SPECIAL REPORT: The cost of dying
Liv G. Campo (The Freeman) - October 31, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - There are people who have committed suicide because of poverty. But did you know it is actually expensive to die?

A coffin, for example costs thousands. The cheapest casket at Mt. Olive Eternal Life Services costs P28,000, while the most expensive is P300,000.

"Mahal gyud siya pero makatipid ka kung mokuha ka og installment," said sales agent Concepcion Sanico, adding that the P28,000 casket can be had at P235 monthly installment, payable within five years, or only P14,000. The monthly payment already includes embalming and service car during the funeral.

Since we don't know when we are going to die, it is always safe to have a burial insurance this early so the family that is left behind will not be burdened by all the hassles of paying for the burial services, said Concepcion.

Another burden that the grieving family has to take care of is the food for people who come to visit the wake of their dead loved one. Gina Mahinay, who lost her uncle early this year, said it was what drained the "limos" (donations from people who visit the wake) and the money sent by their loved ones from abroad. Gina said they always had to keep the food (biscuits, sandwiches, peanuts and coffee) flowing for people who stay at the wake the entire night.

And then there's the fee for the Holy Mass for the traditional blessing before the dead is laid to rest. At the Santa Teresa de Avila Parish in Talisay City, the fee for a burial mass is P1,500. The rates vary, depending on the church. At the Alliance of  Two Hearts Parish in Banawa, Cebu City, Burial masses on Sundays are pegged at P1,000 while weekday burial masses are at P750. At the Sacred Heart and Sto. Rosario parishes, the burial mass fee is P500.

After the Holy Mass, the dead is then brought to the cemetery. Gina said they laid their uncle in a P5,000 apartment-type tomb at the Poblacion Catholic Cemetery in Talisay City.

The payment, she said, is good for five years, and by then they will have to transfer their uncle to a bone chamber, which is a 40x60cm hole, which currently costs P2,500 to P3,000 each.

For those who can afford, there are also private lots for mausoleums. A 25-square-meter lot, which can accommodate three apartment-style tombs, at the Poblacion Catholic Cemetery is at least P80,000. The construction of a private tomb is another cost.

Romuel Angcon, a contractor and a maker of lapida or grave markers, said a private tomb costs P12,000, which includes labor and materials. It is expensive than renting a tomb for P5,000, but cheaper than high-end private cemeteries where a private lot, good for one casket, is around P80,000.

Another necessity for burying a dead loved one is the "lapida" or grave marker. Angcon said they charge P2,800 for a lapida made of granite, while P1,800 for marble. The price already includes the writings and installation.

Of late, people have opted for cremation instead of the traditional burial, for varied reasons (the dead's request, family culture and others). Some say cremation is cheaper, at only P20,000 to P50,000, and does not need an expensive tomb or a burial site, or a more costly casket as there are cheap urns (although there are also those, especially if made of expensive metals and stones, which are worth hundreds of  thousands) where the ashes could be kept.

And once the dead has been buried, another expense on the part of the bereaved family are the regular maintenance on the tombs (P20 for the cleaner), the candles (price ranges from P1 to a few hundreds apiece, depending on the size) and the flowers (the cheapest is usually P5), and the lighting services (P250 per bulb) during November 2.

If the bereaved family would opt for the cheapest services available, they would need at least P40,000 to bury their dead in a rented tomb. The amount does not include the snacks of visitors and mourners.

"Mahal ang mamatay. Mas mahal pa kaysa igkatawo. Mao na'ng kung wa kay kwarta, ayaw lang sa kamatay," joked Angcon. —/QSB (FREEMAN)

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