Canberra Sights

My dad’s cousin and his family took us on a road trip from Sydney to Canberra on our first week in Australia. It was a 4-hour drive away from Sydney, and we went there just for a day trip.

The first place we visited was the Parliament House. According to : “The home of Australia’s Parliament and the meeting place of the nation, Parliament House is located on a 32-hectare site on Capital Hill and is the focal point of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. It was opened on 9 May 1988 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.” Contrary to the usual impression that the capital city of Australia is one of either Sydney or Melbourne, it’s actually Canberra, which is located in the middle of the two. There is not a lot about Canberra as a city besides being the Capital of Australia, and precisely because the city is really just built geographically in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne to serve as the political centre of the country.

Visitors and tourists are allowed inside the Parliament House, but not before a security check comparable to an airport. A lot of areas inside the Parliament House were available for access to visitors, including the Great Hall, the Parliament House Art Collection, and Senate and House of Representatives Chambers (when there are no ongoing sessions). You can also go up to the green roof-deck of the building, which actually inclines downwards to the first level, serving both as part-roof and part-facade.

Next, we went to the Australian War Memorial Museum. According to : “The Australian War Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of Australian men and women who served in war. Visit one of the world’s great museums; an outstanding archive and centre for research into Australia’s wartime history.” It’s a pretty interesting place, but I couldn’t appreciate it in its entirety because I was not familiar with the history of Australia, especially their war history. But it indeed is very remarkable how Australia give so much thought and effort to remembering all their heroes and fallen during the past two world wars.

Lastly, we went to the Floriade festival, Australia’s celebration of the coming of spring. Floriade 2012 was a month-long festival, open from 15 September – 14 October, 2012 at the Commonwealth Park in Canberra. They plant a lot of different colorful flowers in a number of garden beds, in beautiful designs. (

Undas: Visiting the dead

Not quite sure how All Saints and All Souls days are commemorated elsewhere. But here in the Philippines, traditionally, almost everyone go to their hometowns to visit cemeteries, pay respects to their parents, grandparents, and other family members who have passed away. October 31 to November 2 of every year account for thousands, hundred of thousands, or even of millions of live people visiting the dead in cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbarium. Sales for all kinds of candles and flowers shoot up.

We go home to the province every year for this purpose. My dad roots from Pampanga, while my mom from Nueva Ecija, both provinces in Central Luzon and can be reached by road. We used to go on a road trip between the two, going to as many as four different cemeteries sometimes. But lately, it has been just Pampanga, since Nueva Ecija is much farther, and we don’t have a family house there anymore.

My grandfather (mom’s father) who has died four years ago has his cremated remains at a columbarium just near our residence. My cousin’s cremated remains are there too. So, now it’s possible to visit them three days without needing to stay overnight.


The remains of my other grandfather (dad’s father) is in Pampanga, and it’s not so difficult to visit it, since the province is just about a 2-hour drive away from the city. In a way, the scenes at a cemetery during this time is like a feast of the living for the dead. Informal family reunions happen at family mausoleums and in front of tombs. Besides the flowers and candles, there are a lot of food and drinks brought by the families, and a lot of others sold at stalls just outside the cemetery. It’s an interesting time to go on food tripping too.

Paying respects to the dead and meeting up with the living. Overall I would say that it’s still a good “social” event, to keep “in touch” with our past (our ancestors, I mean), and discovering the future generations (and yes, there were cute little “pamangkins” or nephews and nieces by our cousins).

There is Halloween too, mostly in the metro areas. I’ve seen a spike in Halloween parties and costume parties for adults, when it used to be popular mostly for kids. Halloween may be a very western tradition, but it’s getting big here the past decade. There’s trick-or-treating in some subdivisions and villages, and even in some companies, for the little ones. Adults are also putting a lot more effort to their Halloween costumes lately.

How do you celebrate or commemorate this holiday?

Undas directly translates as “the first of the month”, but traditionally used to call the first of November, the All Saints / All Souls day.

creepyNotice this photo… It’s the arch just outside a cemetery in Pampanga. The words are written in the local dialect “Ila ngeni, ica bucas”, which in English means “today it’s them, tomorrow, it will be you”. Creepy, isn’t it?