Tag Archive: La Loma

What makes a good tour guide? I’ve met quite a few and can easily pick out those who stand out in my list. Them whose credo is to make every traveler or tourist enjoy his trip. Them who treat their job like their religion. With passion. With devotion. In the same vein, I can just as easily weed out the wrong types. Them who spit out names, dates and other historical facts almost mechanically, at times not minding whether or not you caught the trail of the pseudo-history lesson. I’m sure you know the types.




In my experience, I never really found the perfect tour guide. But each experience is rendered unique because of some “connection”. I’ve kept in touch with a few. I’ve even dedicated some blogs to “honor” them. Here’s a short list. 🙂



Randy, the Butanding Whisperer (Donsol, Sorsogon)


Randy. The Butanding Whisperer.
Donsol, Sorsogon.



To this day, Randy still sends me text messages in his “jejemon” style which gives me tremendous headaches! I am still able to refer to Randy some of my friends eager for a Butanding experience. My grandchildren still remember him fondly.



Rusty, The Last Caretaker of Syquia Mansion (Vigan)


Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Don’t miss this!



I wonder how Rusty is. I failed to take a photo of him. Does he have his “apprentice” to train now? Has Rusty retired already?



Rogers With An “S” (Batanes)


He punctuates his sentences with “I Love You”. And yes, take that seriously!



He punctuates his sentences  with “I love you’s” and his face has a perennial smile sure to infect each person he meets. Rogers — yes, with an “S” — is not young, but his energy and passion is forever on overdrive. Where does he get all the energy? Must be the Batanes air!



Cemetery Guides, anyone? (LA LOMA, NORTH & CHINESE CEMETERIES)




La Loma Cemetery. Who would have thought this makes for an outstanding guided tour? In the league of New Orleans and Paris!



I joined a tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and was only too happy to have the brilliant Architect Manuel Noche and the hilarious, ever-energetic Ivan Man Dy walk us through history as we walked around the mounds and mausoleums, some of which are as high as 3 storeys. I’m telling ya….. this guided tour is certainly worth the buckets of sweat that humid day!



Juan Luna Shrine: So, Who Shot The Patriot’s Wife? (Badoc, Ilocos Norte)




The Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Drop by on your drive from Laoag to Vigan. It’s the last town of Ilocos Norte on your way to Ilocos Sur.



Bet some of you didn’t know that. Yes, Juan Luna shot his own wife. I’d love to retell the story but that nameless guide in the Luna Shrine can’t be beaten in his craft. It was this man who inspired my grandchildren to always ask for a Tour Guide when we’re traveling. And they do listen….. In a way that makes me real jealous.



Mount Pinatubo: An Ex-Marine For A Guide and A Native Aeta for a Driver



Who would have thought I’d do this at my age? I was determined, but it sure was motivating that the trek was made shorter! I came in my old pair of comfy rubber shoes, then left with a pair of slippers. My guide’s daughter needed a pair and so mine — though used — must have made a good present.




Our Pinatubo Guides!



THANKS TO THESE TOUR GUIDES —- my trips to these places are made truly memorable. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) Trips, and there are those where the experience is enhanced by how a local’s perspective is drawn much differently from what the travel books say. Priceless. Much.

When one speaks of La Loma, 2 things easily come to mind. LECHON. And the old cemetery.


I joined a guided tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines with no less than Architect Manuel Noche guiding us through the flamboyant architecture and interesting history of this urban cemetery.



Little Monuments in the Old La Loma Cemetery



The great divide between rich and poor is very evident here. In death, as in life, the rich enjoy the prominence, the grandeur, the prime slots. One “street” in this city of the dead counts a number of mausoleums big enough to house several of the squatter-families of Manila. Prominent family names adorn the fronts of many of these flamboyantly designed mausoleums for the rich and famous. It’s like a “who’s who of Philippine High Society”.





No. It isn’t a church. It’s a Mausoleum.


Another Mausoleum for the Barredo Family. La Loma Cemetery. Quezon City.



A big pseudo-baroque chapel dedicated to Saint Pancratius within the cemetery which served as its funerary chapel from 1884 to 1962  is now fondly called “Lumang Simbahan” (literally translated “Old Church”).  Rich and famous dead lying side by side in their private, marbled resting havens – – truly a city for the dead spanning 54 hectares of land in this former capital (Quezon City) of the Philippines. Spared from the ravages of war where much of Manila was bombed out during the 1945 Battle of Manila, but not spared from serving as execution site during the Japanese occupation. Just the same, Campo Santo de La Loma is a significant link to Philippine history and architecture. After all, this 2nd oldest cemetery (1884)counts among its buried citizens the important icons of history, the old rich and famous, religious leaders and the simply famous. And yes, you read that right. 1884. Second oldest public cemetery, according to Architect Noche. Paco Cemetery spanning only 4 hectares IS the oldest (1822).




Lumang Simbahan or Chapel of Saint Pancratius within the grounds of La Loma Cemetery. Served as funerary chapel from 1884 to 1962.


Details of the funerary chapel which has been abandoned and closed since 1962. Except for the sign “Epistula”, we found no other marker to explain its history.



Despite the heat, we trudged on dripping with enthusiasm and sweating with history lessons from our architect tour guide. If it were any cooler, i dare say these photos may remind one of the old cemetery tours done in Paris, Buenos Aires, and New Orleans.




This is NOT an ordinary street. It cuts across the La Loma Cemetery, lined on both sides by old mausoleums belonging to prominent and old elitist families in the Philippines.


Quite a sight. Who would have thought this is in the Philippines? Or that there’s 54 hectares of cemetery property within the Metropolis?



All of 54 hectares within the metropolis. You’d think one should find better use for this land in this time and age. But it is an important piece of our history. I’m sure the hoi polloi would be interested to read up on the history of some of the prominent families interred here. Them are some of the aristocratic families of old. The illustrados. The hacienderos. Viejo familias. Their names ring familiar as many industries, companies, schools, even streets are named after them.





Must be an old tree growing out of a Mausoleum.


I can only imagine Dona Victorinas coming to light candles and offer flowers in many of these Mausoleums. 😉



As we moved from mausoleum to mausoleum, from one gravesite to the next, we can’t help wonder how squatter-families live here. As we stood in awe viewing the grandeur of some architectural designs and sculptures, we also didn’t miss the empty gravesites where little children play nearby and where laundry hangs from a rope loosely hung between 2 trees. Mixed emotions here. I feel for these impoverished families, yet I lament that this “open air museum” seems to have been taken over by illegal occupants. I really hope our government finds a suitable relocation site where these families can resettle.




This one looks rather NEW. All of 3 storeys high. Looks a bit tacky to me.


There were many interesting statues and monuments. Architect Manuel Noche said he brings his architectural class to these cemeteries every now and then to study art and architecture. Well, history too.



I know there are some who go visit on their own, but guided tours are best if one wants to appreciate the place’s historical and architectural significance. You may google all you want but you may miss out on some historical tidbits. Besides, it’s good to visit as a big group. It’s more fun!




Another Mausoleum for the Rich and Famous.


……….while others are interred in another part of the cemetery.

I know. I know. Sounds morbid. Even cruel. But can’t help thinking THAT while walking the “streets” within the hallowed grounds of La Loma, North and Chinese Cemeteries in Manila.



The architect/tour guide mentioned how Evita Peron’s grave in Recoleta Cemetery draws in millions of tourists and yield tourism moolah for Argentina. Yes, Evita of that Broadway musical fame. The same lovely lady who married Juan Peron just a year before Juan became President of Argentina. The same lady who tried to run as Vice President of the same South American nation.






Evita. Don’t you feel like breaking out to sing “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”?  That musical has forever etched this Argentinian First Lady into our minds and pop culture. Many believe she’s the inspiration for a local ex-First Lady who similarly held political posts while the husband was President. The latter has inspired many comedy acts and invariably, the plays emphasized her flamboyant lifestyle and alleged “obsession” with shoes. Given the flamboyance displayed in these urban cemeteries, the architect/tour guide is spot on when he quipped “Wait till xxxxx dies……”.







Some of those mausoleums are even bigger than village churches I’ve been to. Really, in death as in life….. the disparity between rich and poor is very evident. The affluent within high society made sure their family names are immortalized in the “city of the dead”. Spanning many hectares of land, I am amazed to find how vast these cemetery parks are. I visited 3 in a day. La Loma, North and Chinese Cemeteries. Each deserving to have their stories told.







Even now, these cemeteries are drawing in tourists. It is just lamentable that the authorities are unable to deal with the squatting problem. If you ask me, these squatters have grown out of control. The very reason why I didn’t have the courage to “tour” on my own. I joined a tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and was only too happy to have the brilliant Architect Manuel Noche and the hilarious, ever-energetic Ivan Man Dy walk us through history as we walked around the mounds and mausoleums, some of which are as high as 3 storeys.



Watch this page for sequels!