By Victor Ochieng
The death of a loved one is no laughing matter, regardless of one’s status, religion, or geographical location. People can only try to act strong, but deep inside, it’s quite a sad experience. For close family and friends of the deceased, the situation is even more difficult.
Customs that surround funeral services differ, though. Different people from different backgrounds have their own practices, which, to others, may appear creepy or just crazy. Some customs, however, do very well to cheer up the bereaved.
Let’s first look at the Caviteno people, residing near Manila, Philippines. The Caviteno people are known to bury dead bodies in hollow tree trunks that are prepared before the person’s death. The trunk is prepared whether the person to be buried therein is already ailing or not.
Then there are the Apayo from the northern part of the Philippines. According to their custom, their dead are buried in the kitchen, a practice that has been widely rebuked globally. Nevertheless, it’s their practice and they’ve got no problem with it; who are we to dictate how they deal with their dead?
The Benguet of northwestern Philippines on the other hand have even a more creepy way of handling the dead. Instead of just burying the dead in a normal way like we do it here in the U.S., they simply blindfold the corpse and carefully place it next to the main entrance to the house.
In the case of Ghana, the whole funeral service might just get interesting based on the nature of work the deceased was doing. That’s the place where you would find a departed pilot buried in a plane-shaped coffin, a fisherman in a fish-shaped coffin and a businessman in a shoe-shaped one.
Then there is South Korea, where some people choose to preserve the remains of their loved ones by compressing them into small, colorful beads which are then displayed at home.
Another practice that’s also widely talked about and found among the Malagasy people of Madagascar is called turning of the bones. This involves exhuming a body once every seven years then wrapping it with corpse sacks as family stories are told. The smell is not always good and so they spray some wine to ease it.
We also have others, mainly Buddhists, who practice sky burial as a way not to “waste” the dead body. This involves cutting the corpse into pieces then throwing the pieces in the field or on a mountain so that birds can feed on them. Those who practice this consider it an act of charity and compassion.