Touring Manila’s Cemeteries

While everyone went out of town for Lent, I opted to stay in Manila for Holy Week. Unlike most, I don’t have Thursday and Friday off, so I really had to stay in the city to work. Besides, the usual places will be full of people, so I thought it’s better to stay in Manila and just go out of town on another weekend.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

I didn’t really have plans how I’m going to spend my afternoons, considering I still have work. I was antsy to go out and explore the city though, specially since there would be no traffic. I went out with friends in Quezon City on Thursday, and blogger friends in Manila Bay on Friday. Saturday found me at the Chinese Cemetery with Couch Surfers.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

Lucas, a traveler from Vienna is visiting the Philippines for the third time. He usually explore the different parts of the country, but this time, he thought to ask Manila-based couch surfers if they would like to join him in exploring the Chinese Cemetery. I’ve nothing planned for Saturday, and I haven’t been inside the cemetery before, so I thought this is my chance to finally do this tour.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

Eric, who’s been to the cemetery before said that it’s best to go there with a guide because if you’re doing it on your own, you wouldn’t find the interesting mausoleums. We hired a guide, Mang Rodolfo (contact number 0929-4374620). For a one-hour tour, he charged us Php 500. Since there were five of us, that comes out to only Php 100 per person.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

The great thing about having a guide is that not only you get to see the interesting mausoleums, you also get an explanation of the layout of the cemetery, the intricate designs, and the traditions and superstitions of the Chinese. We found ourselves amazed at how glitzy some of the mausoleums were, and we were taking pictures like there’s no tomorrow. Mang Rodolfo has been touring people for a long time inside the cemetery, so he knows most of the caretakers inside. Thanks to him, we were able to go inside some of the mausoleums, including the 3-storey mausoleum of Regal Film’s Mother Lily Monteverde’s family. This was certainly the tallest in the cemetery, and from the top floor, you get a sweeping view of the entire cemetery, and you can even see Eastwood, Quezon City, Ortigas, Makati, Malate, Caloocan and even the hills of Bulacan in the distance.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

After the tour, we headed to Jollibee for some airconditioning and a Chicken Joy lunch. Refreshed and energized, we rode a trike to the North Cemetery. The tricycle drivers are very familiar with the place already and took us directly to one of North Cemetery’s famous resident: Fernando Poe, Jr. Actually his tomb says Ronald Allan Kelley Poe. Right beside his family’s plot, we were surprised to see this pseudo mausoleum that looks like a house and even have a sari-sari store!

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Manila North Cemetery

Whereas the Chinese Cemetery was almost deserted save for the caretakers, the North Cemetery looks like a small barangay. There were plenty of people around, playing cards or bingo, sleeping in hammocks or atop tombs, kids playing on the streets.

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Manila North Cemetery

There were several interesting mausoleums and tombs in the North Cemetery as well. There are the tombs of former Philippine presidents like Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay. There’s this mausoleum shaped like a pyramid, complete with sphinxes at the front.

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Manila North Cemetery

While we were walking around taking photos of the people living in the cemetery, the head of the cemetery admin arrived and told us that we were forbidden to take photos. Tricycles suddenly arrived to take us to the main entrance, where we had to wait for the head. Then it got interesting. Some of the people hanging out at the office said we weren’t supposed to take photos because we might use it in a way to shed a bad light on the Philippines. Uh, what? However, when the head came back, he told us that if we want to take photos, we have to go to the city hall to get permission from the Mayor’s office. We assured them that we were only tourists and the photos will just be for personal use. With that, he said that it’s okay and let us go and even hailed a jeep to take us to Sta. Cruz.

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Manila North Cemetery

The chief advised us that next time we’re going back to the North Cemetery, we should register at the office and tell them of our intentions so he can have a guard escort us around the cemetery. We didn’t bother asking if we would still be allowed to take photos with the guard in tow, but this is just a precaution as there have been cases of robbery within the cemetery, even in the mausoleums, that’s why they were very concern about us going around with our cameras on our own.

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Manila North Cemetery

Both the Chinese Cemetery and North Cemetery are huge and definitely a place I can see myself visiting again. If you’re doing a similar tour, I suggest you wear comfortable shoes and clothes, a hat or umbrella, sunglasses, sunblock and water. There’s a sari sari store called Jolly Bina inside the Chinese cemetery selling cold drinks and some snaks. If you’re taking a tour with Mang Rodolfo, he’d surely bring you there.

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 17 Comments
  1. bchai says:

    Those are some intriguing pics—I’m definitely heading to the cemetery the next time I head to the Philippines. Good thing you and your friends were warned about the picture-taking thing: it’d be a nightmare to get robbed.

    Nevermind the night-ghost-hunting thing I mentioned, it’d probably be best to do that with a sponsored tour group instead of individually. Now that you mentioned it, I’d definitely look into some night tours, especially on holidays there. They say that the spirits are fond of coming out when there are celebrations going on. ;)

    I’m still laughing over the sari-sari store…

  2. nina says:

    I don’t think we have night tours here :( I’ve seen some of those tours advertised in Sydney, but there’s none that I know of there in Manila, specially since most of the places here are closed once the sun sets.

  3. Jasper Jugan says:

    chinese and north cemetery has some good architectures worth seeing!

  4. GeoRge says:

    I’ve never been to any cemetery in Manila yet. I’m intrigued by some of the designs like the pyramid one. I also stayed in Manila during the Holy Week since I didn’t feel like squeezing myself into crowded beach resorts. At the very least, we were able to enjoy the peacefulness of Manila.

  5. eric says:

    wow ang dami ko pang hindi napuputahang mausoleum! like that ube colored tomb di ko pa nakita yan an.. tara balik tayo!

  6. nina says:

    The last five photos were taken at the North Cemetery :)

  7. Ivan Man Dy says:

    In terms of tourist infrastructure, I say the Chinese Cemetery is was better than the Norte, for one, the streets are better organized (cleaner) is better laid out. Also it is more historic (about 30 years older than Norte) and is probably as close as you can get to a famous ‘tourist’ cemetery as Arlington is to Washington, Pere Lachaise is to Paris or La Recoleta in Buenos Aires.

    Btw, the Montervede mausoleum is not the tallest of the biggest in the lot (its only two stories) there are much taller and grander mausoleums in the older section. And if youre an Art-Deco architecture groupie like me, you’ll seriously love this place to death!

  8. bleue says:

    great pics and entry nina! chinese and north cemetery indeed have striking architectures! and i hope the city government do more to improve especially the north cemetery (please relocate the illegal settlers! :D)

    kudos! i actually live four blocks from the cemetery and only go there during all saints day!

  9. ajay says:

    Ang ganda ng pics. I do take cemeteries for granted. Now, I will not look at them in the same way again….. :)

  10. […] is one of the Couchsurfers I met at the walking tour of the Chinese and La Loma Cemetery. That time, we had been talking about our plans on visiting Cambodia and Thailand. Luckily, he read […]

  11. Rommel says:

    sana mailagay lahat ng mga famous tomb pictures dito dyan sa Manila North Cemetery. ang gaganda lahat. madals kong puntahan at tanawin yan…

  12. […] the Manila North Cemetery. After getting reprimanded for taking pictures without getting a permit last time, I was eager to have not just a reason to go back, but to take photos as well. We were there for […]

  13. Brooklyn Christina says:

    Hi Nina. I stumbled on this old post because of your new one you just posted. This is really instructive…

    I had a really uncomfortable situation when I went to this cemetary with a friend last summer. We didn’t have a guide, we just wanted to walk around and photograph some of the architecture of the tombs. The guards were hostile to us taking pictures and talked about us on their walkie-talkies. Then we got a very strange vibe from some of the cemetary dwellers, just glaring at us as we walked around. I’m glad to have read this and to understand a little more of how we could have done it differently. Sounds like it’s just unsafe to be walking around alone there, potential muggings/gangs.

    • nina says:

      Christina! Omg, long time no hear! :D

      Yeah, we felt the same way when we were there. Looking back at it now, they do have a point. A lot of people live within the cemetery compound and it’s a huge place.. you can easily get lost inside.

  14. raquel says:

    Ay,,sarap balikan yang alaala na yan ng manila north cemetery..MAS lalong gumanda sila lalo coz of their colors,,But mas feel na feel ko pa din ang dating kulay nila kasi naaalala ko yan kung san dyan mismo ako naglalaro nung bata pa..Batang norte kasi ako nuon na kung san isa sa mga caretaker ang aking pamilya dyan,,Mas maganda nuong araw bukod sa malawak pa sila.tahimik at di masyado madami tao ang nakatira at feel na feel mo ang pagdalaw sa mga nawalang pamilya muna,Ngayun napkarami ng tao sa loob at super sikip na talaga..Ang maganda nanduon pa din ang mga museleo na dati kung pinapasyalan at pinag lalaruan ko ng bata pa ako.merun libingan na barko na pag undas ay pinapausok pa,,Namiss ko na talaga ang lumang tanawin ng north cemetery madaming puno, pag bagyo me libre ka pang dalag at hito bonus pa dun ang mga mushroom o kabute na kinukuha namin sa mga nunu sa punso at niluluto para kainin…Hay super linis pa kasi ang norte,,,, KA miss ang time na yun, na alam ko na di na mababalik pa. .SALAMAT SA MGA NAG POPOST dito ng mga pictures,,Hope na me mga old pictures kayu,,,salamat n god bless…

  15. carol says:

    where can i place my inquiries? Thank you. Keep blessed.

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