional Kapampangan games of caragatan (or bugtungan) and talubangan (or bulaclacan), where the boys played butterflies to the girls' flowers.
7.There are certain no-no’s when a death in the family occurred. The family of the deceased were prohibited from bathing, cleaning the house or getting a haircut. The children of the deceased were not supposed to play; if they did, old folks warned, they'd go crazy. A dead should not be perfumed lest he decomposes faster.
8.Children and infants were carried across the coffin to prevent hauntings by the deceased. Taking out the deathbed through the window is another sure way to ward off ghostly encounters.
9.In Macabebe they still do tagulele, an ancient practice that the Bergaño dictionary defined as "the chant of lamentation during a person's wake or burial, relating the bravery of the deceased."
10.Any form of house cleaning is still prohibited during the wake, or another member of the family might also die. When the coffin is already being carried out of the house, however, it should be followed with sweeping of the floor, to drive away illness and bad spirits.
11.Some relatives must also stay behind and peep out of the windows as the coffin is being taken out. The deceased person's bed must be discarded by taking it out of the house through a window, to ensure his happiness in the next life and to prevent another death in the family.
12.The Church dictated the rituals associated with the dead and the dying. Back then, fees were being collected by unscrupulous frailes for walking the dead to his burial ground or for ringing the church bells a certain number of times. During a funeral procession, prayers were intoned at regular intervals called “posas”.
13.During the funeral procession, everyone (not just the family) should be in black and holding lighted candles. The widow and female relatives should wear sucong (long black veils). Rich families spend more to have a punebre (funeral band) and the parish priest accompanying the dead to the cemetery.
14.In those days when there were still no public cemeteries, the dead were buried in private properties, usually the backyard. A child's corpse was always buried neck-deep while a male adult's corpse only knee-deep, in the belief that the soul of older people needed to get out of this world more quickly.
15.When it was time for the dead to be buried, the coffin, as was the custom in old Mabalacat, was placed on a “lankayan”, a stretcher of bamboos, which was then carried on the shoulders of 4 persons. Shortly before burial, relatives younger than the deceased took turns kissing his hand, while the children were held up and passed to waiting arms across the coffin to prevent hauntings. Taking out the deathbed through the window is another sure way to ward off ghostly encounters.
16.Everyone threw in a handful of soil as the casket was lowered, but only the gravediggers were permitted to look at it. There was also the prevalent practice of burying a rosary with the dead, but it had to be cut first lest the dead became restless. (Death is the end of our physical life, but a rosary, in a chain form, is “endless”, so it also needs to be cut).
17.In the first two nights after burial, family and friends gathered around a makeshift altar inside the house to pray for the deceased, have bread, sweets and tea or coffee (nothing more), followed by merriment (more caragatan and talubangan).
18.On the third night, when the soul was believed to come for a brief visit, a seat would be reserved for him at the dining table where ash, instead of food, was put on his plate and covered with cacaricucha leaves. The soul would be pleased to see this and would reward his loved ones with a passing apparition or even clues to some hidden wealth.
19.From fourth to eighth nights, only bread, sweets and tea/coffee would be served again to those who participated in the prayer vigils, but on the ninth night (the uacas of the pasiyam), a big dinner was served. Groups of visitors took turns praying for the deceased before proceeding to the dinner table.
20.The period of mourning ends after a year—lukas paldas—and on this day, the black clothes worn by the bereaved family are finally replaced and kept in the baul. A pa-misa and a grand salu-salo cap this day, with everyone reminiscing about the past year and of the days with their beloved departed. Tears are wiped, laughter returns. Indeed, to everything, there is a season.
Tantingco, Robby P. 'Death and Our Neighbors", http://robbypeanutgallery.blogspot.com/2010/11/death-and-our-neighbors.html
Castro, Alex. Kematen: A Time to Mourn/ Mourning Mortality, www.viewsfromthepampang.blogspot.com