Manila Chinese Cemetery will give you a rich history of our land, an architectural museum and a glimpse of the lifestyle of dying elegantly rich.

Manila Chinese Cemetery is not only the final resting of deceased loved ones.  Would you believe that is also a place for such huge information of our history? 

Here, the stories were deeply buried in the graves and tombs of this Manila Chinese Cemetery. And, it gave a dramatic contribution to our land. 

Truly, walking through Manila Chinese Cemetery not only fascinates you with the intricate designs of luxurious mausoleums.  Moreover, it will also open your mind.

That there is a line between the rich and poor. And, it is not only visible on the livings but to the dead as well. 

Not only that, this is not only an ordinary cemetery.  Similarly, it can also be considered as an Architectural Museum.  The mausoleums’ designs are patterned from Art deco, Gothic, Neo-classicism, and Modernism. 

So, let’s take a tour and experience the unexpected realization this cemetery holds. 

The Manila Chinese Cemetery

The Manila Chinese Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Manila.  It was a designated place for the deceased Chinese.  But, only to those who were not permitted to be buried in Catholic cemeteries during the Spanish colonial time.

Manila Chinese Cemetery south gate entrance

In one’s view, the south gate of the Chinese Cemetery is on a higher level compared to the main road.  It is a real hill. 

For the Chinese, this signifies positive vibes. As a result, being on a higher level means attracting more energy.  The energy that would surge and pass freely on the entire vicinity.

Manila Chinese Cemetery: The Art of Dying Elegantly Rich

A Glimpse of Lifestyle of Dying Rich

The road upon entering the gate illustrates a well-kept place.  They call this road as Little Beverly Hills.  Because, here lay the remains of some of the Chinese, richest dead men. 

It is said that about 40-50 million pesos payment is needed for leasing space only for 25 years.  And, the next additional years will be another transaction.

Dying rich in Manila Chinese Cemetery

The Chinese Cemetery is owned and managed by the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association and the Communidad de Chinos. Furthermore, this was founded in the 1870s by Lim Ong and Tan Quien Sien, known as Carlos Palanca.

The Middle Class

And this village, it seems just an ordinary one. Certainly, a well-averaged community, though this is for non-living. 

Village-like inside the Chinese Cemetery

Just like the living ones, here laid the average deceased.  Probably, those who owned these houses of dead ones are not rich enough to afford a mausoleum.

But, not so poor that they can maintain a dwelling wide enough to accommodate their immediate families.

Not all buried here can afford grand houses. As a result, the cemetery has a poorer section with regular-sized tombs and mausoleums. These are located along narrow lanes away farther from the entrance.

Apartments for the Poor Ones

Moreover, the apartments are here, too. 

Just like on other public cemeteries wherein the coffin is entered into a small square. It is fit enough for the size of a coffin.  And, one is arranged on top of another.

apartments for the poor inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

Likewise, you can also call it “condo-style”, where it rises for its occupants.  Indeed, this place is for those poor who cannot afford high-value resting places.

Also, other graves seemed neglected and old.  But, there are those as old as the Spanish era.

spanish era grave inside Chinese Cemetery

The Mausoleum

Meanwhile, the mausoleums are lined-up showing how well-off those who owned these mausoleums.  It seems like a little, wealthy village. 

Each mausoleum had its own design having its own Chinese atmosphere. Indeed, it was done with the guidance of feng shui advice.  And, many are intricately designed that would keep you awe.

dragon design mausoleum

Moving nearer and trying to take a peek on their closed-gate mausoleum, you could see the marbled finish of the area.  There are also second floors with their own terraces.

Moreover, upon entering a gate, there is usually a presence of a furnace, incense-stand, and a pair of foo dogs. 

The Furnace

furnace inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

A furnace is like a little-oven. But it is not meant to bake cakes or loaves of bread. 

It burnt a special paper called “kim”.  Kim is burned to give honor to their departed ancestors.

On the opposite side of the furnace is an incense pot, where you can put your incense while it is still burning.

The Lion Guardian

foodog chinese tradition

A pair of foo dogs are placed on each side of the gate.  One is female, placed on the left side.  And the other is a male foo dog placed on the right side.  This placement is described when you are facing the mausoleum. 

A distinguished characteristic had made each of them unique. Most noteworthy, a foo dog male had a ball in his paw.  And a foo dog female had her child. 

Foo dogs are actually lions. They originated in China. They are symbolic, protective statues, guarding the entrance. 

The female represents yin and symbolically protects the people dwelling in the mausoleum. The male represents yang, protects the structure itself.

Their mouths were quite open, seems on a mid-roar. 

And when you happen to see a foo dog with a circular stone inside its mouth, you can hold that stone. Try to circle it on your hand for good luck. 

The circular stone is exactly measured to remain inside the foo dog’s mouth.  The stone cannot be released. It was designed to stay on the guardian’s mouth. 

The Arrangement

Mausoleums are kept simple but grand.  Pictures of those rested are displayed on the top of their tombs. 

A set of tombs consist of a husband and wife.  But it is common to see, a husband with his wives on his sides.

A Preparation

arrangement of tomb

If a husband passed earlier, and her wife is still alive, a tomb on his side is already readied for her. 

The tomb has a red sign indicating that she is still alive.  Further, a turtle sign or a turtle image is placed on the readied tomb to signify the slowness of the time of death or wishing her a longer life.

Ma Mon Luk Mausoleum

Ma mon luk mausoleum

Walking and appreciating the structure of graves and tombs, we arrived in Ma Mon Luk Mausoleum.

Ma Mon Luk is a Chinese restaurant in Quiapo offering siopao and mami noodles. 

Here, you see his picture on the center with his two wives on every side.

A History Inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

Apolinario Mabini

apolinario mabini road in Manila Chinese Cemetery

Here was the tomb of Apolinario Mabini.  Apolinario Mabini is the crippled revolutionary hero. 

He was not Chinese.  But why were his remains buried here in Chinese Cemetery? Here is the reason:

During the Spanish colonization, Catholic cemeteries did not allow any non-Catholic to be buried in their cemeteries.  And, also, those who were against the state and the government were not definitely permitted. 

In which, Apolinario Mabini was not given a chance to enter any Catholic cemetery. For he was one of those who fought for the freedom of this land. He made this through his intelligence against these colonizers.

apolinario mabini tomb inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

Chinese cemetery welcomed Apolinario Mabini’s body.  And in his tomb, a Mason pyramid symbol was erected for being a significant member of the group.

So, for the longest time, here lay the body of Apolinario Mabini before his dear province excavated his remains. Then, the body was then transferred to his homeland Tanauan, Batangas. 

Martyrdom of Consul Gen. Dr. Yang Kuang Sheng and His Staff

Occupying a very large circular area is the Monument of the Martyrdom of Consul Gen. Dr. Yang Kuang Sheng and his staff. 

This monument served as a tribute for his heroic death and his love for the overseas Chinese.  His refusal to call on the Chinese community to collect P24M to support the Japanese government had lead to his death.

martyrdom of dr khang

Consul Gen. Dr. Yang Kuang Sheng and his 7-man staff were executed and face the pre-dug pit face down.  After the liberation of Manila, their skeletal remains were found intact and flown back to China. 

Their Japanese executioners were brought to court, found guilty and executed.

Ruby Tower Earthquake Victims

ruby tower earthquake victims

A monument is erected for the memories of Philippine Chinese earthquake victims. They were the ones who died when the Ruby Tower collapsed in a Manila earthquake in August of 1968. 

The Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall

philippine chinese monument

The Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall was established to commemorate the history of the pre-Pacific War and when the Pacific War broke out.

This place would bring you for a reflection about the circumstances brought by the war. 

Yes, it was decades ago.  But through this Memorial Hall, it will give you a great understanding that it is not only the Filipinos who had all the effort to resist the Japanese aggression.

Japanese Occupation

Even before the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, the Chinese community was already aware of the situation. They had made tremendous work to alert the public. 

They had given their support in resisting the Japanese invasion in their homeland, China.

pre-world war

When the war broke out, they joined hands with the Filipino people and American forces to resist Japanese occupation.

They had made incredible contributions to the international war to bring back freedom.

Here are some of their documented contributions like the formation of their own guerrilla groups.   And, moreover, are the displayed materials that represent much of that chapter of history.

wha chi squadron

Wha Chi 48th Squadron

Worth reading is about Wha Chi 48th Squadron. Their guerrilla members fought to capture puppet associations and daily news.

Historical Photos and Artifacts

Here, documents and memorabilia during World War II are displayed.  You would see that the Philippine Chinese had taken part in defending our land from the Japanese invasion in the year 1942-45.

japanese war artifact

There were some of their engagements while fighting the Japanese troops.  Several newspapers had been saved. They were now posted inside the hall.

MacArthur

Drawings, sketches and historical photos were posted to clearly illustrate that period of history.

The battle, the sufferings, and the ruins are well documented.  Some of the heroic acts of their fellow Chinese were featured.

Unconditional Surrender of Japan

And, the surrender marking the end of World War II.

end of world war II

Upstairs are the things left and saved from the war.

Mimeograph Machine

mimeograph machine

This is a mimeograph machine for the printing of their underground newspaper. These newspapers were printed and distributed. This had made their other Philippine Chinese be aware of the condition of the war.

Bas Relief

Bas Relief is used to make this sculpture stand-out by molding and carving the figures. 

bas relief

It illustrates the courage of our fellow Philippine Chinese fighting to defend the city of Manila.  A closer shot of the sculpture showed the Manila City Hall.

Heroes Monument

The Heroes Monument is dedicated to the thousands of lives who had greatly sacrificed for the fight of freedom against the Japanese. It had been three long years.

Many Philippine Chinese suffered from the brutal act of the enemies.  But through their courage and heroism, these patriotic youths assisted.

They fought with the US Armed Forces in the Liberation of Manila. They stood their ground up to the Declaration of Unconditional Surrender by the Japanese Imperial Government in 1945.

World War II Memorial Reflection

It is now clearly illustrated the efforts and suffering of the Philippine Chinese who joined hands with the Filipino people and the American forces to fight for freedom against the Japanese.

This Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall will greatly educate one about making ultimate sacrifice in the fight for freedom.   

That’s why we must value this moment. We need to take a minute to taste the freedom we are experiencing.  And, at the same time, remember the bitter lessons of the historical war that changed the lives of millions.

Chinese Temple

This new Chinese Temple was built after the demolition of one of the oldest Chinese Temple.  Also, there was no specific reason stated why it was demolished in the year 2015.

Chinese Temple of Manila Chinese Cemetery

The New Chinese Temple is so grand, deserves a real admiration from its design and style.

Manila Chinese Cemetery: An Architectural Museum

Manila Chinese Cemetery is a living proof of an architectural museum.   The architecture evolved as I will try to enumerate here.

It was interesting how detailed the designs of these mausoleums.  Here, the idea of death had become different compared to the image depicted in horror films. 

It seems that each mausoleum is a place of gathering. Families and relatives celebrate the life of their departed loved ones. They believed that it was only a temporary separation. 

This concept had pushed the relatives to elaborately design the dwellings of their deceased.  Those who are rich enough, afford the high cost of building luxurious mausoleums. 

These dwellings of the deceased loved ones were styled with intricate designs. Their architecture had highly contributed to the artistic transformation of the cemetery. 

Most of the elaborate layouts were patterned according to their Chinese traditions.

Amidst the development of cities and neighborhoods after the destruction of war, the cemetery remained, yet evolved through the passing of time. 

There were graves from the Spanish era, American occupation, post-war until the present time.  This cemetery has a rich heritage to be proud of. It had maintained its historical importance.

Yes, this necropolis will not only satisfy your eyes from all its masterpieces. It will also fill your mind with the learning of yesteryears. 

The tombs and graves that were deeply rooted here decades ago will give us a vivid scenario of the past. They serve as a guide for us living the present.

Neo-Classicism

neo-classicsim mausoleum

The neo-classical style has simple geometric designs and dramatic use of columns.  Moreover, it is about trying to recreate Classical art.

Similarly, this design is a style usually used for museums and court buildings. 

Neo-Gothic

Neo-gothic is a revival of the Gothic style, dating from 19th to early 20th century. 

The neo-gothic style is closely connected with cemeteries architecture.  As a result, it brought chills to picture out tall pillars, embellished towers, pointed arches and gargoyles of a gothic mausoleum. 

You suddenly remember the ghost stories fed in you on your childhood days giving you sleepless nights.

neo-gothic mausoleum

Neo-Gothic mausoleums need high maintenance.  With all the building’s joints and attachments, water easily sipped in between.  Also, joints were made as to the home of animals, especially those birds, too.

Art Deco

Art Deco is a style of visual arts that influenced the design of buildings, architecture, furniture, and everyday objects.  It also reflects the use of geometric forms.

art deco mausoleum

Hence, I had discussed a detailed article of Art Deco of Far Eastern University. I suggest that you read it to appreciate this kind of art.

Space Age Design

The post-war time when everything had been ruined, each one had a positive outlook for the days ahead.  And, even for the deceased, their loved ones had promised them an artistic dwelling. 

space age design of mausoleum in Manila Chinese Cemetery

So, then started a new architectural expression reflecting space-age imagery.  Space Age design can have shaped from elliptical up to simple shapes. Moreover, it showed a futuristic mausoleum.

Modernism 

As modern times exist, the designs of these mausoleums had been chosen to be minimalist. Indeed, It mostly had vertical lines and few curves on their steel gates. 

modernism design mausoleum

While no intricate design, yet, each carries the pride for having arranged rationally simple.

Pagoda-style

There are many mausoleums that used pagoda-style as their design.  Certainly, the roof in the pagoda-style is usually made with layers. 

The colorful, detailed and elaborate design would really catch someone’s attention.  Indeed, you would get awe for every inch of the pagoda that has art on it.

pagoda style mausoleum inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

The design runs from the curves of its pagoda roof to the connections of all its materials. 

Turtleback Tombs

Having this kind of tomb signifies the desire for a longer life for descendants of the deceased.

turtleback tomb

Chinese Traditions

As the tour continued, you cannot help but continue to stare on each of the ornaments displayed on each mausoleum. 

Each has its own characteristics.  Further, each carried a Chinese tradition or a significant symbol. 

Here, I enumerate some observed Chinese Traditions as I did in my article in Manila Chinatown.

Lotus Flower Design

lotus flower as chinese tradition

You can take note that the lotus flower is a design that symbolizes rebirth. It is used by the Chinese on their gates. So, it served as a welcome flower of that grave.  

Symbolic and Colorful Papers

japanese paper

This is a papel de hapon (Japanese paper) with a cut-out design. It was bought for P20 and another P10 for paste for sticking. 

These colorful papers would be individually stick on the tomb, walls, and entrance. They signified that someone had been on the tomb. And, someone had just visited the place.

japanese paper glued as chinese tradition

It seems happier when they are glued.  As a result, the atmosphere became a little bit feasting.

How to Go to Manila Chinese Cemetery

Chinese Cemetery is within Santa Cruz, Manila.  Firstly, you can reach this place by riding the LRT to R. Papa station and take a tricycle. 

Secondly, if you are from Quiapo, Taft and Novaliches area and decided to take a jeepney, you can ride jeepneys with a route of Blumentritt.  And, from Blumentritt market, you can then ride a tricycle. 

But, if you are new to the place or a foreigner, better to ride a Grab car.  You could be overwhelmed with the traffic of both vehicles and pedestrians.  Or, go get a taxi.

Manila Chinese Cemetery Tour

Believe it or not, there is an exciting Cemetery Walking Tour conducted by Sir Rence Chan here in Manila.  Certainly, the tour is free (Yes, it’s really free!).

The tour consists of visiting two cemeteries.  Moreover, both located in Manila and are near to each other’s vicinity. 

Firstly, the Chinese Cemetery to be covered for the whole morning. Secondly, the North Cemetery that would move through after lunch.

The start of this free tour is at 8:30 am.  Hence, an earlier 30 minutes is the waiting time for the participants.  The meeting place is on a drug store near the first cemetery tour.

The tour started by walking along Aurora Blvd towards Felix Huertas Road. Then, we made a right turn to Felix Huertas Road seeing a neighborhood and a few side streets. 

Here, we would be approaching the Chinese Cemetery’s South Gate.

And, the south gate of the Chinese Cemetery had a higher level compared to the main road.  It is like a hill from a distance. 

As we approached the gate, some posted reminders were repeated by the security guard.

Manila Chinese Cemetery: A Worthy Experience

Each road traveled inside this cemetery had been a notable experience. Most noteworthy, it was overwhelming in new learnings.

Even old trees communicate. Old trees that stood as witnesses of the lives and deaths of Philippine Chinese. 

Old trees inside Manila Chinese Cemetery

Above all, visiting Manila Chinese Cemetery to experience an artistic high is worthy. You can peek on the rich spirits’ mausoleums and searching old souls resting in their graves.

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