Exploring La Loma and Manila North Cemeteries: My Morbid Fantasies Realized

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cemeteries, or the idea of touring one, may not always be appealing to a lot of people since nobody wants to be surrounded by death and decay.

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Cemeteries, or the idea of touring one, may not always be appealing to a lot of people. After all, who wants to be walking in the midst of the dead and surrounded by the stench of decay? I guess not a lot of folks would answer in the affirmative. 

A cross on top of a tomb at La Loma Cemetery
Somewhere inside La Loma Cemetery

Exploring La Loma and Manila North Cemeteries: My Morbid Fantasies Realized



    Morbid Fantasies: My Personal Take on Exploring Cemeteries


    As for me though, cemeteries have always held a certain allure or even charm. Yes, it's weird but if you look beyond the fact that it's a story of death everywhere you look, you will notice that there is some sense of order in cemeteries. As a bonus, you might stumble upon a piece of art as you move your way around in a graveyard.

    Another fact why I probably like cemeteries is because of the general peace and quiet of the surroundings within its confines. But above all, I honestly like the eerie ambiance of graveyards because it makes the trip more adventurous. As such, I coerced a friend a made a plan to explore La Loma Cemetery and Manila North Cemetery one weekend. Finally, I would be able to realize my morbid fantasies.

    La Loma Cemetery


    The La Loma Cemetery, also known as the Campo Santo de La Loma, came into existence in the late 1800s and is the oldest cemetery in Manila.

    A statue of a saint inside La Loma Cemetery
    A statue on top of a tomb

    It was not actually in our initial plan to explore La Loma Cemetery. However, when my friend's older sister heard of our plan to explore Manila North Cemetery, she volunteered to accompany us to La Loma Cemetery. According to her, the tombs are much more beautiful in La Loma Cemetery as compared to the ones in Manila North Cemetery. There are also interesting sections, i.e. Chinese and Buddhist, of the La Loma Cemetery that we might like to see.

    A statue of a weeping angel in La Loma Cemetery
    A statue of a weeping angel on top of a tomb

    All plans set, we drove all the way to La Loma Cemetery, entered the iron gate, and followed the main roads. The tombs in this part, the outer section, of the cemetery all looked knew. However, we were told y our "guide" that the older niches are located deep inside the property.

    We drove through the main road, all the way to the center of La Loma Cemetery, until we saw the Chapel of St. Pancratius. At this point, we decided to park nearby and begin our tour of the cemetery.

    Roof of the Chapel of St. Pancratius inside La Loma Cemetery
    Roof of the Chapel of St. Pancratius

    The Chapel of St. Pancratius is the old mortuary chapel of La Loma Cemetery which has long been closed to the public. The building looked creepy, with otherworldly creatures seemingly ready to leap out of its windows and roof.

    After getting our things ready, we began to walk past a few mausoleums and tombs, which undeniably looked opulent and grand -- the final resting place of the moneyed, we said. It was like walking through an art gallery of stone sculptures. Some niches looked so old though that they seemed like they were ready to disintegrate with the slight gust of wind. Generally though, the tombs looked well-maintained and sturdy.

    A tree inside La Loma Cemetery
    A tree

    It was just the three of us walking through narrow spaces so that weird feeling that we were being watched never left us. It also did not help that the haunted-looking Chapel of St. Pancratius was just nearby.

    As we made our way around, we observed the absence of families living amongst the dead. We do not know if that holds true in other sections of the cemetery but on this part, there were no families living in mausoleums.

    After about 30 minutes of walking around, a roving guard appeared and told us that, per the cemetery's administration, we were not allowed to take photos inside. We begged the guard to allow us to take a few more photos but he was firm in declining our request. Since we were not carrying a permit (and we had no relatives buried here), we had no way of contesting the guard's claim. We conceded and, soon afterwards, we left the property and headed towards Manila North Cemetery.

    MAP OF LA LOMA CEMETERY

    Manila North Cemetery


    Opened in the 1900s, Manila North Cemetery is also one of the oldest cemeteries in Manila and was originally part of the La Loma Cemetery. This is a public, non-gated cemetery, hence, expect communities to be living within its property.

    An old lady inside Manila North Cemetery
    A resident of Manila North Cemetery

    Upon entering Manila North Cemetery, you would feel the stark contrast with La Loma Cemetery. It did not feel creepy at all; there were people leisurely walking on the streets and children playing games. It was more like a park than a graveyard. In fact, the roads are wide and there seemed to be a lot of open spaces.

    Masonic mausoleum and plot in Manila North Cemetery
    Masonic Graveyard

    It was already getting dark by the time we got inside so we decided to explore the cemetery by car. My friend's sister, still acting as our guide, showed us the interesting sections of the cemetery as well as the tombs of the famous personalities interred here.

    Some of the interesting group plots and tombs we saw inside Manila North Cemetery are the following:

    1. Masonic Graveyard
    2. Military Personnel plot
    3. Poe Family Mausoleum
    4. Thomasites plot
    5. Sergio Osmena's tomb (former president of the Philippines)

    Military personnel graveyard plot at Manila North Cemetery
    Military personnel group plot

    We would have wanted to go around some more but it was already dark and we could not see the surroundings very well.

    MAP OF MANILA NORTH CEMETERY

    What to keep in mind when exploring a cemetery


    Here are some of the things to keep in mind when exploring cemeteries. Though they are graveyards, treat them as the resting place of people that should be accorded with utmost respect.

    1. Always be respectful to the people interred here.
    2. Never step on tombstones.
    3. If you see an open tomb, do not disturb the remains inside.
    4. Never vandalize tombs
    5. Do not be boisterous; keep your tone of voice within normal level
    6. Wear comfortable clothes and protective footwear
    7. Put on insect repellant
    8. Ask for a permit, if applicable
    9. Do not take anything with you except photos
    10. Be respectful of the families living in mausoleums
    11. Bring a first aid kit with you and a bottle of water

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    10 comments

    1. The final destination for many, I'm not sure it has the same pull for me.

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    2. Yeah. It is the place where we end up eventually but I don't really like to hang in there. It's been very long when I last went to a cemetery. It was when my grandfather died.

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    3. It is definitely not weird. Despite having a huge fear of death I used to find cemeteries fascinating as a kid and one of my pastimes was reading all the inscriptions.

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    4. I prefer cemetery than hospital actually. Cemetery has a lot of great corners to capture. :)

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    5. I don't have quite the same fascination as you but these are excellent shots.

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    6. I'm not into places like that but great shots! I like the dark atmosphere these photos have

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    7. Well, at least you tried to gain entry for better photos. But, the ones you captured tell a story all of their own, including a sense of peace. Thanks for sharing some morbid fantasies. Great photos and post.

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    8. Morbid fantasies sound interesting! I like the expression of the woman in the second picture. Would loved if you could have told a little bit about your experience of framing her! :)

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    9. Thank you for the kind words!

      ReplyDelete

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