Thursday, November 18, 2010

Travel: A Gothic Tour of Chinese Cemetery, Manila

Last Friday, November 5th,  I got a text from Michelle: Rhett has organized a gothic tour of Manila: Chinese Cemetery, La Loma, Intramuros, Film Centre, Etc. Meet at Gateway tomorrow, 11AM. See you?

Being an avid traveler and since my plans for Ocean Park has been cancelled, I immediately accepted. I could not resist a chance to see other facets of Manila that I do not know about or haven't seen yet. I met the guys at Fully Booked Gateway [hah! I didn't get to buy anything - yay me for not succumbing to temptation], and ate lunch while waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Then, our first stop was the Chinese Cemetery!


The car stopped in front of the Chong Hock Tong Temple -- it was an amazing looking Temple. It's got these dragons perched on top and the red painted walls are definitely a stand out. From my research [via Wikipedia], the temple was built in the 1850s, making it the oldest Chinese temple in Manila. We made our way inside the altar, said silent prayers, took photos of the building and the gate and premises and left.

We walked a block or so to see some of the tombs that are overlooking a small river of sorts, and in front, there were domes and spires that look as if there's a lot of churches in the area, but I think they're also mausoleums.

It's amazing how the rich and the poor could also be divided in death. There's no apartment tombs in the Chinese Cemetery, compared to the ones that are more apparent in North Cemetery. Almost all the tombs are in intricate mausoleums, and since All Saints Day and All Souls Day had just finished the week before, there were coloured papers on top of the tombs, and the signs of burned material are still in the burners. Apparently the Chinese burn offerings [ie paper money, paper cars] to aide in the afterlife of their loved ones. [ie if they burn paper money, they in turn are sending money offerings to their deceased loved ones. Amazing.]

For me, there is something very enlightening in visiting a cemetery - never mind that it's full of deceased people, but it is a quiet area to meditate on your life as well. Facing death, how would you be able to make your life more worthwhile? And then the questions come in: if I die, would people look at my grave and visit me and pay their respects?

Anyway, moving on to the tour instead of my insights - we eventually got back in the car after walking through some gothic tombs. We eventually decided to try and find Andres Bonifacio's tomb, which was shaped like a pyramid. Then the questions pondered us: "Is Bonifacio Chinese?" Maybe. Maybe not. But we did find out for a fact that the non-Catholic people cannot be buried in La Loma or in North Cemetery so most Filipinos/Chinese were buried in Chinese Cemetery.

We eventually found ourselves in a memorial for General Yang Guangsheng. He was a Chinese Consul for the Philippines at the time, and as his plaque explained, he was shot to death in a grassy field when he tried to help the Filipino guerillas fight against the Japanese. Initially the Japanese wanted the General to call on his fellow Chinese to help the Japanese with their cause. His refusal ended in his and his entire staff's death. Way back in the World War II days, not much light has been given on the Battle of Manila, but it definitely is a shocking and interesting tale on how Manila has been a pivotal point in the War of the Pacific. I command the General for fighting with the Filipinos even though he himself is not of our race.

We saw a foreigner checking out the memorial of the General, and I was a bit happy to see that there are other foreigners who are touring Manila! By this time, one of our group saw a "tacky" crown on top of a mausoleum and we decided to check it out. They shrieked in delight when the mausoleum said "Ma Mon Luk." I honestly had no idea who this Ma Mon Luk was until Peter patiently told me that there is a restaurant named after him which serves the best siopao. Oh! So they paid their respects to Ma Mon Luk by having a photo in front of the mausoleum. I didn't join them because honestly, I'm a bit freaked of having my photo taken with a mausoleum -- I've seen some telly series where there are other people showing up in the photos and I'm not particularly keen on having that sort of experience if it does happen.

We then walked to Mabini's grave. It is found in Mabini St, but it is tucked in a little side street that's a wee bit hard to find, esp if you're not that familiar with the cemetery. Apparently the reason for the odd shape of Mabini's grave is that he was part of the Freemasons. Oooooh! Da Vinci Code, Philippine version anyone?? That would be a great book plot! LOL.



Anyway, some random bits about Mabini's grave from my friends:
1. Mabini's body is not found in this grave, it has been exhumed and is now located somewhere. I've honestly no clue where it is, to be honest. Bad me for not knowing much about PH history.

2. Apparently, Mabini died of syphilis instead of cholera. Ooooh. Cholera was just the press release because who would want a national hero to die of an STD, right?

3. He was the brains of the Katipunan, but sadly he did not get as much credit as Bonifacio did.

And there you go. You can see that there is a commemorative plaque found in his grave. However, it looks like its not maintained -- I can barely read some of the letters. And it's written in Filipino. >.<  I read Filipino like a turtle walks on dry land. If I read English slowly then I read Filipino even more slowly!!!

On the way back to the car, we passed this cutie little doggie!!!! He is such an angel and I want to take him home but he keeps on hiding and running away from us. Isn't he adorable??

So, that's the first stop of our tour. We went to La Loma Cemetery after, which you can read in a different blog post once I've got over my laziness. Teehee!


2 comments:

manila guide said...

I didn't know the Chinese cemetary holds some amazing architecture. I might take a closer look at those. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

- Clarence A. Castille

fickle fan said...

Hi Clarence - Thanks for dropping by! :)

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