Not even death put an end to the luxurious lifestyles of some of Manila’s wealthy Chinese residents.
Here, in the capital of Philippines, the dead have better houses than the living ones: the Chinese Cemetery of Manila is a real little neighborhood, with many tombs reaching the size of real mansions, including all their modern amenities.
The mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of: they have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and comfortable bedrooms for visiting relatives. Some of these places even have full-time residents who share their living space with the dead.
The unconventional cemetery, not by chance dubbed “the Beverly Hills of the Dead”, was first established by the Chinese trading community in Manila when Spanish colonials prevented them from using Catholic cemeteries.
Thus they were forced to find their own space to bury their dead, and as a result since the 19th century they customized it to their liking, making sure that their loved ones felt comfortable even in the afterlife. The extravagance of the cemetery is believed to reflect the great respect that the Chinese have towards their departed family members, as they believe that the souls of the dead live in another world and their graves are supposed to be their homes on Earth. So if a family can afford it, it’s not strange to built afterlife homes that are up to three stories high.
Interestingly, children aren’t buried at the Chinese Cemetery, as they are cremated and their ashes placed at a special building within the neighborhood.
But apparently, the Chinese Cemetery of Manila was never meant to be so luxurious.
Some of the original rules of the cemetery carved in stone state that “The rich should be frugal and simple in their burial, and the burial should conform to Chinese traditions”, “Grave site design should be simple and dignified” and “To discourage displays of opulence, the unit price of lots beyond two are set on a geometric progression”. However, judging by the current look of the place, people have clearly forgotten all.
And so, given how comfortable these tomb-homes are, it’s not surprising that many visiting relatives have remained there permanently.
Some Chinese Cemetery residents claim even that they are actually born on the burial grounds. Every modern amenity is available to them, including electricity, running water, drainage, telephone lines, cellular connectivity, and even a local restaurant.
It has become tradition for the living to spend entire days visiting the deceased, installing household amenities such as TV sets, couches and flushing toilets inside the tombs.
Like in all societies, there are wealthier and poorer areas of the cemetery’s community. Smaller and less well-maintained graves are usually grouped together down narrow alleyways further from the entrance gates.
The Chinese Cemetery is now a popular tourist attraction in the city, complete with professional guides. For 200 pesos, you can expect a complete tour of the eccentric neighborhood inhabited by both the dead and the living. Adventurous visitors could choose to explore the sprawling grounds on their own.
Interestingly, this isn’t the only cemetery in Manila inhabited by both the dead and the living.
There is also the city’s North Cemetery, where around 10,000 homeless people live on. Over the years, city officials had made attempts to move people out of graveyard and provide them with housing options, but several of these resettled families prefered to go back to their old macabre homes inside the graveyard….but this is another story!
Images from web – Google Research