Monday, November 26, 2012

A Peek Inside Manila's Chinese Cemetery

MANILA, Philippines  To most Chinese-Filipinos in Manila, the Chinese cemetery is probably one of those must-go-to places just because departed relatives are there.

Ours included.

Since we visit the Chinese cemetery every year for our All Souls' Day gathering, it's a place that I don't pay much attention to anymore. But even if it seems like I know the place, it turns out that I don't know much about itkinda like an acquaintance.

The South Gate is the main entrance to the Chinese Cemetery.

Quick facts (after a bit of reading):
  1. It's Manila's second largest cemetery after La Loma.
  2. Established from discrimination. It's not because the Chinese wanted to be exclusive. They were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries during the Spanish colonial period. 
  3. Manila's oldest Chinese temple is here. 
  4. It's mentioned in Rizal's Noli Mi Tángere. Fr. Damaso instructed that Don Rafael's corpse be moved to the Chinese cemetery since heretics didn't deserve to be in a Catholic cemetery. 
  5. Notable people buried here: Ma Mon Luk (Chinese-Filipino chef), Vicente Lim (former general during WWII), Apolinario Mabini (Philippines' first prime minister) before his remains were transferred to Batangas, among others.
Who knew?! 

The main road. Long stretch of tombs on the left and mausoleums on the right.

Crematorium. I have sad memories here.
Oldest Chinese temple in Manila.
The Chong Hok temple was built in 1878.

The cemetery is generally clean and quiet. The place boasts of interesting mausoleums with varied architecture. Too bad I don't know where all of these are. It's also unimaginable that around 50 years ago, this was home to a thousand informal settlers.

To try and get to know more about the place, I wandered around our mausoleum's surroundings. Our area is where people who passed away during the 1930's were laid to rest. This is near the Abad Santos LRT station:

My paternal family's mausoleum is along a really narrow walkway.
We usually light candles and incense sticks as tradition. 

Take a peek inside! There's a big seating area!

For some reason, this is my favorite because it has beautiful tiles. Probably hand-painted.

Probably the oldest mausoleum in the Chinese cemetery.

Probably the most modern mausoleum in the Chinese cemetery.

Did you know that tours are offered here? I came across Jun Salvador near the crematory who offered to give me a one-hour walking tour for Php 600. For a group of ten, it's Php 200/pax.

Personally, you may want to tour with Ivan Man Dy instead.

Jun Salvador offers a one-hour walking tours around the Chinese cemetery. (+63918-3652748)

Where the Chinese cemetery is. 

Like acquaintances, there's still so much to learn and discover. Next year, perhaps I'll try exploring the other side of the cemetery.

Who wants to join me?

For more pictures, click here!


  1. Henson, I enjoyed your post. My husband's great-grandfather was the founder of the cemetery, so when we moved to Manila in 1971, visiting the cemetery was one of our first weekend outings.

    1. Hi Nicki!
      Super interesting!!! And weekend outings in the cemetery? How awesome is that! Hehe!

  2. Hi i visited today and used Jun. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Apologies for the late reply. Glad your tour went well! :)

  3. Hello Henson, Nice post. My mother grew up in Manila (she was born in 1923), and unfortunately was orphaned by the time she was 10. She always told us that she and her older brothers would go into the cemetery and eat the food that the Chinese left on Sundays. She passed away in 1985, but we always wondered if it true. Do you think it's plausible? Did the Chinese leave food on ledges of the mausoleums after visiting? Thanks! Philip

    1. Hello Philip,

      Apologies for the extra extra late reply.

      Yes, up until now, some of the Chinese would display food as offering for the departed and would sometimes just leave it there. I wouldn't be surprised if other people ate it (especially if hungry).


  4. Hi Anonymous.

    Yes. It is called "Atang" or offering for the dead and for the "earth god"

  5. Natako pa kami noong una mag-ikot baka bawal, iyon pala puwede naman pala. Sayang historical pa naman itong place na ito. Pag may chance, i-explore ko ulit ito. Thanks sa info!

    1. Hello Hoshi! Pwede naman mag-ikot. Nakakatakot nga nang slight umikot--lalo pag mag-isa. Have fun! :)

  6. Jan nakalibing ang lolo at lola ko. Ang dami tao jan pag nov. 1, 15-30 mins. bago kami makapasok sa loob. Pero pag nasa loob na, maluwag na kase malawak ang mga daan. Bago kami umuwi, nag-iikot pa muna kami sa loob kase gustung-gusto namin tinitingnan ang mga magagandang musoleo. Yung iba parang bahay na kase may mga rooms at aircon. Makikita mo sa klase ng libingan nila kung sila ay mayaman or ordinary chinese. Pero sa ngayun matagal na ako hindi nakakadalaw sa punto ng lolo at lola ko. Matagal nang walang dumadalaw dun. Hindi ko alam kung andun pa ang puntod nya.

    1. Hi Jinx, Sana andun pa ang mga puntod ng lolo at lola mo. Sayang naman kung wala na doon. And yes, ang dami talagang tao kapag Nov 1 mismo. That's why we go either a week before or after. Hehe!