Paco Cemetery: Manila’s finest irony

The Paco Church inside the cemetery grounds

A historic trail in the City of Manila yields historic places such as churches and cemeteries, Paco included in the lists among the best. If one looks at the historic, the grandiose and the vulgar, Paco cemetery is the place to see. Nestled in the heart of Manila, near its historic thoroughfares, Paco Cemetery that is today is flamboyant compared to its past. Though this is where the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal was buried for 16 solemn years and also, the solemn final resting place of the esteemed three friars, GOMBURZA; today, Paco cemetery is all but a prime venue for princely weddings, debuts, concerts and pre-nuptial photo-shoots.

the nameless and dateless epitaphs at the Paco cemetery in Manila

Gone were the epitaphs of the forgotten people buried here, its crypt are still sealed and save for the grave of Dr. Jose Rizal and the cross indicating the marker of the grave of the three priests who revolted against Spain. The crypts are maintained but its gaudy and morbid state symbolizes how easy Filipinos forget the past and wanting to speed up to the future. This is the only cemetery that the inscriptions and the epitaphs are a pain to read and had failed to many to be immortalized.

As I walked through in its circular paths in a rotund alley of crypts, I kept asking who gets in there and what year. I lost touch with my history and my legacy as I sort my present-day experience to those buried here. As cemeteries are permanent marker of human’s existence on earth, the Paco cemetery idly is one best kept in its history. No names on the crypt, no year, no circumstance, no flower or wreaths, sadly too, no candles to light and pray.

The decaying sentry to the courtyard of crypts at the Paco cemetery

Walked I did in deep reflection; I saw an entourage of affluent families celebrating a grand wedding. The Paco Church which is inside the cemetery is abuzz with the merrymaking yet they have not gone to where I had been, just around the outer circumferential pathways, Philippine history’s personalities rest peacefully or ironically? I simply could not help but asked one of the guests if she knew who were entered here at the Paco cemetery, among Philippines’ celebrated martyrs. She wryly replied she has no idea and she is hurriedly joined the rest in the wedding entourage.

The lonesome cross of the three priest martyrs of the Philippines

While studying Foreign Service at nearby Lyceum University of the Philippines in Intramuros, I came many times to this very cemetery to see a night of classical music dubbed as “Paco Park Presents”. Most of my classical pianist friends performed here and we celebrated the conquests of Rachmaninoff, Mozart, and other classical greats to entertain a Filipino audience. Little did I know about its historical significance until I came in pensively, reflecting how Dr. Jose Rizal has sacrificed so much for a young democracy, a nation of ironies, the Philippines.

The experience I have had traversing the annals of history from where I live today is enriching and humbling. I say it is for the sole reason that the gains of the past, as long as it is echoed today, will forever holds the key to the liberation of society in decay. I have lived it through which I reflect and pray that someday, as the great story we used to read and act in plays, will usher us the liberty we seek to eternity.

The details on the cemented stairs at the Paco cemetery in Mania

The historic marker at the Paco Cemetery in Manila, Philippines


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