Monday, November 04, 2013

Paco Cemetery - A Post-Halloween Treat

Tomb of the unknown at Paco Cemetery.

It is quite ironic in Manila that a place that's supposed to be eerie, spooky and unwholesome for being a resting place for the rich and famous (now they're unknown, as shown by the tombs) is also one of the most popular wedding venues in the metro!

History books say the Paco Cemetery was built by the Spaniards in 1800 where the wealthy residents of Intramuros can have their dead buried outside of the walled city.

The remains of the wealthy were put inside the hollow circular wall. As the population grew, an outer wall was built, expanding the place to over 4,000 square-meter facility that it is today, historical sources say.

If I remember it right, tour guide Carlos Celdran said in his short TV segment dubbed "Kwentong Kanto" that a similar circular cemetery was planned and did not came into fruition, in what is now known as Remedios Circle located behind the Malate Church in Manila.

National hero Jose Rizal was buried at Paco Cemetery when he was executed in 1898, before his remains were transferred at his monument at Luneta (Rizal Park).

Paco Cemetery was also used by the Japanese forces during World War 2, leading to its destruction.

The church, dedicated to St. Pancratius, was a later addition.

Although it can be a bit morbid to hold what is supposedly a romantic wedding celebration here, it is understandable that Paco Cemetery is a popular venue for garden weddings and receptions given the different ambience of the adobe walls of the cemetery and the Spanish-style architecture of the church itself. The pathways on top of the walls even bode well for excellent photo ops (and pre-nuptial videos, of course)!

The culturati even hold regular classical concerts here called "Paco Park Presents".

St. Pancratius Church at Paco Park or Paco Cemetery. For its coziness, romantic feel and Spanish-era architecture, this church has become a favorite venue for weddings.

But as a tourist, should you go there? I would say that the place is not entirely spooky. But I guess this deserves half of your day (including the trip going to and from the place) for its impressive architecture, conservation efforts, and the serene ambience in the middle of busy Manila area. It would be better if you can have historical perspective of the place, so if you can spend a few hundreds of pesos, get the services of popular Manila tour guides (Celdran being one of them) where they will take you not only to the cemetery but to other places of interest nearby.

Tip sheet:
- the Park is open from 8am to 5pm daily except Wednesdays.
- entrance is free.
- there are clean rest rooms inside.
- Paco Cemetery is close to Padre Faura St. (the same street where the columned Supreme Court is, only that the cemetery is on the other side of Taft Ave.). It can be quite a long walk from Pedro Gil station of LRT Line 1 but jeepneys pass through around the cemetery.