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How to Celebrate the Filipino Day of the Dead in the Bay Area

Written by Olivia Cruz MayedaPublished Oct. 26, 2022 • 6:00pm
TITTY installs a Filipino ancestor altar at Kapwa Gardens to give respect to the deceased on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 in San Francisco. All Souls Day is a popular cultural holiday in the Philippines which honors the dead, and the “Ancestor Altars” art project at Kapwa Gardens hopes to provide a space for healing and celebration of one’s ancestors in the Filipino & BIPOC community. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

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Whether you observe the annual holiday with your family, or only know about it thanks to Disney’s Oscar-winning animated feature, Coco, it’s hard to miss the colorful displays of ancestral reverence that light up the Bay Area’s many Latino communities every November during El Día de los Muertos.

Bay Area Filipinos also pay homage to their dearly departed this time of year at Undas—a festival that similarly blends Catholic traditions with the age-old Indigenous rites of the Ilocano and Ifugao peoples. 

San Franciscans interested in paying respect to their ancestors—or simply learning more about Undas—can join in ceremonial mask-making, catch a glimpse of the Filipino spirit Tikbalang and stand in remembrance over jasmine-scented altars at these three local Undas celebrations.

Ancestor Altars

Kapwa Gardens, 967 Mission St.
Oct. 26-30, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. | Free

Starting Wednesday, altars honoring the ancestors will illuminate Kapwa Gardens for five days. Filipino-run Balay Kreative Studios has hired two artists to reimagine the altars commonly found in Filipino homes.

Cece Carpio has assembled framed portrait drawings of late community members in large-scale light boxes, and San Francisco-born artist TITTY has decorated tiered altars with cultural symbols and representations of his own Filipino American experience.

On Sunday, the event will culminate in an afterparty with performances by local Filipinx rappers and musicians.  

Register for the afterlife celebration at balaykreative.com.

Learn how to make ceremonial Undas masks like this one at Bindlestiff Studio on Oct. 27 and Oct. 29. | Courtesy MUMU

Ceremonial Mask-Making

Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St.
Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 29, 11 a.m. | Free

The elusive artist collective known as MUMU, meaning “ghost” in Tagalog, is hosting a series of mask-making classes for Undas. The workshop aims to explore Filipino identity, rituals and colonial trauma. “Bring all your ghosts,” reads an invitation to the workshop on the MUMU  website.

See Also

Reserve your workshop spot at mumu-sf.com.

Undas Procession

Begins at 700 Howard St.
Oct. 30, 1 p.m. | Free

Community members, visitors and performance artists from the Filipino performing arts group Bindlestiff Studio will join in the ceremonial procession that starts near Yerba Buena Gardens and ends at Kapwa Gardens. Those who participated in MUMU’s mask workshops are encouraged to don their creations.

MUMU has been secretive about the details of the performance, but a spokesperson told The Standard that Tikbalang, an equine creature from Filipino folklore, will likely make a ghostly appearance.

Reserve your free spot in the procession at mumu-sf.com.

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Olivia Cruz Mayeda can be reached at [email protected]


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