The Columbarium of Himlayan sa Kalikasan Memorial Gardens in City of Malolos where the urns of Bulakenyos who died of COVID-19 are kept and remembered by their loved ones. Photo by Anton Luis Reyes Catindig

CITY OF MALOLOS– With 4,350 Bulacan COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic March last year, the province crematoriums and columbarium have posted brisk sales and incomparable earnings but not to the astonishment of the business industry players. 

Manila Memorial Park in Plaridel with 172 new “home residents” at P35,000 regular and P25,000 for senior citizen had posted about P5-6 million in sales for crematoriums and columbarium services during the whole pandemic period compared with only about P1-2 million on regular days within the same period.

The crematorium of Himlayan sa Kalikasan Memorial gardens in City of Malolos. Photo by Anton Luis Reyes Catindig

But the company’s earnings from each of the calls for inquiries by families of the 172 COVID-19 deaths and arrival of the dead bodies to attend to and process was not a reason to be contended with and smile for Rose Dela Cruz, 25, one of the reception personnel in Manila Memorial Park. 

Rather, Dela Cruz and other staffs were frightened they might get infected, alarmed of the continuing high number of deaths and were also in agony over sympathies to the family members.  

Dela Cruz said they had 6-7 cremations a day and had to stay in their work until 10 p.m. during the peak of the pandemic August and September 2020 and in August this year.

The Columbarium at Himlayan sa Kalikasan Memorial Gardens in City of Malolos. Photo by Anton Luis Reyes Catindig

“Natakot kami na mahawa at nalaarma din kasi sunod-sunod na ang namamatay sa COVID at naawa kami sa bawat pamilya,” she told NEWS CORE, (We are frightened we might get infected and we were alarmed the COVID-19 deaths continue to count and we also felt the agony of the families).

Himlayan sa Kalikasan Memorial Gardens in this capital city of Bulacan at P27-P31,000 worth of cremation and columbarium services including the urn made of marble posted more than P14,000,000 for its 475 sales in 2020 and about P18,000,000 on its 592 sales this year. 

Jen Jacob, secretary of the company said they were thankful not one of them was infected because they knew COVID-19 is real as deaths of this cause and nature come to them one after the other. 

“We have to provide service to them because they are clients. But such huge number of deaths didn’t give us any joy at all. Even so that they were not regular deaths, many of them are young but were only infected of the virus,” she told NEWS CORE.

Other crematorium and columbarium in Bulacan including from Metro Manila and other adjacent provinces, towns and cities from which some of the 4,350 deaths were brought have also earned more than P100 million.

While crematories and columbariums raked money during this pandemic, regular funeral homes on the contrary are left with just meager income. Because no funeral wake is allowed while at the height of the pandemic. Funeral companies only picks up the dead from the hospital morgue and bring them to the memorial gardens for crematorium and or for direct burial.

Marietta Suliva, 62, secretary at St. Matthew Funeral Homes in this capital city of Bulacan said funeral companies like them did not earn at all from the COVID-19 deaths because there were no regular funeral service. Their services were only called for them to pick up the dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to memorial homes for cremation or direct burials.
With these, they were only paid P13,500 for the pick up and P1,500 for the urn. 

In cases of direct burial with no cremation, St. Matthew sells ordinary coffin at P16,000. The bodies were taken out from the hospital, placed inside the coffin and directly brought to the cemetery for burial.

These P13,500 pick up fee and P16,000 pick up and coffin prices for direct burial are far from the previous regular P45,000 to P350,000 funeral services they regularly earn prior to the pandemic.

Suliva is thankful regular wake has now been allowed so that they once again could have good sales.  

Bulacan Provincial Ordinance No. 86-2020 approved on May 21 last year provides P30,000 worth burial assistance to the families of residents who died of the disease. 

But all the 21 municipal and three city governments still have their separate respective burial assistance.

Today, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the province reaches up to more than 4,400 and counting, says Bulacan Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Rowena Joson-Tiongson. But she said the deaths these days have really noticeably slowed down as Bulacan’s active cases further drops to only about 500 compared to 4,700 in August this year.

A staff at Himlayan sa Kalikasan Memorial Gardens in City of Malolos shows off urns made of white colored marble. Photo by Anton Luis Reyes Catindig

The City of San Jose del Monte with the highest number of COVID-19 cases with cases of deaths reaching up to more than 550 today provides free cash and or burial assistance to victims who were mostly directly buried in Barangay Citrus cemetery, says city health officer Dr. Betzaida Banaag.

Guiguinto Mayor Ambrosio Cruz Jr. said they had provided free burial assistance for cremation of their town’s COVID-19 deaths to Manila Memorial Park and an additional cash help of P10-15,000.

In Calumpit town, Mayor Jessie De Jesus provided free burial assistance to COVID-19 deaths and a separate cash support worth P10,00-P20,000. 

Mayor Maritz Ochoa of Pulilan and Mayor Ferdie Estrella of Baliwag provides P10,000 worth burial assistance to their respective COVID-19 deaths.

In Plaridel, Mayor Anastacia Vistan ordered the expansion of the town’s public cemetery which cater for free burial to accommodate the direct burial of COVID-19 deaths.