Mumbai: Sapling as remembrance for family, body of 68-year-old Philippines national buried

“We requested Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials who did the burial to plant a sapling. It may be some closure, some remembrance for the family as their loved one is buried so far away,” said a member of the Muslim community who assisted authorities with the burial.




After the burial of the 68-year old Philippines national, who passed away Monday, one of the people present at the burial ground in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai took a photograph of a sapling planted above his final resting place to send it to his family back home.

“We requested Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials who did the burial to plant a sapling. It may be some closure, some remembrance for the family as their loved one is buried so far away,” said a member of the Muslim community who assisted authorities with the burial.

The 68-year old was on a 40-day trip to India along with eight others as part of a preaching group. While he tested positive for the virus on March 13 and remained critical for a week, two subsequent nasopharyngeal swabs were negative.

A day before his death, he was shifted to a private hospital where he died due to renal failure and acute respiratory distress. A medical certificate issued by the BMC about the cause of death stated the immediate cause of death was ‘COVID-19 infection’. An expert committee is yet to decide if he died of complications from the viral infection.

None of his family members or fellow group members who returned to the Philippines could be present for the burial. On Monday, authorities coordinated with officials from the Philippines embassy as well as a group of men from the community who came forward to assist with final rites.

Around 4 am on Tuesday, the body, completely wrapped in a white cloth, placed on a stretcher covered with a green film, was placed by three hospital staffers in the civic body’s hearse van. Three BMC staffers with protective gear, faces covered with masks and cloth, gloves in hand, performed the burial at the cemetery where unclaimed bodies are usually buried.

The members from the community accompanying the BMC staffers recited the final prayers spoken for the dead. The authorities in charge of the cemetery had already dug a grave for the burial but were not present at the time due to Ministry of Health guidelines, which advise against a gathering at the burial ground.

The body was lowered into the grave with a rope with staffers not touching the body in any manner, following which the grave was covered with earth.

This was the first death in the city where a person affected by the virus was buried. In the previous two incidents, the BMC officials had conducted a cremation, as per the same protocols, only allowing family members to witness the formalities from a distance. On Tuesday, the wife of the man, who lives in Pasay City, Philippines, had given a special Power of Attorney to a local contact to perform the rites.

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