Tag Archive: North Cemetery

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.

It was a day spent visiting cemeteries. It may not sound exciting to many, but oddly enough, the cemetery tour was packed with so much history. Not the oldest, but North Cemetery certainly is the biggest at 54 hectares. Like an open air museum, we marveled that such reminders of our past are contained in hectares upon hectares of land within our densely packed metropolis.



When we saw the Mausoleum dedicated to our veterans, I couldn’t help but compare it with the Pantheons found in Europe. Yes, it pales in comparison, for sure. But the architecture reminds you how and why pantheons are built. This pantheon — or “panchong” in our local dialect — honors our Katipuneros who shed blood so present-day Filipinos can have the freedom we now enjoy. Looking at it now, one laments how these revolutionary patriots are nearly forgotten.





Like this pantheon, there are other reminders of our patriots and leaders, honored at least for a single day within a year. North Cemetery has become the resting place of past Presidents, celebrities and prominent families. Just like the nearby La Loma Cemetery, architecture flourished in this area.





It would be interesting to draw up a list of graves whose “tenants” now grace some street signs around Manila. The place also counts resting places of past Presidents and national leaders. In particular, there’s one Presidential tomb site which included a resting place for the Presidential dog. “Bogie” must have been so loved by the family of ex-President Manuel A. Roxas to rest beside the Roxas patriarch.








And in case you’re wondering why there are fire hydrants scattered in a patch of land here, this happens to be the resting place of firemen. Remember that the North Cemetery was created during the American occupation, so don’t be surprised to find the statue of an American (or Irish?) fireman here.







And lest you forget….. Long before Manny Pacquiao and Flash Elorde, there was Pancho Villa. This boxing legend was never beaten in the ring but many would argue that’s because he had a short lived boxing career. Unfortunately for this young lad, he was knocked out at the early age of 23. Not of a 1-2 punch nor boxing-related ailment, but of complications resulting from a tooth extraction!







Not too any Filipinos would remember that the Manila Cemeteries also served as execution sites for those who resisted the Japanese Occupation. Among those is Josefa Escoda, founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and many other unknown heroes. A monument now stands here to honor them.



As for that last photo. Pyramids and sphinx — this is the resting place for the Arroyos. Last interred here was Cong. Iggy Arroyo a.k.a. Jose Pidal.


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!