Filipino Funerals: Navigating Tradition and Commemoration

In the Philippines, death, like life, is often accompanied by a curious blend of solemnity and lightheartedness. This unique cultural tapestry is woven with threads of both grief and celebration, mourning and merriment. And at the heart of this intricate dance lies a surprising element: the beloved card game, Tongits.

For generations, Tongits has transcended its role as a mere pastime, becoming deeply embedded in Filipino social life. From neighborhood gatherings to birthday celebrations, its clattering cards and playful banter provide a familiar soundtrack to joy and camaraderie. But during wakes, Tongits takes on a different, yet strangely fitting, dimension.

Playing Through the Pain: A Comforting Distraction

Playing Tongits at wakes, while seemingly incongruous to outsiders, stems from a confluence of cultural factors. In the rural Philippines, wakes are traditionally lengthy affairs, stretching for days or even weeks. As mourners gather to pay their respects and offer comfort to the bereaved family, boredom and fatigue can become unwelcome guests. Tongits, with its simple rules and addictive nature, emerges as a potent antidote.

Beyond mere entertainment, Tongits serves a deeper purpose during wakes. It fosters a sense of community and togetherness, binding mourners in a shared activity that momentarily lifts the heavy weight of grief. The laughter and friendly competition around the card table provide a welcome respite from the somber atmosphere, reminding everyone that life, even amidst loss, carries on.

“Pakikisama” in Practice: Sharing the Burden

Furthermore, Tongits often take on a charitable dimension during wakes. A portion of the winnings, known as the “tong,” is traditionally set aside and donated to the bereaved family. This gesture, known as “pakikisama,” embodies the Filipino value of social solidarity and shared responsibility, offering practical support during a time of hardship.

A Tradition Under Scrutiny

However, the practice of playing Tongits at wakes isn’t without its critics. Some view it as disrespectful to the deceased, arguing that gambling has no place in such a solemn occasion. Others raise concerns about potentially exploitative situations, where vulnerable families might be pressured to participate in games with high stakes.

A Complex Tapestry, Uniquely Filipino

Ultimately, the question of whether Tongits belong at wakes remains a subject of debate. It is a cultural practice steeped in tradition, yet not without its complexities. Nevertheless, one thing remains undeniable: Tongits, in its own curious way, offers a space for Filipinos to navigate the emotional labyrinth of grief, finding solace in shared laughter, community, and even a touch of friendly competition. It is a testament to the Filipino spirit, resilient and adaptable, finding ways to embrace life’s full spectrum, even in the shadow of death.

Respecting Tradition

While the inclusion of Tongits in funeral gatherings may seem unusual to outsiders, it is essential to approach it with cultural sensitivity. In Filipino culture, this practice is a natural extension of the belief that life and death are interconnected, and honoring the deceased involves celebrating the relationships and memories they left behind.


In the Philippines, where tradition intertwines with the fabric of daily life, Tongits at funerals emerges as a distinctive and touching practice. Beyond the somber atmosphere, the inclusion of this beloved card game speaks volumes about the Filipino approach to life, death, and the enduring strength of familial bonds. Tongits not only becomes a bridge between generations but also a symbolic expression of resilience, highlighting the capacity to find moments of joy even in the face of grief.

As we navigate the cultural nuances surrounding Tongits at funerals, it’s crucial to approach these practices with understanding and respect. What may seem unconventional to some is, in essence, a reflection of the profound belief that the departed are remembered not only through tears but also through shared laughter and cherished memories.

In the midst of loss, Tongits at funerals serves as a testament to the Filipino spirit—a celebration of life that extends beyond the physical realm. It invites mourners to come together, share stories, and find solace in the collective warmth of familial bonds. In this unique fusion of tradition and communal connection, Tongits becomes a cultural symbol, transforming moments of grief into opportunities for unity and remembrance.

Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.