Cheerful men and women in black and white danced as the TikTok hit “Savage Love” played. They were marching down a street in Masantol, Pampanga province in the Philippines, not for a street festival, but a funeral.
With one arm pumping and waving in the air and the other holding up a coffin, they brought 29-year-old Diosa Pacia to their final resting place with up-beat tunes in the background.
“Savage Love” was not the only TikTok song on the playlist, which included hits popular on the video platform in the Philippines, like “Aki Aki Yay” by Zhafran Maulana, “Skiri,” remixed by DJ Rowel, and “Binibini” by Zack Tabudlo. They’re a far cry from the ballads and religious songs like “Ave Maria,” “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” (I Will Never Forget You) and “Tanging Yaman” (You Are My Only Treasure) that are typically played in Filipino funerals.
The video of the funeral cortege was uploaded on social media and garnered thousands of views. Reactions were mixed. Some criticized the family for not respecting the dead, while others defended them, saying the festivity was perhaps what the deceased wanted.
The latter, according to Diosa’s family, are correct.
“Diosa told us that if they were to pass, we shouldn’t be sad,” Rosario Pacia, Diosa’s mother, told VICE.
Diosa, whose nickname means “goddess,” worked in catering and massage therapy. They died on March 16 due to complications in their throat, blood, and bladder. In their final days, they lived in their mother’s house, where they were looked after by their siblings and cousins.
Gladys Pacia, Diosa’s cousin-in-law, said it was Diosa’s dying wish that people dance and play happy songs at their funeral. Diosa loved to dance, and although they did not have their own TikTok account, friends happily lent theirs.
Rosario said it was difficult to see her child in pain in their final days, especially since they were always so cheerful. Smiling, the grieving mother recalled how Diosa always danced at street festivals and parades.
The people who attended the funeral understood that the music and dancing were a tribute to Diosa. Other people who witnessed the funeral joined in on the celebration of their life, Gladys said.
Whether or not people understood, however, was not the point. The family said they’re just happy that they honored Diosa’s final wish.
“Diosa would have been happy,” Rosario said. “It’s what they wanted.”
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