Cebuano “Kalag-Kalag” Traditions

We love October as pre-set for the Kalag-Kalag season, not because of the scary stories nor the trick or treat parties, but because a huge family reunion prior to Christmas is coming up.

Kalag-Kalag which is celebrated on November 1 and 2 in the Philippines is not exactly a sad occasion, since we Filipinos make it almost the happiest one next to Christmas day!

How so?

We gather around every 31st night of October (up to November 2), to remember our late family members and other dead relatives. While this is a common tradition, we make ours as uniquely as we can because we hate dwelling on our past hurts. Rather, we reminisce about the good things and the funny moments that we spent with them when they were still with us.

Among the Kalag Kalag traditions that we never go without are these things below:

Family gathering

Credit to the owner

Credit to the owner

Filipinos value close family ties. When one suffers, the others are all around to show love and support. On special occasions such as Kalag Kalag, we remember our late loved ones once again. We talk about our childhood memories with them as we gather in our family’s old ancestral house with our cousins.

Starting on October 31st till November 2nd, we go cemetery-hopping so we could visit most of them, if not all, together.

Cemetery picnics

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Since we are at it, mothers usually prepare large amounts of food to be shared with the relatives at the cemetery. This way, remembering them would not hurt as much, right? Many people also set up tents and bring loud speakers, drinks, board games, cards to play among others.

Praying for the dead

Photo from Flickr

Photo from Flickr

Cebuanos pray for the dead. In the cemeteries, priests offer masses that are sponsored by the relatives who wish to save their loved ones whom they think are still in the purgatory. This is a religious belief. Some people pay a special price for a special type of prayer.

Lighting a candle

Hands and candle from

The sales of candles also rise during this time and since it is dark at the cemetery, we need to light as many candles as we can. Lighting also means, for some, that prayers for the dead could reach the heavens faster and easier. This, again, is a religious belief.

Offering food to the dead

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Another religious belief is food offering to the dead. This is probably a Chinese tradition which was carried over by the Filipinos. Some say it is to free the souls so they can fully move on with their after-life. Some also say that even when they are already dead, we offer them their favorite foods upon our visit. This is good news to those who live near the cemeteries because this means they can get *free* food for themselves.

Aside from food, we also bring candles and flowers to the grave to mark our visit.


Most of us do hustle to spend time with our relatives during Kalag Kalag, but many still take advantage of the occasion by taking a much-needed vacation. Before the season starts, you should already take a leave for October 31 to November 5 to make the most out of the break!

Kalag Kalag is also the perfect time for us to reflect on our own lives and assess if we lived the life we wanted. Life is too short for regrets!

Article updated on October 29, 2019