No ‘dead spots’ as cemetery goes ‘hi-tech’By Jaymee T. Gamil, Tina G. Santos and Ador Vincent S. Mayol
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Nearly everything can go high-tech these days—even locating the tombs of the departed at one of Metro Manila’s biggest public cemeteries.
At Manila South Cemetery on Friday, visitors stayed connected as there were no “dead spots” in the 25-hectare cemetery, thanks to its free Wi-Fi Internet service.
Except that by noon, the system bogged down.
But the service not only enabled access to the Internet via phones and laptops but also assisted friends and relatives of the departed through a computerized database of those buried at the cemetery and the location of their tombs.
On Friday, a “data verification” table was set up near the gates of the cemetery located in the heart of Manila to assist visitors who may need directions to their loved ones’ final resting place. At least six laptops connected to the database were laid out on the table, manned by cemetery staff.
Signages with the available free Wi-Fi connections and their passwords were also posted on the table.
Of the 300,000 to 400,000 people buried in the cemetery, 90 percent have already been included in the database, cemetery administrator Daniel Tan told the Inquirer.
“We have also installed closed-circuit television cameras and implemented a nametag system for the kids,” Tan said.
Now what’s the catch?
For one, the gates of Manila South Cemetery is now emblazoned with a giant signage bearing the faces of Tan, Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Manila Vice Mayor Franciso “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.
The same signage, in sticker form, decorated the laptops at the data verification table.
Netizens were quick to note this, when the Inquirer posted a photo on Twitter. Twitter user “gypsypen” said it would have been good service had the officials’ faces not been plastered all over. She ended the post with, “Epal (attention grabber)!”
Another Twitter user, “YulBBudy,” quipped, “Di ba pwedeng seal ng Maynila (Why not the seal of Manila)?”
Interesting observations also abound on social media sites, with a netizen noting “a big, pink coffin lid with a sign that says, ‘Free picture taking.’”
Popular blogger Professional Heckler, who goes by the name “@hecklerforever,” quipped: “May Wi-Fi sa Manila South Cemetery. Apparently, hindi siya (it’s not a) dead spot.”
No sooner had the Twitter comments came pouring in than the Wi-Fi connections started overloading. By noon, the system had bogged down.
About the same time, the cemetery already had 50,000 visitors. Tan said he expected the number to balloon to 500,000 in the coming days.
If public cemeteries can go high-tech, bishops can create a virtual memorial.
For its part, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has relaunched its “Undas” website (www.undasonline.com), an online portal that accepts prayer requests for the departed from Filipinos across the globe who may not be able to visit the graves of their deceased family members and loved ones.
Just one click of the “Prayer Request” button and visitors can list down the names of their departed loved ones, according to an article posted on the CBCP website.
For their intentions, Masses will be held from Nov. 1 to 8 at the CBCP chapel in Intramuros, Manila.
In previous years, Undas Online received request for prayers for not less than 20,000 dead Filipino Catholics.
Now on its third year, the project was relaunched by the CBCP Media Office because of the positive feedback it continues to receive from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), according to Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III, CBCP Media Office director.
The website also provides a trove of prayers that lets the Catholic faithful pay their respects to their dead on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, wherever they are.
These prayers include a chaplet for the faithful departed, a novena for the holy souls of purgatory and a prayer for the sacrifice for the poor souls.
The website also offers some audio and video catechesis on the significance and liturgical meaning of the celebration of the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
An archive of videos of Pope Benedict XVI’s previous Angelus messages on the solemnity of the saints and homilies on the commemoration of souls as well as the late Pope John Paul II’s letters and homilies about the departed can also be accessed on the website.
Time for prayer
Fr. Francis Lucas, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, stressed the importance of praying for the departed.
“It’s important that we pray for them, especially those people who experienced sudden death. They need our prayers. Let’s offer Mass for them. It’s the best prayer,” he said.
Cebu Archbishop and CBCP president Jose Palma also urged the faithful celebrating All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to devote time to prayer.
“I hope people will understand that this is not a moment to hold picnics or do something which would downgrade the proper way to remember the dead,” said Palma.
“It is our prayers and sacrifices that can hasten their (dead) participation with God in heaven,” he added.
Palma also urged the faithful to ponder upon the lives of the saints and aspire to be one.
“All Saints’ Day is a reminder that we have saints, including those who were not canonized by the Church but they are in heaven. They help us through their intercessions. They guide us with their teachings and give us examples to emulate. I hope all of us will aspire to become saints and enter heaven at the end of our lives,” he said.
Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said there is unity between the living and the dead through prayer.
The Catholic Church often refers to this relationship as the “communion of saints,” which the faithful professed during the Apostles’ Creed.
Binghay said souls who reach heaven form what Catholic doctrine calls the “church triumphant.” These souls belong to those who were proclaimed by the church as saints and martyrs.
Another group of souls, he said, are suffering in purgatory, which Catholics believe is a place or a condition of temporal punishment for those who die in a state of grace but still need to be purified.
Binghay said the third group in the communion of saints is called the “church militant,” which refers to people still living and are striving to do God’s will.
The living ask the intercession of saints, while the saints, together with the souls in purgatory, pray for the living.
Binghay said the Church grants plenary indulgences or total absolution of sins to those who visit the cemeteries and pray for the dead on Nov. 1 and 2.
“There have been other ways people celebrate All Saints’ and Souls’ Days. They often associate it with monsters. But that is not the proper way. We should pray and prepare for death because we may be called anytime. We should not be afraid to talk about death,” Binghay said. With a report by Ramon H. Royandoyan
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