Manila North Cemetery

CEMENTERIO DEL NORTE. Cemeteries throughout the country become busy and crowded with people visiting their departed love ones especially on the two days that start in November.

Like in all Catholic feasts, the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day were originally of pagan practice. A Roman temple dedicated by the Emperor Augustus was rededicated in the seventh century by Pope Boniface IV to Mary and all the saints to signify the triumph of Christ over pagan gods. Hence, the Pantheon is the origin of the Filipino term for graveyard, which is pantion.

MOUSOLEO DE LOS VETERANOS. The Mousoleo de los Veteranos de la Revoluccion at the Manila North Cemetery is our version of the Roman Pantheon. The domed structure of neo-classical architecture has been dedicated as a final resting place for revolutionary generals and prominent Katipuneros to signify their triumph over the 300 years of Spanish rule.

ART DECO TOMBS. The practice of building highly structured graves can be traced to the ancient Egypt and classical Greece. At the height of the Art Deco movement in the 1930s, Greek and Egyptian inspired tombs and mausoleums were favored themes.

NAKPIL-BAUTISTA. The monument erected in the family plot of the Bautista-Nakpil clan was designed in the prevailing Art Deco by one of the clans foremost member -architect Juan Nakpil. The monument is a vertical shaft enhanced along its edges with statues of Grecian women in sorrowful contemplation.

HISTORIC PLOTS. The Bautista-Nakpil family plot is just one of the many special plots reserved for certain groups. Along North Cemetery’s main artery are special plots for the armed forces, firemen, Masons, Thomasites, and the 20 boy scouts who died in a plane crash on their way to the 11th World Jamboree.

PANCHO VILLA. Important figures in Philippine history were laid to rest in simple and decorated tombs and mausoleums. Included in the long list are Philippine presidents, war veterans, politicians, artists, and even the boxing legend Pancho Villa.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

A TRIP TO THE CEMETERY. A walking tour along the quiet and narrow streets of the Manila Chinese Cemetery is like listening to stories retold by the decorated tombs, elaborate mausoleums, and intricately-carved memorial sculptures.  Aside from being a morbid-curiosity tour that one would usually expect when exploring old graveyards, touring the Manila Chinese Cemetery is also a cultural, historical and an architectural tour.

Being an active burial ground since the Spanish times, the cemetery has been transformed into a city-like landscape with  architectural structures  representing styles from the19th century revivalist to the pre-war art deco movement to modern and contemporary design-themes.

HISTORY IN THE CEMETERY. In addtion to the various architectural styles represented in tombs and  mausoleums, this cultural landmark in Manila also offers history lessons about tragedy and heroism that are remembered in the several monuments and historical markers dedicated to war and calamity victims and heroes.

CHINESE CEMETERY. The Manila Chinese Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in Manila. Historically, it was designated as the graveyard for the Chinese who were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries during the Spanish period.

Together with a much older cemetery, the Campo Santo de La Loma and the largest burial ground in Metro Manila, the Cementerio del Norte, it occupies the northeastern section of the cemetery complex in Paang Bundok or La Loma hill.

SPARED FROM WAR. Maybe it’s superstition (bad omen will come to those who desecrate graves) that kept the Manila Chinese Cemetery intact for centuries. Even during World War II, the cemetery has been spared from the bombings while the rest of Manila was destroyed.

This favorable fate gave the succeeding generations the chance to see authentic architecture from the different periods in history.

MILLONAIRE’S ROW. For touring purposes, areas in the cemetery have been fittingly identified as Little Beverly Hills, Millionaire’s Row, etc. because it’s here where one can purchase the most expensive piece of real estate in the country.

CHONG HOCK TONG TEMPLE. Most guided tours start at the Chong Hock Tong Temple. Established in the 1850s, the impressive structure contains huge Taoist deities in gold leaf.

OLDEST CHINESE TEMPLE. But upon closer look, we noticed images of Catholic saints standing behind the oriental gods -a happy blending of faith in the country’s oldest Chinese temple.

RUBY TOWER MEMORIAL. Along the same road are more monuments and shrines like the Ruby Tower Memorial. The tower-like structure is dedicated to the more than two hundred Filipino-Chinese family members who died when the six-storey Ruby Tower collapsed during the earthquake that hit Manila on August 2, 1968.

MARTYR’S HALL. A few walks from the Chong Hock Tong Temple is the Martyrs’ Hall. The shrine was built in the 1950s to remember the 10 Chinese community leaders who were executed by the Japanese in beginning of World War II.

The Japanese army did several executions in the cemetery ground during World War II. Writer Rafael Roces and Girl Scout organizer Josefa Llanes Escoda where executed in the cemetery grounds.

EPILOGUE. A mausoleum dedicated to Sy Sian Teng who together with his entire family were captured by the Japanese on January 23, 1945. They were never seen alive again.

On February 12, 1945, his friends and house helpers, were massacred by the Japanese army at 161 Balagtas Street, Malate, Manila. Inscribed on a metal sheet by the post are the words let us forgive but never forget lest history repeat itself.

Our Lady of the Pilar Procession in Sta. Cruz Manila

OCTOBER STA. CRUZ FIESTA. When we learned that the 250-year old replica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar will be taken down from her niche to carry on the traditional procession that has been put on hold for several years, we went to Sta. Cruz Manila last Sunday to experience the religious parade.

In the olden days, the feast of the Virgen del Pilar de Manila is one of the three great fiestas held in October. The long festive month began in Intramuros with a novena to the Santo Rosario. As the festivities drew to a close with the Procesion de la Naval de Manila, the novena of the Virgen del Pilar started in Sta. Cruz Church. And as this novena in turn ended, the wealthy creoles of the San Nicolas District and the nouveau riche Chinese of Binondo made the grand finale for the month’s fiesta with their gala procession of the Santo Rosario de Binondo.

REVIVING THE TRADITION. All these happenings were suspended during the onset of the Second World War. But while the pageantry of La Naval procession has been revived at the new Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City and the gala procession of the La Naval continued to gather the faithful in a solemn procession in the reconstructed and expanded Binondo Church a few decades after the war, the grand procession of the Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Manila has been revived this year.

CARROZAS. From the moment we entered the church patio, it was obvious that it was festival day.  The noise from vehicles passing busy Plaza Sta. Cruz was replaced by the flapping of colorful banderitas that canopied the entire church patio.

Carrozas fashioned from wood and hammered silver carrying images of saints already decorated with flowers, lined the square while awaiting the main carroza inside the church.

GLEEFUL PANDEMONIUM. Taken down from her niche at the side altar and standing ready on her carroza was the venerated image of Virgen del Pilar splendidly dressed in a shimmering silver.

After the mass, a gleeful pandemonium began as devotees made encouraging shouts while waving white flags in honor of the Virgin.

VIRGEN DEL PILAR. We asked a devotee who brought with him an old estampita framed in glass and decorated with rhinestones sewn on velvet curtain perhaps to recall those days when the proud women of Sta. Cruz marched with their patroness loaded with diamonds and studded with jewelry from head to foot.

The old print, which we were told was bought in the 60s for one peso tells the story of the apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. James. According to the legend, while the apostle James the Greater was lamenting one night at the Elbro River for his perceived failure in evangelizing Zaragosa, the Blessed Mother appeared to him atop a column or pillar of jasper being carried by angels.

St. James received consolation from Blessed Virgin and promised him that his mission would be fruitful as he had a church erected in her honor on the site. The Blessed Mother left the pillar of jasper on which the original image of the Virgen del Pilar stands today.  A replica of the image was brought over by the Jesuits to the Philippines and became one of the most venerated images of the Blessed Mother in the country.

THE PROCESSION. At 6 in the evening, the procession rolled out to Plaza Sta. Cruz then turned to Plaza Goiti. Each carroza was trailed by a marching band or throngs devotees reciting the rosary.

The scene was like a vintage photograph of a grand procession taken in the 1920s with historic Sta. Cruz Church, the romantic Carriedo Fountain, and the old Monte de Piedad Building in the background.

EPILOGUE. The procession path was cleared of venders and traffic upon reaching Carlos Palanca and Evangelista Streets. Upon turning to Recto Avenue, we proceeded to the nearby LRT Station.

This time, we are above the crowd witnessing from a bird’s eye view a magnificent procession glittering with candle flames straight out from old Manila.

Sta. Cruz Manila

PLAZA STA. CRUZ. Centuries ago English kings and queens had to ask permission from the mayor of London before entering the ancient city. In 18th century Manila, governor-generals left their cavalry escort in Calle Escolta and walked the bridge across the estero to Plaza Sta. Cruz where the principales of Binondo would be waiting to accompany the viceroy of Spain to their wealthy district.

Plaza Sta. Cruz was to serve as neutral ground for a historic event when the British Surrendered the Key of the City of Manila to Don Simon de Anda in 1764.

STA. CRUZ CHURCH. The historic district of Sta. Cruz started as a Jesuit mission where Governor-General Alonso Fajardo founded the Colegio de San Ildefonso, on the site of the present church in the 1720s. From this developed the parish and borough of the Sta. Cruz, which the Jesuits managed until their expulsion in 1768.

Enshrined in the 17th century Sta. Cruz Church is the Nuestra Señora del Pilar whose feast is celebrated every third Sunday of October. In the olden days, the fiesta was the talk of the town for the vanity of its women, of whom it is said that they marched in the festive procession of their patroness covered with jewels from head to foot.

FUENTE DE CARRIEDO. Sta. Cruz Church is surrounded by three open spaces; Plaza Sta. Cruz in front, Plaza Goiti at the rear, and a wide street on the right leading to Calle Escolta. In the 1900s, these areas came to be known as downtown Manila.

The centerpiece of the Plaza Sta. Cruz is the 19th century Carriedo Fountain, which honors the legacy of philanthropist Don Francisco Carriedo y Perredo who left in his will the establishment of the first waterworks system for Manila.

PLAZA GOITI. On Plaza Goiti stood Monte de Piedad, where businessmen were said to hang around its porch to catch the latest news before it broke. It was in same bank where Manuel Quezon worked as a clerk before starting his political career.

Plaza Goiti, was also the city’s transportation network, where the tranvia ferried commuters to old Manila‘s major thoroughfares. Named after Martin de Goiti, the busy plaza was renamed Plaza Lacson in honor of the city’s first elected mayor, Arsenio H. Lacson.

CALLE ESCOLTA. Across the street from the right side of the church is Calle Escolta, the country’s premier shopping destination at that time. It was home to high-end stores like La Estrella del Norte and Puerta del Sol which marked the east and west entrances of the narrow thoroughfare. Fine household items can be purchased at H.E. Heacocks and Oceanic. While Fashionable clothes were displayed at Berg’s, quality leather and shoes were stocked at Hamilton Brown or Walkover Shoes. Botica Boie, mixed potent medicines and served the best soda and clubhouse sandwich in town.

MUELLES. Sta. Cruz was then already noted for its heavy traffic and thriving commerce even during the Spanish period. But the heavy traffic was on the muelles and esteros, where rafts coming from trading ships anchored in Manila Bay and cascoes that rowed from provinces unload their produce and other goods on the Muelles along Pasig River and on drop off points along esteros at Sibakong and at the foot of Escolta bridge.

The esteros that crisscrossed through and around Sta. Cruz were clean and fast-flowing then. This afforded the chief means of transportation, not only around the borough, but also to other districts like Binondo.

EPILOGUE. The major event in the district’s pre-war history was the opening of Avenida Rizal. The demolition of the all the houses that stood between Dulumbayan and Calle Salcedo caused the exodus of the district’s old time residents.

World War II gravely devastated downtown Manila. Several buildings around Plaza Sta. Cruz, along Escolta, and newly opened Avenida Rizal were heavily charred and pockmarked during the Liberation of Manila. The old Sta. Cruz Church was completely destroyed. But the image of the Virgen del Pilar was hidden in the vault of the Philippine National Bank on Escolta during the last months of the war.

– Feast Day of the Virgen del Pilar de Manila

Binondo Heritage Tour

9th CENTURY A.D. As perpetual travelers, unwilling to miss any of the sights, we’ve got used to read up on what is there to see in places we would be visiting including its history. So here is about Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown.

We can trace Binondo’s history to the 9th century, when Chinese traders would sail to Maynilad from Cathay, where their vessels dropped  loads of valuable merchandise like silk and pottery and returned laden with sugarcane, hemp, coconuts, and other local products. But the mass migration of the Chinese to Manila began in the 16th century when the Philippines was already the colonial capital of Spain in Asia.

HIRING SKILLED CHINO. Alarmed with the rapid swell of the Chinese immigrants and the Sinophobia (fear of Chinese) set off by the Limahong invasion and the murder of Governor Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, the Spanish colonial government decided to restrict them to a ghetto.

But why did the Spaniards keep the Chinese in the colony despite of the risks of insurgence? Because they needed the skills and expertise of the Chinese as painters, scribes, tailors, carpenters, masons, smiths, butchers, cooks, printers, and accountants in developing the new colony.

OLD CHINESE QUARTERS. The Chinese ghetto that became known as Parian first took shape on the bank of the Pasig where the Chinese traders did business. This colony was later moved in Intramuros, near the convent of the Dominicans, who had been in-charged of converting the Chinese. The Parian was moved some ten times from the Walled City to Ermita to the island across the Pasig from Intramuros called the Isla de Minondoc.

MINONDOC. On March 28, 1594, the adjoining island of Minondoc was annexed to the village of Baybay or what is now the San Nicholas District. The island’s original owners, Don Antonio Velada and his wife Doña Sebastiana del Valle sold it to Governor General Luis Perez Dasmariñas (son of the slain governor), which he donated to the Christian Chinese community.

This land-grant for a Chinese colony reserved strictly for Chinese Christians was to become the Arrabal of Binondo, which in two centuries would become the richest town in the Philippines.

BINONDO CHURCH. By the 1640s, Binondo boasted of a stone church with 50 large windows and adorned with elaborate tapestries and paintings. This church was destroyed during the British Invasion but was rebuilt in greater splendor as its residents, a mix of native and Chinese mestizaje, grew in wealth. Its annual fiesta on the last Sunday of October in honor of its patroness, the Nuestra Señora del Santo Rosario, was said to rival the grandeur of Intramuros’ La Naval in olden days.

The current Baroque church was rebuilt from World War II-ruins and has been re-dedicated to the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, who served as an altar boy before being martyred at Nagasaki in 1637.

PLACE CALDERON DE LA BARCA. Across Binondo Church is Plaza Calderon de la Barca, which was one of the most impressive open spaces in old Manila. It was named as Plaza de Binondo, then Plaza Carlos IV, before it was named after the Spanish playwright, and later as Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, whose statue dramatically stand on the plaza.

The Chinese called it Hue Heng Khao or at the foot of the garden because the plaza was lined with plants and trees with Baroque fountains at either ends. The Binondo Church, Hotel de Oriente, and La Insular Cigar Factory were the plaza’s principal landmarks before World War II.

ONGPIN. The street at the right side of the church was formerly called Sacristia, after the sacristy entrance of the church. In 1915, it was renamed in honor of businessman and philanthropist Don Roman Ongpin. His bronze monument at the entrance of the street serves as reminder of his patriotic role in Propaganda Movement and the first Filipino to wear a barong tagalog during public occasions.

The kilometer-stretch of Ongpin Street is lined with restaurants, cafes, apothecaries, curio shops, jewelry stores and goldsmith, and religious shrines. One side street shrine is dedicated to the miraculous Sto. Cristo de Longos.

STO. CRISTO DE LONGOS. One of Binondo’s legends revolves around the venerated image of the Santo Cristo de Longos.  The story goes that a deaf-mute Chinese miraculously regained his speech when he accidentally found the blacked image of the crucified Christ at the site of an old well in the barrio of Longos.

The cross was installed at the Church of San Gabriel where it became an object of devotion among the people of Binondo. The image was transferred to Binondo Church where it is enshrined to this day on a glass-covered niche near the side entrance of the church. Another shrine located  in San Nicholas district was built on the site of the old well where the miraculous image of Christ was found.

STREET SHRINE. But there is another shrine of the Sto. Cristo de Longos tucked in one of Ongpin’s side streets where devotees come to make offerings and burn joss sticks in a manner seen mostly in Buddhist temples to a large crucifix covered with leis of sampaguita.

EPILOGUE. This is what we like best in Binondo, the happy blending of East and West.


Published in: on October 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm  Comments (7)  
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