While walking around the town and taking pictures of all the old houses in the Poblacion or town proper, we have finally reached the cemetery. We have passed alongside it on our way to town and the entrance was easily recognizable because of the pictures I saw online. As usual, Reina just keep following our journey without any complain beside the heat of the sun. We entered the brick entrance and its baroque style was quite obvious. The facade or arch was about 18 feet high with two iron grill gates. The entire shape of the cemetery was circular and surrounded by octagonal stone walls of red bricks and iron-wrought grills. There is a historical marker on the entrance which describe the history of the cemetery. But here is a beginning of its history.
“Fr. Vicente Velloc supervised the establishment of a cemetery in Nagcarlan in 1845 below Mt. San Cristobal. Unlike the traditional Spanish cemeteries at that time, Fr. Velloc decided to build it away from the town’s center. The cemetery is planned to serve as a public resting place for the people of the town while the underground chamber below the chapel of the cemetery will only house remains of Spanish friars and prominent people. It was built together with the construction of the expanded St. Bartholomew Parish Church and rectory. The cemetery is built with a chapel where funeral masses was held and directly below it is an underground crypt.”
The green space was covered with trim grasses and pathway leads to the chapel located in the middle of the cemetery. We walked through the pathway and reached the chapel and we were very fortunate to see it open. But the entrance was blocked so we didn’t have a chance to explore the inside. But we saw the statue of Santo Sepulcro in the middle of the altar. We looked around the chapel and saw the entrance down the underground crypt. Each side of the chapel contains 120 niches.
Situated 15 feet underneath the chapel has an underground graveyard consisting of only 36 tombs arranged in four walls. The crypt and chapel was connected by two flight of steps. The first nine steps lead to a Spanish inscription that reads:
Go forth, Mortal man, full of life
Today you visit happily this shelter,
But after you have gone out,
Remember, you have a resting place here,
Prepared for you.
The last six steps lead to the underground crypt. When we reached the bottom of the crypt the air was cold and chilly. We felt as if the ghosts of the departed engulfed the entire crypt. We took some photos and explored around. Here is the history of the cemetery’s part during the Philippine Revolution.
“During the Philippine Revolution, the cemetery served as a meeting place of revolutionary leaders of the Katipunan in 1896. Pedro Paterno and Gen. Severino Taiño of the “Maluningning” command held a meeting at the cemetery where they planned the historic Pact of Biak-na-Bato in 1897. It also served as hideout for Filipino leaders during the Philippine-American War and of guerillas in World War II.”
We went back up the chapel and looked around the cemetery grounds. The cemetery has 240 apartment-type niches on the walls. Here is the last part of the history of the cemetery.
“The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery was declared as a National Historical Landmark by virtue of Presidential Decree no. 260, dated August 1, 1973 with amendments by Administrative Order 1505, dated June 11, 1978. Since the declaration, no more burials were allowed in the cemetery. It underwent renovations before it was again opened to the public during the unveiling of the marker in October 24, 1981. The oldest tomb is dated 1886 while the last interment was in 1982 when it was formally declared as a National Historical Landmark.”
We ended our adventure for the day by taking a tricycle back to the main plaza of the town. We ate some turo-turo and rode the next jeepney that would bring us back to the city of San Pablo, Laguna. Happily, another day of history and exploration ends.
Here is the link for more information: