Filipinos remember departed loved ones in columbaria

MANILA — While many Filipinos still bury and visit their departed loved ones in spacious tombs inside cemeteries, some prefer to store their remains and urns in small compartments and vaults found in columbaria.

The term columbarium was derived from the Latin word columba” (dove) and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons called a “dovecote”.

For instance, Juanita Reyes, 67, a resident of Barangay Baesa in Novaliches, Quezon City, visited his deceased husband at the columbarium at the San Bartolome de Novaliches Parish in Barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City.

“Kasi sacred yung lugar (Because the place is sacred),” Reyes said when asked why she decided to transfer her husband’s remains at the columbarium.

Sitting in a chair, she said that she enjoys the solemnity in offering prayers for her husband who died in 2001 and a family friend whose remains were put inside the vault.

“Here, when it is raining, I do not need to worry,” she told in an interview with the Philippine News Agency, adding that the place offers a more comfortable ambience as compared to the time when his husband was buried in a public cemetery wherein they have to deal with excessive heat, rain and congestion due to the mammoth crowd.

Aside from that, she said that she can also bring her grandchildren without worrying that they might get lost.

Another advantage, according to her, is she can go to the parish office any time and offer prayers since the columbarium is located just below the parish.

Thelma Fontanoza, bookkeeper of the parish, said that the columbarium was built sometime in 1990’s.

The price of vaults in a columbarium ranges from PHP36,000 to PHP40,000 with a yearly maintenance fee of PHP600.

The columbarium area at the ground level of the parish can accommodate more than 2,000 plus “occupants” or vaults.

As of now, there are more than 200 “occupants” of the vaults at the columbarium.

“During special occasions such as death anniversary or birthdays, we also allow the urn to be brought home so that they can celebrate in a way which is also convenient for them and their relatives,” Fontanoza added.

One of the recent “occupants” in the columbarium was Jeffrey Llanza, the son of Emerita Llanza who died in a car accident in Ortigas in July.

Llanza, a native of Catbalaogan, Samar said that the urn of the cremated body of her son lies there temporarily since his death three months ago.

She said that they will be transferring Jeffrey’s urn to their province next year as they will be moving to Samar for good.