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Meet Aurelio Gahit aka ‘Ondoy Gamay Kalag’

Meet Aurelio Gahit aka ‘Ondoy Gamay Kalag’

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Meet Aurelio Gahit aka ‘Ondoy Gamay Kalag’

Topic |  
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THE BEAUTIFUL and iconic mausoleums or tombs at Victoria Memorial Park. Photos by Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle
THE BEAUTIFUL and iconic mausoleums or tombs at Victoria Memorial Park. Photos by Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle

Aurelio Romero Gahit, popular known as “Ondoy Gamay Kalag (The boy with little soul)”, 64, spends most of his life at Victoria Memorial Park (ViMPark) in Tagbilaran City.

He is famous for his “graveside etiquette”-being a gentleman of tact, respect, and sensitivity at the occasion of someone’s burial. He shows us how to behave during a graveside service with the same attitude of respect and courtesy.

“Ako si Ondoy Gamay Kalag muhangyo sa iyong malumoy nga kasing-kasing nga maghiluman kitang tanan para respetuhon nato atong igsuon nga mingpanaw,” he said.

(I am Ondoy Gamay Kalag, I am asking your kind hearts to please keep silent to respect our departed brother/sister.)

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Onday Kalag said he started working for the late Doña Basilisa “Basing” Casas- Lim when he was a teen.

“Doña Basing owned the Sweet Lines,” he said.

When ViMPark was opened to the public on Sept. 15, 1972, he was appointed park coordinator.

However, it was only in 1975 when someone was laid to rest at ViMPark.

Today, VimPark houses the 5,000 remains- from ordinary to famous personalities- including the late Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado, lawyer and educator Will Tirol, Lim Poh, Doña Basilisa “Basing” Casas- Lim, provincial board member Socorro Buslon-Tallo, businessman Antonio Ong Guat, Grace Christian Church pastor-teacher Nelson Rio, JJ’s Obdulio Caturza, Sr and wife Juana, Peanut Kisses matriarch Carolina Alvarez, et al.

Boy Kalag, who has a mind as sharp as a steel trap, admitted he could not recall the 5,000.

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“Not at all,” he said. “However, I can assure you that they rest here forever.” Although he worried that some letters that were originally chiselled on some gravestones have since faded.

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FAMOUS FOR HIS “GRAVESIDE ETIQUETTE” Aurelio “Ondoy Kalag” Gahit is being a gentleman of tact, respect, and sensitivity at the occasion of someone’s burial. Photo by Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle
FAMOUS FOR HIS “GRAVESIDE ETIQUETTE” Aurelio “Ondoy Kalag” Gahit is being a gentleman of tact, respect, and sensitivity at the occasion of someone’s burial. Photo by Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle

“I offer prayers for them,” he said, “And I pray that their loved ones can visit them.”

The ViMPark is divided into four phases- the gardens of Hope, Grace, Promise and Faith –named after the ships owned by Doña Basing.

Ondoy Kalag also said that at ViMPark, love is forever. He said he could not forget a man who spent over 10 years holding vigil by his wife’s grave every day, arriving when the cemetery opened and heading home when it closed,  before he fell ill.

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“When his wife died, part of him died, too,” he said, “That was real love. Tinuod nga naay forever.”

He said he feels more comfortable living with the dead. Except for one horrific incident in 1993  when a mantiyanak (a woman who died in labor) appeared and stirred the neighborhood. Many people heard her singing lullabies to her baby, causing hair-raising chills and making them trembled in fear.

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Onday Kalag lost his nerve at the sight of the mantiyanak.

“She appeared to me,” he said. He went to see a Catholic priest and he was told to pray at the grave of the person. After praying, the spirit was gone.

Boy Kalag has retired two years ago, but he keeps going to VimPark to assist his son, Victor, 34, who took over his job. His wife, Teofista “Itang”, 58, son Roland, 32; daughters-Abeta, 30; and Bella, 26, are there to support him.

Living all his life at the ViMPark, Ondoy Kalag said wo/man has a soul.

“Naa jud kalag ang tawo. The body, being finite, does die. Yet the soul, the essence of our loved one, is eternal,” he said.

He said visiting the cemetery on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is remembering our loved ones.

“That they’re gone but not forgotten. Our connection lives on and will never die,” he said.

For the celebration of  Kalag-Kalag, he urged the visitors to show respect to their departed love ones by keeping the cemetery’s premises clean all the time.

He said the VimPark administration has been preparing for this annual observance since last week, in close coordination with the City police station.

He also said he had deployed numerous signages located at the cemetery’s strategic locations to keep people abreast of VimPark’s dos and don’ts.

“Definitely, loud music is not allowed in the cemetery during Kalag-kalag because we visit the cemetery to pray for our departed loved ones and not to disco,” he said.

Through history, societies have commemorated their dead in various ways.

 

Ondoy Kalag named the beautiful and iconic mausoleums or tombs (elsewhere in this page), that reflect people’s need to immortalize the important figures of their time, or their own selves.

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Provincial director Superintendent Dennis Agustin said that deployment of police officers at police assistance desks (PADs) on cemeteries was strictly implemented to ensure the safety of Boholanos during the celebration of Kalag-Kalag. 

“We’re full alert on Oct. 30,” said Agustin.

He also urged the public to refrain from bringing firearms, deadly weapons and liquor while visiting their departed loved ones.

According to Agustin, they would not only secure cemeteries, but also places frequented by the public like the Dao Bus Terminal, airport, seaports, churches and other areas.

He also said patrol cars and ambulances from the Department of Health (DOH) or local government units (LGUs) would complement the PADs for quick response during emergencies.

Meanwhile, the prices of flowers tripled in Tagbilaran’s flower markets on Friday two days before All Saints’ Day weekend.

Vendors sell flowers along C. Marapao Street corner H. Grupo Street, which underwent an extensive repair. They said they were not allowed to sell at the Tagbilaran City Square to avoid heavy traffic.

The prices of Malaysian mums went up from P180 to P350 per dozen, P35 per piece; Chrysanthemum from P70 to P120 per dozen, P20 per piece; Baby’s breath from P60 to P150 per dozen; roses- P300 to P350 per dozen, P30 to P35 per piece; and orchids from P300 to P500 per dozen, P40 to P50 per piece.

Small potted flowers, which normally cost just P50, is now at P100 to P300 each. Flower baskets now cost P150 to P300 from the usual P100 to P250. Elaborate flower arrangements are pegged at P800 to P2,000 or almost tripled the price off-season. Bouquet ranges from P300 to P1,500; while flowers arranged in stands are sold at P600 to P10,000 already.

Vendor Olive Betonio said there are enough flowers for the said tradition. She, however, said that prices of flowers are a bit more expensive this year.

Florist Eddie Dahunog said that there is enough supply of flowers but the price tripled this year because supplies of flowers are from Cebu, Baguio and Cagayan de Oro City.

“First, our flower supply was damaged by typhoon Lando. Second, the cost of transportation is higher. We buy flowers at high price,” said Dahunog.

He, however, said that he would not increase the price because the flowers are already expensive.

“They can ask for discount,” he said.

Residents who bought flowers significantly increase as the stalls opened on Friday. Most of them said that they bought earlier to avoid discomfort of overcrowding.

Flower vendors said the stalls are open 24 hours on Friday until the night of Nov. 2.

However, the prices for candles are still low and fair.

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