The origin of the word “undás

Each time All Saints’ Day draws near, we usually hear the word “undás” to pertain to it. Many people are puzzled as to the meaning of the term. Some who are well-versed in etymology say that it was derived from the Spanish word “honrar” meaning “to honor”, and it is associated to All Saints’ Day because we honor our dearly departed dead during this event.

But how did honrar become undás?

All-Saints.jpg

I Precursori Di Cristo Con Tutti I Santi Ed I Martiri Del Paradiso (The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs), tempera on poplar wood by Fra Angelico.

When you conjugate the word honrar to the first person in present tense, it becomes “honras” (you honor). Filipinos back then tend to mispronounce many Spanish words, and through time, such words have evolved: “pared” became “pader“, “jabón” became “sabón“, “cebollas” became “sibuyas“, etc. In linguistics, this phenomenon is called sound change.

In some parts of Southern Luzón such as Batangas, Tayabas (now Quezon), and Mindoro Island, undás is pronounced as “undrás” (with an “r”). As you can now see, honras and undrás sound the same (by the way, the letter “h” has no sound in Spanish).

Now let’s go back to the Spanish word honrar. It is said that the use of the term undrás to pertain to the triduum of All Hallows’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2) came first before it further got corrupted to undás through time. But we could even go back further and trace its roots to the Spanish term “honras fúnebres” which means “funeral honors”. This should close any doubt that undás or undrás originated from honras.

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Yes, Halloween is a Catholic event!

Did you know? Before Halloween became a creepy holiday for fans of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and other assorted ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, it was actually a Catholic event. According to Fr. Jojo Zerrudo, parish priest at the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Quezon City and current Catechetical Director and Exorcist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubáo, Halloween is one of the most important feast days of the Catholic Church (see video below).

Make no mistake, Halloween is simply a modern contraction of the archaic term “All Hallows’ Eve” which simply means All Saints’ Eve since the following day is All Saints Day (in the same manner that December 24 is the eve before Christmas Day). In fact, Halloween is part of a triduum, a religious observance which lasts for three days. Halloween actually is the first day of this triduum; the second day is All Saints’ Day on November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2.

I will not venture on tracing how Halloween, a holy Christian feast day, ended up as a ghoulish freak show lest this blogpost turns into an encyclopedic article. You may read all about that topic here. Rather, I’ll just share to you this short video interview of Fr. Jojo that was produced by the Diocese of Cubáo’s Media and Communications Ministry and uploaded on YouTube on 4 October 2016. Here, Fr. Jojo explains how Catholic Halloween really is, its connection to All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day, and how we can reclaim it.

“Let us conquer again —for Christianity— Halloween”, says Fr. Jojo, “because it was really meant to honor all the Saints”.

In another inteview prior to the production above, Fr. Jojo said that “dressing up children as zombies, devils, and the like for Halloween gives them the impression that evil spirits are fun and friendly.” So instead of decorating your homes and offices with jack-o’-lanterns, skulls, spiderwebs, and other freakish decors, and instead of dressing up like someone who had gone super crazy after losing millions in a horrid casino game, just contemplate on the lives of Saints. Venerate them, study their biographies, emulate their holiness, and offer prayers and Masses to our dearly departed loved ones. Because this triduum belongs to them, this triduum belongs to us, not to the minions of satan. It’s high time we reclaim Halloween for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Happy Halloween!