Paco Park was a previous cemetery for illustrious citizen of old Manila. Located in the town of San Fernando de Dilao (presently known as Paco), the cemetery was built in 1807 and was later enlarge to intern victims of a cholera epidemic that swept Manila during that period. No burial have taken place in this cemetery since 1912. In 1966, the cemetery was renovated and turned into a national park.
Today, Paco Park is a popular venue for weddings and a weekly evening concert called Paco Park Presents.
A Circular Cemetery
The cemetery has a circular plan, with an inner concentric wall which was the original cemetery. The walls used to have five tiers of wall niches. Only three layers are visible today. The floor was raised because of flooding. The niches on inner wall are reserved as the exclusive burial place of the prominent Spaniards of that time.
On the sides of the chapel are stairs leading to an open terrace lined with stone balustrades (Some portions of terrace’s stone balustrades are gone).
The Mystery of the Missing Grave
Located at the outer circle is a landmark that indicates the burial place of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal after his execution in Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896.
Unusual is how the initials of Jose P. Rizal are inscribed in reverse (RPJ) on the cross. According to story, the day before he was put to death, the family of Rizal prevailed upon Spanish authorities to turn over his corpse to them later the next day. The pleas were met with refusal after refusal because the authorities feared the burial site would be used a symbol of martyrdom.
Finally, toward evening, the civil governor of Manila, Manuel Luego, took pity on Rizal’s mother and gave her permission to take the body after the execution. Rizal’s sister Narcisa, made arrangements for a coffin and transportation.
Once notified that the execution was over, the family proceeded to the execution site, but the remains of Jose had already been removed. Narcisa, searched in vain for the body of his brother in all the cemeteries in Manila. Passing through Paco Cemetery in the afternoon, she came upon some civil guards and correctly surmised that their presence indicated that her brother had been buried there. She searched all over Paco Cemetery until she found a grave with freshly turned earth. She bribed the gravedigger to place a plaque with Rizal initials in reveres –R.P.J. to mark the site.
Visiting a cemetery reminds us of immortality. A stroll at Luneta Park while remembering Rizal’s legacy makes him immortal. A walk in Paco Park while admiring its classical architecture and design makes its charm and beauty immortal.