MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 May) — Here’s one for the books. An Agence France Press report posted in on Wednesday (May 28) said that “six elderly people in China are said to have committed suicide to ensure they died before new regulations banning coffin burials come into force.”

AFP attributed the tragic news to China’s “tradition dating back thousands of years of ancestor worship, which usually requires families to bury their relatives and construct a tomb.”

Many local governments in China have begun demolishing tombs, seizing or destroying coffins, and flattening graves to encourage cremation to save more lands for economic uses. The ban on coffins – and in effect, graveyards – takes effect June 1. Government officials, however, refused to admit that the suicides were linked to the ban on coffins.

That the Chinese government has imposed such ban even if it goes against a cherished tradition only shows that China is indeed moving heaven and, literally, earth to become the world’s number one economic power. Recently, in fact, it has closed a 30-year $400 billion gas supply agreement with erstwhile rival Russia in what analysts say could create gas shortages in Europe within the next few years.

What is of more interest to me though is if a similar policy CAN be imposed in the Philippines without inviting a revolt. For sure, that would be unacceptable to the Muslims and Lumads who treat the burial grounds of their ancestors as sacred areas. Some Christians, on the other hand, are beginning to see cremation as a practical option, although a vast majority would still prefer a place for the dead which they can visit from time to time.

Nonetheless, this early, authorities should consider questions like “will we have enough lands for cemeteries if most Filipinos continue to reject cremation as an alternative?” More and more spaces are being converted into memorial parks, along with subdivisions and commercial centers. Time will come that these areas will compete with the need for lands for agriculture and other economic activities.

Admittedly, it would take a lot of convincing to make Filipinos accept cremation as an alternative to the traditional way of burying the dead. To many, the thought alone of burning a loved one’s corpse sounds like disrespect. Perhaps, crematoriums can attract “clients” by offering an Arthurian burial, i.e., shot a flaming arrow into a raft carrying the dead toward the Avalon.

Just kidding, of course. We’re not in Camelot. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])