Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Paco Park (Cemetery)

The first cemetery built outside the city walls of Manila is the Cementerio General de Dilao or Paco (better known today as Paco Park). Located just a kilometer away from Rizal Park it's a picturesque garden, managed by the National Parks Development Committee. It is one of the oldest landmarks in Manila, situated in San Marcelino Street.

Sample Paco Park map from brochure 
The facade and entrance to Paco cemetery with decorations for the celebration of All Saints Day (Philippine National Library).

The traces of crypts along the walls of the park tells a story of its past 

Front gate of  Paco Park 
Paco Park (Cemetery) was designed by Maestro de Obras Nicolas Ruiz in 1807, it was originally conceptualized and built as a cemetery for the rich and influential people.The Paco cemetery has two concentric circular walls about four meters in height with balustraded terrace. The walls are cut up into niches grouped into three tiers.

Sample sketch from brochure

The project was approved on May 6, 1814 and contruction started during the 4th quarter of that same year. It was later on enlarged and opened to the public before its completion. The first burials were done in the year 1820 even if the cemetery was not yet fully completed due to the tragic deaths brought about by a cholera epidemic, making it as the first extramural cemetery.

In some cases, the niche is covered, not just by the lapida, but by an outer glass door which allows for an image of the Virgin Mary, or Infant Jesus, or some ornamental flower, to be placed.

Top view of inner wall along the pathway

But in this present day when my group mates and I went there to have a look at Paco Park for our research, only a few of the remains in the niches were left and most of them were removed just like the image above here.

In 1859, the cemetery was expanded and closed with a cicular stone wall. Allotment of niche space was based on the social status,wherein the inner wall was restricted for the use of high ranking members of the society.


This beautiful sanctuary has also served as burial sites of heroes, specifically the three Filipino martyr priests, namely Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora collectively known as GOMBURZA, who were executed by garrote on February 17, 1872. They were interred in unmarked graves near the outer wall of the cemetery.(photo from the right side)

Rizal Tomb

The exact place where Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine National Hero was secretly buried after his execution on December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan. When Rizal's sisters discovered the site, they bribed a guardia civil veteran to mark the spot with the initials "RPJ" and was guarded for 15 days. His remains was exhumed on August 17, 1898, placed in an urn made by Teodoro Romualdo de Jesus, deposited in the house of his mother in Estraude Street, Bonondo. and  on December 30, 1912 laid beneath his monument at Luneta.

(old photo of Rizal's tomb)

Saint Pancratius Chapel

Under the care of  San Vicente de Paul Parish, this Roman Catholic domed chapel is dedicated to St. Pancratius, whose feast day is celebrated every 12th of May. It serves as venue for sunday masses and weddings.

Funeral services were also done of which the most prominent was for General Henry W. Lawton on December 30, 1899.

Sentinels were position inside and outside the Paco funerary chapel for about nine days until that fateful day when the General’s body was to be moved from the chapel to the transport ship that would bring him to his final resting place.

The beautiful Paco funerary chapel whose interior has been described as “remarkably neat ; and the altar, which is white and gold, is particularly so, from its elegant simplicity and chasteness of ornament: on each side of it are repositories for the remains of governors and bishops.”

Photo Below: General Lawton’s funeral casket inside Paco funerary chapel, December 30, 1899 (The Samuel Culberton Mansion).

During the Philippine American War the cemetery, with its 1,782 niches, was ordered closed in 1912 by the Philippine American colonial authorities and the place was left uncured for. American soldiers killed in action were buried in Paco cemetery and from 1901 to 1912, Paco cemetery burial records averaged about 297 burials per year. In contrast, from 1835 to 1844, Paco cemetery averaged a total of 102 burials per year.

In 1960's, it became one of the projects of the National Parks Development Committee. Through the creative flair of Landscape Architect Ildefonso "IP" Santos, who is now recognized as a National Artist, the cemetery was turned into a park, flauting the combination of ancient and modern 
architectural style. It was formally declared as a National Park in 1966.

Paco Park has been the most preferred venues for TV and film shootings, pictorial sessions, and other leisure activities. Its romantic atmosphere has also made the park as a perfect place for special milestones celebration such as wedding, pre-nuptial shoots, and other private weddings.

Me and my group mates received this brochure after paying the entrance fee of 10 pesos per person at Paco Park. 

Paco Park Presents

Set in one of Manila's most beautiful and beloved parks, the Paco Park, this Friday night intimate musical scores was conceived in February 1980, in partnership with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Celebrated as Philippine-German Month every February, this exchange program of artists and ideas has served to promote the bonds between the Filipino and German people.

Paco Park Presents is held every Friday at 6:00 p.m. from January to June (1st Concert Season) and from September to December (2nd Concert Season). Together with Concert ar the Park, the Show is also a Catholic Mass Media Hall of Fame for Best Cultural Program.

The facilitators should keep up their good work in maintaning the park having a clean and safe place for everyone in preserving this historical landmark.