The cost of dying

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By Vanneza Clear Estañol, with additional reports from Hannah A. Papasin

We’ve heard of the skyrocketing cost of living: from heath care, to basic services, to food, to basic necessities, to the inevitable taxes.

In fact, the only way some people think would free us from the financial shackles is to die.

But for THAT, you need to save up, too.

Consider this: For ordinary Filipinos, the average cost of dying is about P40,000. Give or take. That is infinitely more than what the average worker earns in a month.

And that’s just for the cost of the casket, the embalming, and the viewing.

If you need a burial lot to lay your loved one to rest, you have to pony up more dough.

The major players

A source within Rolling Hills Memorial Chapels, Rita*, told DNX that their simplest package (read: the lowest cost) is pegged at a low of P25,000 which, as with most basic packages, includes a wooden casket.  The amount also covers embalming, and rental of one non-air-conditioned room for five days.

Façade of Rolling Hills Memorial Chapels, one of the biggest players in the market.  Prices here can range from a low of P25,000 to a high of more than P100,000. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL
Façade of Rolling Hills Memorial Chapels, one of the biggest players in the market.  Prices here can range from a low of P25,000 to a high of more than P100,000. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL

If, however, you feel like spending just a little more, you can also opt for a package of up to P110,000.  Like the P25,000-deal, the offer includes embalming, but with TWO non-airconditioned rooms.  And this time, the casket is made of metal, not wood.

And that is just for the funeral.  The memorial lot costs about P53,000.  This does not include charges for an interment fee with burial vault, grave marker, and reception services for P27,000 (or close to P20,000 for senior citizens).

The company also offers cremation services at P20,000 for senior citizens and P28,000 for regular customers.

Rolling Hills is one of the largest players in the market, along with other names like Alisbo Memorial Chapels, and St. Peter Chapels.

For Alisbo, their funeral services can start as low as P13,000 (wooden painted casket), with services that include embalming, retrieval, and three-day viewing, as well as interment, leaving the option to choose a cemetery to the family.

Their caskets also vary. There’s the half-glass casket at P24,000, and full-glass casket at P28,000.

At one point, they did a specialized offer of P1,000,000 (offer included a solid bronze casket).

Alisbo also offers free services for indigent families or if the dead is under one years old.

St. Peter Chapels is yet another player in the industry, and their prices could be quite competitive. Their simplest package, for instance, cost P36,800, which is their lowest offer. The family can also opt to pay a little bit more – P38,000 – if they prefer a metal casket.

Their services include pick up, embalming, and a tribute in the form of an audio-visual presentation, as well as a four-day viewing in their chapel, or a nine-day viewing at their client’s home.

The highest that they offered so far is a St. John metal casket at P300,000.

OTHER PLAYERS

DNX also gathered data from other funeral parlors, lesser known players in the industry.  The cost of the services would still require a considerable amount of money.

Prices from other players can go for a low of P22,000 to a high of P65,000, with the services varying depending on the price.   

Rolling Hills Memorial Park lot alone costs upwards P53,000.  Additional fees could be incurred, like interment, burial vault, grave marker, and reception services.  PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL
Rolling Hills Memorial Park lot alone costs upwards P53,000.  Additional fees could be incurred, like interment, burial vault, grave marker, and reception services.  PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL

Memorial lots, meanwhile, are an entirely separate cost. 

Research by DNX shows that a standard memorial lot of three square meters could go as low P41,040 or, if you opt for a premium offer of six lots, a high of P321,000.

If money is not a problem, then you can opt for a mausoleum for your dearly departed (a low of close to P.5 million to a high of P1.3 million. (For complete list of prices, see our infographics on our Facebook page).

The price of mourning

Encountering death in the family is more than just an emotional blow; it could be a bane in the pockets, too, if one is not prepared.

This was experienced first-hand by Rizza*, whose father passed away recently, leaving her and sister Jenny with more than a handful of tasks in preparing for the funeral and eventual interment.

One of the major players is Alisbo Memorial Chapels. Alisbo, unlike other players, offers only funeral services (including embalming, and viewing) with a choice of wooden or glass caskets. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA  CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL
One of the major players is Alisbo Memorial Chapels. Alisbo, unlike other players, offers only funeral services (including embalming, and viewing) with a choice of wooden or glass caskets. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL

What she opted, she reveals, is the “simplest” package, which is P40,000.  This includes a casket, embalming services, and the use of the parlor for viewing.

“That’s the most basic casket,” Rizza reveals, as some other offers could be as high as P100,000. 

She also opted to have the interment from a different company, so she had to shell out upwards of P70,000 for the lot plus other services, like the rental for the chapel as well as the memorial service.

All in all, for the cost of the funeral and interment alone, she had to shell out more than P100,000. 

This does not include other collateral expenses, like catering.

“If you have 100 guests, you have to feed all of them,” she says.  Add that to the hospital bills she had to settle – father was pronounced dead-on-arrival, another complication – and bills just kept mounting.

“It pays to be really prepared,” she says, as she advises others to do what she did: Get a memorial plan.

Be like the Boy Scout

Karen* sells memorial plans as a side business.  She is not, as she calls it, a full-time agent and instead merely approaches friends and acquaintances who are interested to invest in a funeral plan.

She started five years ago, she says, and back then, the monthly payment for the memorial plan for the company she is connected with was only P550 a month multiplied by 60 payments.

Acropolis Garden is one of the players in the industry.  Pictured here is their memorial hall, which they offer as part of their package for viewing. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL
Acropolis Garden is one of the players in the industry.  Pictured here is their memorial hall, which they offer as part of their package for viewing. | PHOTO BY VANNEZA CLEAR S. ESTAÑOL

The same plan, she says, has already recently increased to P900 a month.

The plan includes “services”, Karen says, which means a casket, and parlor rental for viewing for four days.

There is, she also observes, a growing interest in memorial plans.

“It is really very beneficial,” Karen says of the advantages of being prepared, as she notes how she is approached by friends for inquiries about the services her company offers.

This is not surprising, as people are apparently more conscious now about the budget, especially in preparing for the inevitable.

With the high cost of everything, it pays to have something set aside for the rainy day.

“Having a plan cuts costs,” Karen says, “and I think these days, that is what’s important.”

Note: All names have been changed as requested for security and privacy purposes.

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