Enfranchising Pandemic Grief: Stories of Local Responses and the Reinvention of Ritual Amid COVID-19 Deaths

  • Noreen H. Sapalo


The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic claimed thousands of lives in the Philippines in 2020. Due to the extended lockdowns, COVID-19 health protocols, and social restrictions, Filipinos were prevented from engaging in prepandemic mourning practices and rituals, leading to the disenfranchisment and compounding of their grief. This paper examines the stories of grief and mourning of Filipinos during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through online storytelling sessions, it presents and chronicles the ways that Filipinos have inventively and bravely adapted to the restrictions and the lack of opportunities to come together and mourn. These include the use of various technologies to come up with modified versions of traditional rituals, and the appropriation of Facebook and its affordances, turning it into a site of mourning, commemoration, and remembrance. These attempts by bereaved Filipinos to reinvent prepandemic mourning practices and develop digital mourning practices on Facebook may be seen as their effort to “enfranchise” their grief amid a highly constricting climate.