Monday, February 14, 2011

Philippines: Chinese Cemetery (Video)

The Chinese Cemetery in Manila is unlike any other cemetery or burial ground I’ve seen.  Here the wealthiest Chinese citizens are buried with modern conveniences in houses for the dead.  Some of the more ostentatious tombs have furniture, bathrooms, and air conditioning.  Peering through the gates, I spied crystal chandeliers and spiral staircases to second floor balconies.

All of these houses create a sprawling neighborhood – for the deceased.  Typically I find cemeteries to be peaceful places.  However, there was an eerie sensation here.  Because of the design, it felt like a ghost town where everyone had just quickly grabbed their belongings and left.  It was fascinating and as we were told, a must-see in Manila.

(The neighborhood -- a street lined with houses for the dead)

Founded in the 1850’s, the Chinese Cemetery was designed as a place for those who were denied burial in Catholic Cemeteries by the ruling Spanish.  The location is also telling – the cemetery was far outside the city walls.

Each tomb has large pictures of the deceased and you can’t help but wonder about these people.  Who were they and what were their lives like?  The only thing you may be able to figure out is socio-economic class.  While some tombs are lavish and typically gated, others are small, simple, and in disrepair.

(Peering through the gates at the pictures)

(A tomb in disrepair)

Chinese families don’t just visit their loved ones to drop off flowers.  On Sundays and especially on All Saints Day (November 1), the local Chinese come to honor their dead.  That sometimes means having dinner in the tomb and possibly sitting around the table playing mahjong.  An empty chair is left for the departed.

The tombs are fascinating, so I snapped several pictures.  However, since we walked the cemetery without a guide, we may have missed some impressive tombs.  Check out for additional photos and a recommended tour guide.  Otherwise, you’ll have to try your luck with whomever is offering at the cemetery gate, and we didn’t like our options!


Admission: Free

Opening Hours: 7:30am to 7:00pm daily

Location:  Enter through the South Gate on Aurora Avenue, Santa Cruz

Getting There:  You could take a Jeepney Monumento to Aurora Blvd.  The nearest LRT station is Abad Santos.  I just hopped in a metered taxi, the fare from Ermita/Malate was 160php (a few US dollars).

(Tombs reveal many of the deceased were Catholic)

(Access to most tombs is by peering through the gates)

(A monument to Chinese war heroes)

(The details at each tomb are fascinating) 

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