Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in /www/breakingasiacom_648/public/wp-includes/class-wp-query.php on line 3284

Cremation Traumatizes in Philippines as ‘Second Tragedy’

May 3, 2020 | AFP, CULTURE, GOV, NEWS, Philippines

In suspected or confirmed COVID-19 deaths, hospitals must seal remains in plastic and send them directly to crematories or funeral homes

Families of coronavirus victims in the Philippines are being denied traditional death rites in favor of hurried, impersonal cremations, with virus restrictions often meaning they are forbidden a last look at their loved ones.

It is a painful and disorienting process for both the families and crematory workers that has upended the Philippines’ intimate rituals of laying the dead to rest.

Burial is the norm in the Catholic-majority nation, and it usually follows a days-long display of the embalmed body at home or in a chapel.

But due to the pandemic authorities are encouraging rapid cremations — though quick burials are still allowed — of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

Wakes are barred in these cases and hospitals must seal remains in plastic and send them directly to crematories or funeral homes.

Before the virus struck, families opting for cremation were able to have one last look at their loved one before the body was consigned to the flames. 

Workers at a Crematorium in Manila.afp

Before the pandemic, burial was the norm in the Philippines

Now workers have to gently explain the regulations denying even that to distraught relatives.

“We tell them we can’t do it because it’s dangerous. We could all get infected,” 54-year old worker Romeo Uson, sweat-soaked in a protective suit at a Manila crematorium, told AFP.

“It’s also painful for us,” he added. “We can’t let the families mourn the dead like before.”

His facility has been conducting six to seven cremations a day, double the usual number, since contagion from the virus started to take off in March.

The Philippines has detected nearly 9,000 infections and officially recorded 603 deaths, though due to a limited testing capacity the numbers are thought to be higher. 

Before the Pandemic, Burial Norm in the Philippines.afp

Before the pandemic, burial was the norm in the Philippines

His colleague, Uson, said they apologize to the families for the restrictions and try to lighten the atmosphere with stories and smiles.

Relatives understand the extraordinary nature of the pandemic, and accept that they won’t ever see their loved one’s faces again, he said.

As well as the tough work of consoling relatives, the crematory workers also live with the fear of getting sick themselves.

Local authorities have urged them to take the hottest baths they can stand after work and to take vitamins and ginseng, which they claim can boost their immune systems.

Elevaso follows that advice and also scrubs his body with rubbing alcohol before returning to his family after every shift.

“For us, taking vitamins and saying prayers are important,” he said. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});