Vigils, liturgies, and burials are social events that are participated in by Catholics who wish to pay last respects to the deceased and condole with the bereaved family. The imposition of the COVID-19 pandemic health protocols in the country prohibited mass gatherings such as religious gatherings including vigils, funeral liturgy, burial, and the like, which may have altered the funeral traditions of Filipino Catholics.

Dr. Albert C. Albina, an NRCP Associate Member of the Division of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Negros Oriental State University, presented his team’s project titled “Funeral Tradition Alterations Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Health Protocols among Urban Filipino Catholics in Central Visayas” at the 17th Kapakanan ng Tao sa Oras ng Pandemya-COVID (KTOP-COVID) webinar last April 26, 2022. Dr. Albina’s research team have looked into how the bereaved families were affected by the implementation of the health protocols during the pandemic.

Volunteers were interviewed from cities in Central Visayas: Cebu City, Tagbilaran City, and Dumaguete City. Participants of the study were grouped into two: those who were familiar with the funeral traditions of Catholics and funeral protocols imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and those who were immediate family members and relatives of persons who died and were buried or cremated in the year 2020. Thirty participants from each city were interviewed, and a thematic analysis was done.

It was concluded in their study that there is a need to provide access to palliative care, bereavement support, and death care services given the changes in traditional funeral practices to secure more lives from the risk of infection from COVID-19 to create meaningful and culturally appropriate funerals. Additionally, the Filipino Catholics’ adaptive capacity allow them to still observe the funeral traditions in a limited sense without neglecting the observance of health protocols through the aid of communication technologies and the internet.

The team’s findings support another study by Hamid and Jahangir in their study titled “Dying, Death and Mourning amid COVID-19 Pandemic in Kashmir: A Qualitative Study” where it was revealed that the pandemic has reshaped the traditional practices and rituals related to death and mourning. The overall findings of Dr. Albina’s team supplement the growing literature of studies that reinforces the need to provide access to bereavement support and palliative care to create culturally-appropriate funerals.

Some of the team’s recommendations are the inclusion of Catholic church representatives in the planning and implementation of protocols that affect the management of dead bodies during a pandemic and implementation of stress debriefing for bereaved families who missed out on funeral traditions.

The KTOP-COVID webinar series features researches funded by NRCP that investigate the effects of the pandemic on the various social aspects of the individual and society.  The webinar is a part of the Council’s initiative to promote evidence-based policymaking and recommendations (Ledger Clemente, NRCP).