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The City Council, during last Monday’s regular session, requested the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) and other private medical facilities in the city that process the swab test of the remains of decease patients suspected of contracting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to expedite the releasing of the aforesaid test results in respect to the prevailing culture, funeral tradition and burial customs in the Cordillera.
In a resolution, city legislators stated the measure seeks to balance the imposition of health guidelines and sanitation procedures in treating the remains of deceased patients suspected of suffering from COVID-19 with that of established cultural protocols in aid to the plight of those adversely affected families.
The council admitted that COVID-19 has drastically changed the way of life of the people and altered some of their significantly established social norms and cultural practices.
Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 0158, series of 2020, prescribing the guidelines on the proper handling of the remains of suspect, probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and under the rules, the procedure for the burial and cremation shall be done within 12 hours after death but burial of remains shall be in accordance with the person’s religious and culturally acceptable norms, to the most possible extent.
The council noted that in the past months that numerous deceased patients from various hospitals in the city who had been suspected of contracting the deadly virus were immediately buried, while some had been cremated even against the will of their immediate relatives.
Further, many relatives, especially the immediate ones, had been allegedly deprived of their fundamental rights to see even for the last time the remains of their deceased family members as the cadaver was turned over to them already sealed and wrapped with impermeable air tight bag and more so that when the results of the swab test were released, it turned out that the cause of death was not as suspected.
According to the council, the death of an immediate member of a family surely causes stress and dejection on the part of the relatives and that added pressure instigated by non-coordinating polices and agonizing guidelines further swell the burden of the affected parties.
Moreover, the council stipulated that the immediate burial or cremation, aggravated by long wait before the release of the COVID test results, several of the significantly established rituals and indigenous cultural practices during wakes have been sacrificed and have not been observed, which runs counter to the prevailing culture and traditions of the people.
The council emphasized that Baguio City being an essential part of the Cordillera has diversified rich culture and while supportive and in unison with the government on its effort against the dreaded virus, those already established cultural practices and traditions, like ‘ damaan’ or ‘adog’, should not simply be neglected and abandoned even during the prevailing difficult situation.
The council asserted that the cultural practices and rituals for a deceased relative are highly regarded as must-do as a show and expression of grief and display of respect and appreciation to the once valuable life of the deceased. By Dexter A. See