Quantcast
Latest Stories

Embalming will never be a ‘dead-end’ job for May

By

“IT’S HARDER to talk to the living,” says 28-year-old Cardenas (left) in jest on why she left a well-paying job in a call center to work instead in the death care industry. “There are a few crazy folks like us.” PHOTOS BY NIÑA CALLEJA

She treats her eight-hour job both as a science and an art—but one with an unforgiving “deadline.”

On a typical workday, May Cardenas, a 28-year-old biology graduate of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, dons a head cap, a lab gown, a face mask, gloves and goggles— all to give the best care the dead deserves.

Cardenas may be a fun-loving friend to her peers and a stylish dresser off-duty, but she can be dead serious about her job as an embalmer. Aside from smashing the horror-movie stereotypes of funeral workers being of the silent, eerie type, she has resolutely broken into the male-dominated trade.

“There are a few crazy folks like us,” Cardenas said in jest in an Inquirer interview at City Funeral, a local government-run funeral home near the public cemetery in Mandaluyong City.

She has been an embalmer for three years, the last year spent at City Funeral. She is also a part-time lecturer in an embalming training class in Makati City.

She noted that women are still a rarity in the job and that most of the females in her class are either owners of funeral parlors or those who just want to learn the business side and would leave the actual embalming to other workers.

The job had simply fascinated her since her teenage years, she said. “Back in high school, when you are asked what you want to be when you grow up, I had wanted to put in the yearbook that I want to be an embalmer. But it looked ludicrous so instead I wrote that I wanted to be a doctor.”

“Everyone wanted be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a nurse. But I wanted to do something else,” said Cardenas, whose siblings included an engineer, a veterinarian and an agriculturist. Nobody in the family had worked in funeral homes before.

At first, she only hinted at this dream in her conversations with her parents, who thought she really wanted to be a physician and advised her to take biology for her pre-med studies. She gave the course a try and actually “enjoyed it” for the lab work.

It was after graduation that she faced a tough decision— whether or not to pursue medicine. She did well in the National Medical Admission Test and later began looking for the school where she can enroll.

May Cardenas at work

“But I just couldn’t do it,” she recalled.

“Mas mahirap kausapin ang buhay (It’s harder to talk to the living),” she joked, when asked what could be the deeper reason for her career choice. “There’s a curiosity factor. I am curious more than I am afraid.”

This curiosity may have been sparked by a childhood memory. One summer day, she recalled, she and her siblings were roaming in the local cemetery on their bicycles in their father’s hometown in Davao when they saw a group of men transferring bones from the tombs.

“After that, we kept coming back to that cemetery to play with the remaining bones,” she said.

Still, Cardenas had to wait for six years after graduation before getting her dream job. She first found work in a call center.

“But then (pun apparently intended) it was a dead-end job for me,” she said. “Yes, I was well-paid. But I also needed to grow.”

A window finally opened in 2010. A day before the wedding of a college friend who owned funeral parlors in Albay province, she asked permission to observe how the dead is embalmed. The next day, on the wedding day itself, she was already sure of her decision.

Her parents gave her a vehement “No” when she told them about it, and suggested that she pursue further studies instead if she wished.

“But at that time, I was no longer asking their permission. I already had the money to pay for the review class for my embalming licensure exam,” she said.

“They eventually realized that I would be at peace in this line of work, that I would no longer whine or go on shopping sprees when depressed,” she said.

As a show of support, her mother even paid for her review classes.

After finishing a three-month review course in Cebu City and passing the licensure exam at the Department of Health in Manila, she got hired as an embalmer at La Funeraria Paz in Quezon City.

Is she still afraid of corpses suddenly coming alive at the funeral lab? Next question, please. She said she’s actually more scared of cockroaches and rats. And don’t talk to her about horror films and novels, for she’s never been a big fan.

An embalmer in Metro Manila gets a minimum pay of P400 per day, “not enough to feed a family,” she said. But despite the meager wage, she had never thought of leaving the job.

She even plans to take further studies on death care abroad. “I don’t want to be an embalmer forever, of course. I’d also want to learn how to mix chemicals and make other materials (for the dead),” she said.

Earlier this year, Cardenas wrote an essay that appeared in the Inquirer Youngblood column, where she explained that embalming is an important and “honest” profession for “it is the final service done for a departed loved one.”


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: embalmer , Employment , Jobs , May Cardenas , People , Philippines




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  2. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Massive infra spending set
  6. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  7. South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  8. Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  9. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  7. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  8. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  9. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  5. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  6. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  7. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  8. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  9. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  10. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
Advertisement

News

  • Captain not at helm of capsized Korean ferry–probers
  • 4.9 quake jolts Batanes on Maundy Thursday
  • Presidents, celebrities mourn writer Garcia Marquez
  • MH370 search to be most costly ever at $100 million — analysts
  • Iraqi guilty of beating wife to death in US
  • Sports

  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • LeBron still No. 1 with NBA’s most popular jersey
  • Pacquiao back in PH, heads home to wife, kids
  • Lifestyle

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Entertainment

  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement