RT Cunningham


A Coffin at a Wake before a Funeral in the Philippines

casket coffin wake funeral The first time I attended a wake was in 2003 (that I can remember). My deceased father-in-law’s coffin (with his body inside of it, of course) spent time in two houses in two countries, the United States and then the Philippines.

A coffin is usually called a casket in the United States. I don’t know why. I suspect it’s because it’s not a six-sided funerary box like a traditional coffin.

The Wake at our House in the United States

The funeral home where we bought the casket prepared my father-in-law’s body for the wake. We had to buy an inexpensive, metal casket. Not because we were cheap, but because a metal casket could be sealed with wax for the flight to the Philippines. A more expensive wood casket couldn’t be sealed properly.

My memory’s not so good, so I had to ask my wife, Josie. The coffin, opened for viewing, was in our house in Phoenix for only a couple of days before it had to be moved to the same plane we flew out on. Some of the neighbors (very few) wanted to complain because they weren’t used to seeing a wake. They were afraid of dead bodies, I guess.

Most wakes in that area have turned into funeral home viewings. Before this wake, I had only been to viewings myself when relatives died. The wake didn’t bother our Hispanic neighbors at all. They even came to visit.

The Wake at our House in the Philippines

My mother-in-law’s house may belong to her but it sits on my property. Anyway… The funeral home here placed a glass pane in the casket for viewing in the house. It’s probably customary because many deceased people aren’t embalmed.

Josie doesn’t remember how the long the body was in the house. She asked one of her sisters and that sister said a week. Because of jet lag and the rush, we’re lucky to remember anything from that period. We were only in the Philippines for two weeks before we returned to the United States.

I’ve seen coffins (kabaongs in Tagalog) being built here and many times, they’re made of inexpensive plywood. The poor can’t afford most funeral expenses without help from others.

A Wake Taking Place Now

The mother of one of my sister-in-law’s significant other passed away a few days ago. I say significant other because although they have two children together, they’re not married (religious or civil).

No one from this compound has gone to view the body and spend time with their family yet. Josie and some others will be doing that this evening. Josie asked me if I wanted to go and I declined. Two wakes with one person was enough for me. I hope I never have to attend a wake again. I hope I pass away before Josie does just so I won’t have attend one for her.

I’ve seen enough dead people over the years (most before being put inside a casket or coffin) to never want to see any again. I seriously dislike looking at a lifeless body, whether it’s at a wake or a viewing or anywhere else.

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By RT Cunningham
November 13, 2017