17 October 2006

LET’S NOT DESECRATE THE DEAD: Ecowaste Coalition Calls for Simple, Ecological, Waste-Free Celebration of All Souls Day

Quezon City. This is the earnest appeal of the Ecowaste Coalition to the general public who are expected to swarm into cemeteries in mammoth numbers for the annual national celebration of All Souls Day.

It is one of our dearly-held traditions to visit the tombs of our departed family members and friends every first of November. Rain or shine, young or old, millions and millions of people pack the cemeteries to join the festive commemoration of All Souls Day, bringing flowers and candles, offering prayers, and reliving fond memories of their dearly departed.

While this is an admirable tradition that unites the Filipino people in loving remembrance of the dead, the celebration is often marred by the wasteful practices and unabashed littering by unruly crowds, right on the hallowed grounds where their loved ones had been laid to rest.
Such thoughtless behavior may be an offshoot of the escalating commercialism in our society, or a lack of awareness on how our habits and actions directly affect our health and environment.

“The cemetery is a sacred place, not a dumpsite. We must take care of it, not defile it, as a sign of respect for those interred there. It is innate in the Filipino culture to be caring towards others and to the environment. Let us show these natural traits in the upcoming celebration of All Souls Day,” urged church volunteer Ochie Tolentino, Steering Committee member of the Ecowaste Coalition.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, chair of the National Secretariat of Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA), said: “We support the Ecowaste Coalition’s timely advocacy to reduce, if not eradicate, our wasteful practices and ensure that our communities are healthy and free from litter and toxics.” NASSA, a partner group of the Ecowaste Coalition, is the social action arm of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The Ecowaste Coalition, which brings together some 50 groups working on waste and pollution issues, is appealing to the public to contribute their share in making this celebration clean,
environment-friendly, and litter-free.

To administrators of both public and private cemeteries, the Ecowaste Coalition suggests that they designate an adequate number of “recycling stations” inside and outside the cemetery, to facilitate the segregated management of biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards. It will also be helpful to put up highly visible signs or posters enjoining the people NOT to litter, dump, or burn their waste.

The Coalition requests vendors and business owners to stay away from using disposable plastic bags, straws, cups and other single-use plastic items, and to do their best to avoid creating any garbage.

Buyers, on the other hand, are advised to bring reusable bags (like the now trendy “bayong” or “katsa” bags) to hold their purchases, and to refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

To the general population who will visit the cemetery, the Ecowaste Coalition makes the following calls:

*Choose clean-burning candles that do not emit black fumes or ash, and light only a reasonable number.

* Offer local fresh flowers instead of plastic ones, and avoid wrapping them in plastic. Plastics eventually end up as garbage; they clog our waterways or emit poisons when burned.

* To save money and avoid wastage, desist from bringing or buying excessive amounts of food and beverage. Refrain from using disposable plastic and Styrofoam containers.

* Pack everything you wish to bring to the cemetery in reusable bags and baskets in lieu of plastic bags.

* Throw all discards into the proper disposal bins and be conscious at all times that littering is a NO-NO!

* Should ecological waste management systems be inadequate or lacking in the cemetery, bring home all your discards. Give food leftovers to pet animals or turn into compost with other biodegradable waste, and reuse or recycle the non-biodegradable discards that may have further use.

“We hope the real meaning of our gathering and celebration will not be drowned in noise, chaos and garbage piles. All Souls Day is a sacred occasion to honor the memory of loved ones who had been part of our lives and to offer prayers for their eternal comfort and peace in the Afterlife,” reminded Tolentino.

For more information, please contact the Ecowaste Coalition at 9290376.

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