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Cremation as an option to burial

First Posted 12:26:00 11/03/2008

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CEBU CITY, Philippines - When their father Segundino died in 2004, the family of businessman Robert Go went with the traditional burial.

Go said the decision was shaped by their Christian faith since they believe that the soul of the departed will continue to be with them even if he is buried six feet below the ground.

The burial site, he said, is a tangible link between the departed loved one and the family members left behind.

?We do not feel that it is right to have the body cremated. Because if the body is buried, there is still physical presence. Naa gihapon ba (He is still there) and his spirit is hovering above us," he said.

But while the traditional burial remains the most popular and preferred way of honoring the dead, Go agreed that cremation is "more economical" in the long run.

Even if the one time pay off for cremation can go as high as P50,000, Go said "savings" are incurred in lot prices and maintenance costs.

Edgar Sanchez, funeral director of the Lahug branch of Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes Inc. said the difference in the cost of traditional burial against cremation varies depending on the package chosen by bereaved families.

"Depende gyud na kun unsa nga package ang pilion sa (It depends on what package is chosen by the) bereaved family. There are families who still want to have the traditional wake before the body of their loved one is cremated. There are those who prefer the body is cremated immediately," said Sanchez.

In Cosmopolitan, the traditional burial package ranges from P80,000 to about a million pesos.

Each package includes embalming, casket, wake and service car for the funeral.

The prices vary depending on the price of the casket, car used and the room used during the wake, among others.

Cremation, on the other hand, costs P30,000, said Sanchez.

"After the body is cremated, we provide an ash box. That is not yet the urn where the ashes of the person are placed," he said.

For families who prefer to have the wake before cremation, Sanchez said "there are several packages for this option."

Before the body is cremated, the funeral home makes sure that all necessary permits ? death certificate and request for cremation from the City Health Office ? are obtained.

"We cannot touch the body of the person unless there is proof that death has occurred. Of course, we ask the families what they want to do with the dead body. We talk to family members," said Sanchez.

After cremation, ashes are placed in an urn and would be "deposited" in columbaries and bone chambers either in designated area in parish churches or in private cemeteries.

"Every private cemetery, mausoleum has its own bone chambers. They are smaller chambers compared to the ones where caskets are buried," he said.

Sanchez said the Skyline in Tops has a columbary, while the Cebu Memorial Park in Barangay (village) Banilad has bone chambers.

Parish churches such as St. Joseph The Patriarch in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City and Alliance of Two Hearts in Sitio (district) Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe have bone chambers as well.

"The final disposal of the urn with the ashes are the columbaries or bone chambers which are mostly located in cemeteries," he said.

Sanchez noted that the government has not allowed the transport of ashes in the homes.

Ashes can, however, be disposed of in the sea after securing necessary permits, he said.

Cosmopolitan has two crematoriums - the room where cremation is done - in their branches located in Junquera St. and Nivel Hills, Lahug.

The average cremation is done in two to three hours depending on the weight of the body.

Sanchez said there is a growing number of people who turned to cremation to care for their departed loved ones.

Still, Sanchez said traditional burials still account for 70 percent of total services while cremation is at 30 percent.

For Go's family, tradition is the main reason why they prefer the old fashioned burial.

"But the body is still there and we can visit. It's comforting to know that he is still there rather than seeing ashes," he said.

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