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Understanding Cremation

Courtesy of National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) in the US



Cremation is becoming a popular part of the American funeral.  While so many people are seeking more options for meaningful funeral services, they’ve realized what cremation can offer, especially within the context of ceremony.  Cremation serves as a dignified and powerful method of commemorating a life worth celebrating, an important first step in the healing process.

“Cremation allowed us to respect my uncle’s wishes and, at the same time, plan a funeral boasting his favorite plays as a pitcher in our local softball league.  That really meant a lot to our family… and his teammates.”



Memorialization Options and Cremation

Families are realizing there are many options and much flexibility surrounding planning for cremation.  Some families choose to have a viewing or a funeral service before cremation.  Others choose a memorial service at the time of cremation or afterwards with the urn present, or even a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains.  Often, funeral or memorial services can be held in a place of worship, a funeral home, a crematory chapel, or even at a place of special significance to your loved one.  Likewise, cremated remains can be interred in a cemetery plot or in a cremation niche in a columbarium.  They can also be retained by a family member or scattered at a meaningful location that can be appreciated by future generations.  (It is always advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place.)  Cremation is just one step in the commemorative process – an important step in preparing the remains for memorialization.  How you continue with the memorialization process is limited only by your imagination.

The More You Know, The Better the Choices You’ll Make

Will you have a service or a gathering of family and friends prior to cremation?  Will there be a viewing?  What kind of urn will you select?  Will the cremated remains be interred?  Like so many other events in your life, being an educated consumer is important.  An excellent resource for learning about all your options is your funeral director.  He or she can discuss many of the specifics relating to cremation and the ways in which cremation can fit into a meaningful funeral or memorialization service.

Cremation Is Only Part of the Healing Process

Some may feel that by cremating a body, they’re somehow eliminating the pain associated with their loss.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Cremation is not a way of eliminating your grief, but a process of preparing your loved one for his or her final resting place.  Like burial, it is only one element of the funeral process and should be approached that way.  When made part of a meaningful funeral service, cremation can play a vital role in the healing process.

Different Religious View Cremation Differently

Most religions accept cremation with the exception of the Islamic, Orthodox Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and some fundamentalist Christian faiths.  Though the Roman Catholic Church expresses a preference for burial, it now allows cremation for reasons compatible with church teachings.  It does not sanction the scattering of remains, however, and prefers the presence of the body during the liturgy, prior to cremation.

Options for Creating a Meaningful Experience

When made part of a tribute to a loved one, cremation, like burial, can give you the flexibility to create a funeral service that is as individual as the life being honored.

One choice you’ll face is whether or not to have a viewing prior to cremation.  Many people, grief experts included, feel the ability to view the body gives friends and loved ones a necessary opportunity to say goodbye.  If you choose this option, it’s important to note that some funeral homes offer a ceremonial casket specifically for viewing prior to cremation, saving you the expense of a casket purchase.  If you choose not to have a viewing, you’ll need to select a container that your loved one will be cremated in, and a container that the cremated remains will be stored or buried in.  Your funeral director will show you what’s available.

As part of your personal and memorialized funeral service, you’ll also want to have a plan for the cremated remains.  A range of alternatives exists from entombment or burial in a cremation garden, to a ceremony at which you scatter the cremated remains.  Some facilities keep the cremated remains in a decorative urn as a keepsake.  Your funeral director can discuss all of these options with you.



Cost of Cremation Services

The cost of cremation varies depending on the services and products selected by the family.  Funeral homes should provide an itemized list including the costs of these services and products they offer.  Making funeral plans in advance is helpful because, in addition to easing the planning process and allowing the family members to know your wishes, planning ahead gives you a sense of the actual costs associated with a specific type of service.



Cremation does not – and should not – take the place of a funeral service.  Like burial, it is merely another form of disposition.  However, by considering all your funeral options, you’ll find that cremation can be an important part of the commemoration process.  It helps loved ones to share grief, celebrate the life of the person who died and find healing in remembrance.



There are a number of questions you can and should ask your funeral director to make sure you understand the issues related to cremation.  These include:

  • What arrangements do I have to make prior to the cremation?
  • Who owns the crematory and where is it located?
  • Can I see the crematory?
  • Who supervises the cremation?
  • What are the qualifications of the crematory and the individual performing the cremation?
  • How can we celebrate the life of our loved one?
  • What is the cremation process?
  • How much time is involved with the entire process?
  • What legal documents do we need and who can legally authorize a cremation?
  • Is viewing the cremation acceptable and helpful?



The death of a loved one can be overwhelming.  For that reason, it’s even more important to slow down, take a deep breath and focus on their life and the impact he or she had on family and friends.  Relaxation and focus can help provide direction and allow you to concentrate on organizing a service that honors your loved one’s life.  Use this checklist to help collect your thoughts and direct your effort to create a funeral or memorial service that truly reflects a life worth celebrating.

  • Some of my loved one’s most important accomplishments include…
  • Some of my fondest memories of him or her are…
  • People who had the greatest effect on my loved one’s life are…
  • My loved one’s favorite music is…
  • My loved one’s hobbies and interests include…
  • Other things that gave him or her enjoyment are…
  • The causes and beliefs my loved one was passionate about are…
  • If my loved one was planning this service, he or she would include…


“Mom always loved being surrounded by friends and family.  When she died, I don’t think anyone in town missed her funeral.  After the cremation, we had a small gathering with immediate family at the park she took us to when we were kids.  We spread out blankets, ate sandwiches and played the same games with our own kids… which was a wonderful way to remember her.”



If you would like more information on planning a meaningful funeral service, call us anytime at Marian Memorial Chapels – (02) 645-1855 – and talk with the service specialist on duty.

Church Now Approves Bonery and Cremation

By Amita O. Legaspi/KBK

GMA News (November 2, 2012 3:55pm)


For as long as the dead is respected, any manner of disposal is approved by the Catholic Church now — even cremation and bonery.

In an interview with GMA News TV’s Kape at Balita on Friday, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said bonery and cremation are two of the three Church-approved ways of treating the deceased. The other one is the traditional burial.

“Kahit anong gawin sa katawan ng yumao, ang mahalaga siya ay namatay na nasa biyaya ng Diyos at pagkamatay niya siya ay ipagdadasal,” Cruz said.

Bonery refers to exhuming a body after five years and placing its bones on a smaller place.

“Sa ngayon, ang Simbahan ay tinatanggap ang tatlong paraan ng paggu-goodbye sa ating mga minamahal. Una ‘yung tradisyunal na binabaon; ikalawa ‘yung bonery, pagkatapos ibaon ng limang taon, ‘yung mga buto ilalagay sa mas maliit na lalagyan; at ikatlo, ‘yung columbarium, itong mga kini-cremate at dun nilalagay ang kanilang abo,” he said.

The early Christian church rejected cremation, partly because of its association with Pagan societies of Greece and Rome. It only favors burial.

On cremation, he said: “OK lang po ‘yun basta ang talagang alituntunin, ang anumang bagay sa anumang paraan ay dapat gawin na hindi lalabag sa karangalan ng namatay at sa ngalan ng Diyos.”

Cruz noted that cremation has become popular because of the convenience it brings to the family of the deceased, who has the option to bring the ashes to a columbarium or even keep it in their homes.

Cruz admitted that the doctrines of the Church change with new discoveries in science and medicine, like in the cases of suicide victims.

“Halimbawa noong araw, ‘pag ikaw ay nagpakamatay, hindi ka pwedeng bendisyunan. Ngayon po, pwede kasi nasabi ng mga dalubhasa sa psychology at psychiatry na ang nagpapakamatay ay wala sa kanilang sarili so pwedeng bendisyunan,” he said.

In 2007, the Catholics Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) laid down the guidelines for cremation, among them the use of a “worthy urn” for the ashes of the deceased.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy (ECL) also strongly prefers that cremation take place after or before the funeral Mass.

Cremation Now a Viable Alternative for Pinoys

By Evelyn Macairan

The Philippine Star (Updated October 31, 2012 12:00 AM)


MANILA, Philippines – Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz yesterday said that cremation has become a viable alternative for Filipinos in dealing with their dead because it is more convenient.

“It is becoming more convenient to go to a columbarium where the ashes are deposited instead of going to the cemetery because of the traffic and other factors,” Cruz said.

He also believes many Filipinos are concerned that many cemeteries nowadays have limited space.  This reportedly prompted some memorial parks to put up multilevel burial lots that would even require the use of a ladder.

Cremation is also the preferred mode when a corpse has to be transported from abroad.

In 1963, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Liturgy (ECL) Ministry of Liturgical Affairs issued Liturgical Guidelines on Cremation stating that, “Although inhumation is still largely practiced in the Philippines, cremation has been constantly gaining acceptance, especially in urban areas where there are crematoriums.”

It cited several reasons such as practicality, hygiene, economic conditions of the family or personal choice of the departed.

CBCP secretary-general Monsignor Joselito Asis said that while the Catholic Church does not object to cremation, it frowns upon the practice of scattering the ashes in the sea or from the air.

He added that based on the Liturgical Guidelines on Cremation, “the Holy Office permitted cremation as a legitimate mode of disposing the dead body of the faithful, provided the reason for choosing cremation does not stem from a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church.”

However, it recommended that the practice of reverently burying the dead should be preserved.

“The cremated remains should be buried in grave, mausoleum, or columbarium.  The practice of scattering the ashes at sea or from the air is not in keeping with the Church’s norm regarding the proper disposal of the remains of the dead. Likewise the urn should not be kept permanently at home or family altar.

“If there is to be a delay in the proper disposal of the ashes, these may be kept temporarily in an appropriate place.”

Monsignor Asis said that the Catholic Church does not allow the scattering of ashes because it seems like “disregarding” the deceased.

Even if it is the dying request of the person to have his or her ashes thrown into the water or spilled from the air, the CBCP official said this request should not be granted.

“The Lord would be more angry if they scatter the ashes.  It is more irreverence for the body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Cremation’s Popularity Growing, Says Prelate

Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation
October 30, 2012, 7:08pm


MANILA, Philippines — Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Tuesday cremation is becoming more popular to Filipinos because it is more convenient than being buried in a cemetery.

“It is becoming more convenient to go to a columbarium, where the ashes are deposited, instead of going to the cemetery with the traffic,” he said in an interview.

“There’s also a question of space in the cemetery.  There is less and less space, that’s why they are now trying to put up this multi-leveled burial sites up to 14 layers.  But how do you visit your dead in the 14th floor if there are no stairs?” Cruz asked.

The former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said cremation is also much cheaper and easier.

“When the body is transferred from one country to the other, instead of the whole body being transferred, it’s easier and much cheaper to transfer ashes,” Cruz said.

The popularity of cremation, he said, is also the reason why some churches now have columbariums.

Cruz, however, said that cremation is not popular especially among Filipino Catholic prelates.

“I have yet to hear a bishop that was cremated and I really don’t know if it will ever happen,” he said.

This, Cruz said, is because a bishop is usually interred in the burial ground of the cathedral of a diocese.

“It’s a very established custom that in all cathedral churches there’s a burial ground for bishops at the back of the altar and that is where they are placed,” said the prelate.

Cruz said other bishops prefer to be buried in the cemetery of the religious order where they belong.

“They will be buried in a cemetery where they are together as a religious,” he said.

To recall, at one time, the church prohibited cremation but this is no longer the case.

Today, cremation is only prohibited if the person choosing such method is doing so to deny church teachings, especially that of the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul.

The catechism of the CBCP says cremation is no longer forbidden “unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.”

The church holds that the cremated remains of the body be treated with the same respects as the body that was treated prior to cremation, including the use of a “worthy urn” for it.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy (ECL) strongly prefers that cremation take place after or before the funeral Mass.

“When cremation is held after funeral Mass, the rite of final commendation and committal conclude the Mass. While cremation is taking place, the family and friends of the deceased are encouraged to gather in prayer,” the ECL said.

The commission said a liturgy of the “Word” may be celebrated or devotional prayers like the holy rosary may be said.

The church’s belief in the sacredness of life and the resurrection of the dead asks the faithful to celebrate funeral liturgies with the body or ashes present while affirming the value of human life.

“When cremation precedes the funeral Mass, the rite of final commendation and committal may be performed in the crematorium chapel before cremation. After cremation the funeral Mass may be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains,” the ECL said in its Guidelines for Cremation.

“If funeral Mass is not celebrated, the funeral liturgy is held in the presence of the remains.

The rite of final commendation and committal concludes the Mass or the funeral liturgy,” it further stressed.

As additional guideline, the Church also requires the columbaria be built in a separate chapel adjacent to the church or in a crypt.

In today’s modern society, for some, choosing cremation is part of that preparation for death.  The church continues to prefer and encourage the faithful to bury or entomb the bodies of their departed loved ones.

But if cremation is chosen for worthy motives, the church wishes to support the faithful in honoring the life and memory of the departed.

Cremation as a Rite of Passage

By Joseph G. Lariossa  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

Philippines Today (January 20, 2012)


“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”—  Genesis 3:19

The recent death of my first cousin (on my maternal side), Milagros “Yangos” or “Young Goose” Garra Chua, of Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines of lung cancer left some of my relatives scratching their heads when she decided before she died that she wanted to be cremated.

Like a typical closely-knit Roman Catholics, our extended family has never considered cremation as an option until Young Goose’s decision.  Cremation is a dreaded word that is better left unspoken.

Among its main objections is its perceived denial of the resurrection of one’s body as shown by Jesus, who was given a traditional burial, not cremation, after the Crucifixion before He could rise from the dead.

Young Goose’s only child, Dave Simon G. Chua, told me in an email that it was his Mom’s decision to be cremated.   But Dave did not tell me the reason or reasons for his Mom’s decision.

But I got an idea from Chicago, Illinois’ Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim: it is cheaper.  The top Chicago Filipino diplomat told me the cost of shipping human remains from Chicago to the Philippines alone comes in the range of US$4,000 to US$6,000 while shipping cremated ashes could be less than US$1,000.  (Note: You can lose an arm and a leg if you try to smuggle an urn containing cremated remains by stuffing it in an airline baggage or in Balikbayan boxes and get caught!)

That’s why more Filipino Americans prefer to be buried in the U.S. than in the Philippines because it is costly for their loved ones to ship their remains unless they bought life or burial insurance!

I emailed the customer service of Loyola Plans Consolidated, Inc. in Makati City in the Philippines, requesting for the comparative rates for cremation and traditional burial after it provided cremation service to Yangos.   But I did not get an answer.

The National Funeral Directors Association in the United States says the average funeral cost in the U.S. is about US$6,500 and the average associated cost for buying a burial plot, funeral flowers, and services can add up to US$10,000.


On the other hand, the Cremation Association of North America says the average cost of cremation is $1,600 but could reach $5,000.  But cremation is usually 80 percent less expensive than a traditional burial.  But if cremation services such as coffin, complete funeral, an ornate urn and visitation hours may cost as much as burial.

One of my second cousins, Ramon “Tamoy” Garra, also of Matnog who is now an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in Saudi Arabia and close to Young Goose family, asked me in an email, if the “(cremation) was orally willed by Yangos?

“Tho cremation has become prevalent, I cringe at the thought of burning the dead body especially of my dear ones as Manay Yangos.  Wonder if the Roman Catholic Church do recommend disposing a dead body in this fashion?”

According to Wikipedia, the Roman Catholic Church discourages cremation because, aside from denying the resurrection of the holy body, the body, as the instrument through which the sacraments are received, is itself a sacramental, holy object; and that as an integral part of the human person, it should be disposed of in a way that honors and reverences it, and many early practices involved with disposal of dead bodies were viewed as pagan in origin or an insult to the body.

But cremation was, in fact, never forbidden in and of itself; even in Medieval Europe, where there were multitudes of corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after pestilence or famine, and there was an imminent fear of diseases spreading from the corpses, since individual burials with digging graves would take too long and body decomposition would begin before all the corpses had been interred.

But cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body.


Current Catholic liturgical regulations requires that, if requested by the family of the deceased, the cremation must not take place until after the funeral Mass.  This way the body may be present for the Mass so that it, symbolizing the person, may receive blessings, be the subject of prayers in which it is mentioned, and since the body’s presence “better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those (funeral) rites (or Mass).”

Once the Mass itself is concluded, the body could be cremated and a second service could be held at the crematorium or cemetery where the cremated remains are to be interred just as for a body burial.

Dave told me he brought the ashes of his Mom home.  Inurnment at the columbary will be on the 40th day also at the Loyola Commonwealth.  Inurnment is the process of placing cremated remains in an urn.  The urn is placed either above the ground in a niche, or below ground in a grave.

As early as Dec. 30, Dave emailed me, saying, “My mother is still fighting the happy battle together with God.  She’s slowly regaining her appetite and physical strength but unfortunately we cannot prevent other complications to arise because of her illness.  Her feet are beginning to swell “nagmamanas” possibly due to kidney failure.  We put our trust in God with everything my mother is going through that He will continue to give her that fighting courage and spirit to fight the happy battle.

“Thank you very much for all your prayers and concern!  Keep in touch!  Happy Holidays!  God Bless!  Dave”

By Monday (Manila time), Jan. 2, my other first cousin (Rosario “Sayong” Garra Burgos) emailed me, “Kaninang 6 a.m. iniwan na tayo ni” Yangos.  (At 6 a.m., Yangos left us.) “Hindi me makatulog kaya pala. (That’s why I could not sleep.) (At) 7 a.m., tumawag c Manoy Uyi at nag text daw c Dave na wala na Ma2 n’ya.” (At 7 a.m., Jorge (elder brother of Yangos) called me, telling me Dave texted him his Mom is gone.).

Yangos is survived by Dave, Dave’s wife, Jackie, their two-year-old son, Danny, Yangos’ elder sisters, Panching and Belen and elder brother, Jorge.  Her husband, Danny Chua, died five years ago.  Yangos was the youngest daughter of the late Dominador G. Garra, a retired treasurer of Matnog and elder brother of my late mother, Consolacion Garra Lariosa.

Yangos studied education at University of Santo Tomas and celebrated her 62nd birthday last Dec. 21st.  She worked at the real estate department of the Social Security System in Quezon City for a long time.  In my last phone conversation late last year with Yangos whom I had not seen in more than 50 years, she blamed her smoking habit and her lifestyle for her lung cancer.

We will miss you, Yangos.

Cremation As An Option To Burial

By Chris Evert Lato

Cebu Daily New (First Posted 11/03/2008; 12:26PM)


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.