City of Manila

Death: Chinese style at the Manila Chinese Cemetery

It’s that morbid time of the year once again. And continuing the tradition I started last year, the Urban Roamer is going to take you once again to some creepy place in the metropolis. Creepy and interesting at the same time.

For this adventure, we are back at Manila’s old cemetery complex. While we visited the Catholic cemetery of La Loma the last time, this time we are at a neighboring cemetery known as the Manila Chinese Cemetery.

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The Manila Chinese Cemetery was set up around the 1870’s, just a few years after La Loma as an answer to the need of the Chinese community for a burial place of their own, even if they’re not Catholics. So a portion of La Loma was carved at the southwest quadrant to be the site of that Chinese cemetery that we know of today, also making it the second oldest cemetery in Manila.

Being located in a hilly topography, the Manila Chinese Cemetery’s location has been considered very positively as feng shui that many Chinese adhere to believe that a burial ground located on higher topography significantly improves the energy flow that the Chinese believe is present everywhere and affects the feel of a certain environment.

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The cemetery became a haven of sorts for the Chinese who wish to freely express their traditions and beliefs even in the afterlife, without the restrictions of the organized religion that was the Catholic Church which at the time wielded so much power in the country’s affairs. A glimpse at a rich and unique culture of the Filipino-Chinese community, some aspects of which have disappeared today.

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the one on the left is a furnace where a special paper called “kim” is burned. in a way a kim is kinda same as joss paper, but the kim is burned as more of giving honor to the departed ancestors

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this tomb has a left-facing, Eastern swastika (not the right facing, tilted one associated w/ Nazism) symbolizing luck

But more than a visual spectacle of beliefs and while it is free of use to anyone who can pay the dues to buried here, the Manila Chinese Cemetery also is a showcase of pomp, especially looking at the mausoleums of prominent Chinese-Filipinos. In fact, one particular area in the cemetery is called “Beverly Hills” because of the row of expensive memorial realty located here. Pomp with all the quirkiness you would not expect to find in a cemetery like mausoleums with parking and eating facilities and blaring 24-hour music to name a few. You will also find an interesting mix of East and West as far as architecture is concerned

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one of the landmark mausoleums in the cemetery, the tomb of mami king Ma Mon Luk (thus the crown), with his wife and a concubine buried alongside him

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this particular mausoleum has a garage of sorts…interesting

It is interesting to note that this cemetery catered not only to the Chinese but also to Filipinos, most especially those considered as dissidents by the Spanish colonial government and the Church that deserve no Christian burial, especially in La Loma Cemetery.

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one of the most notable Filipinos once buried here was Apolinario Mabini, one of the advisers of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo. Mabini’s remains were subsequently moved to his hometown in Tanauan, Batangas

The place also serves to remember our history, particularly the people who died during the Second World War with the various memorials found throughout the cemetery grounds.

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memorial to Chinese Consul General Dr. Yang Kuang Sheng who was executed by the Japanese during World War II
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dedicated to the youth killed during the Second World War
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memorial to the Filipino-Chinese guerillas who fought during World War II

Another notable monument is one dedicated to the victims of the August 2, 1968 earthquake, particularly those who died in the collapse of the old Ruby Tower in Manila as a result of that earthquake.

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Like I’ve said before, cemeteries are more than just morbid and scary places but more so, places that serve as landmarks of our ever-changing heritage, some aspects of which would be something we don’t get to see anymore these days. It is good to know we have places like the Manila Chinese Cemetery that will always serve as a quiet safekeeper of a colorful Filipino-Chinese culture for the generation of today and the ones to come.

the Chong Hock Tong Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Manila built in 1878, with Chinese and Catholic iconography standing side by side (courtesy of Lakwatsero)

Thanks as well to Traveler on Foot, Lakwatsero, as well as this site about Chinese funeral customs.

© The Urban Roamer

One Comment

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    admin gabby of Pinoy Nostalgia TV

    according to the book: The Philippines A Century Hence Then & Now:

    this cementery was founded in the mid 1850s by Lim Ong and Tan Quien Sien to accomodate the multitude of Chinese who were not allowed to be buried in Spanish interment sitwes. Interestingly, it is where Apolinario Mabini, the Philippine Revolution’s ‘Sublime Paralytic’ was buried.

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