This was where my sister Maluwees got married, and where Kaye Abad’s sister Sarah exchanged vows with Kamikaze front man Jay Contreras. From that day, the place intrigued me. Imagine exchanging I do’s with the man you love within the walls of a cemetery?! Not only are you surrounded by (living) friends and family but by the remains of the dearly departed, too. The thought sends shivers to my spine. Eeep.
But yes, I do recall that there are cultural events being held therein. Ever heard of Paco Park Presents? This features the finest musical artists and chorales, local and guests performers for an evening of classical and traditional Filipino music every Friday by sunset. Just flip through your local channels (National Broadcasting Network) and you will find yourself listening to piano renditions and operatic repertoire.
What really interested me was the knowledge that the park is the final resting place of the Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora — GomBurZa — executed during the Spanish period. So too, the park was the temporary burial site of Dr. Jose Rizal before his remains were transferred to the present day Rizal Park. Yep, a dose of history there.
Hmmm. It’s worth a visit, I said to myself. And visit I did. I asked my friend Khai if she wanted to take a tour with me. I sensed her hesitation but being the trooper that she is, she agreed. Remember our One Day MNL tour? Paco Park was our first pit stop.
Crossing the busy Padre Faura Street, we walked until we found ourselves at the end of the street where there where more small intersections which went we-don’t-know-where. I did my research prior to our last-minute travel so I knew how the façade of the Paco Park looked like. Besides being surrounded by new age buildings, its Hispanic front is proudly declared not only by one but two signages. We went in through a small gate. From where we stood, I suddenly remembered that it was also where some of the scenes of the movie Miss You Like Crazy were shot. Hmmm. Memories, memories, memories. Snap.
Upon gaining entrance, a ticket booth may be seen on the left. And how much is the entrance fee ? Only 10 PhP! After paying the entrance fee, we had to drop our ticket at a glass box just outside the booth. Perhaps for auditing purposes?
Given its circular shape, we made a counterclockwise tour of the Paco Park. We were actually surprised to see the GomBurZa grave at once. Khai and I made a sign of the cross and murmured a brief prayer for the priests.
We walked through the circular path in between adobe walls of niches. Speakers with blaring FM music played throughout the park. I initially thought that the FM music quite irritating given the hallowed grounds we were in. However, I welcomed the modern music anyway since it did make the eerie feeling disappear. Hehe. We reached the middle arc of the park and found ourselves in the cemetery of infants. Khai shrieked as I tried to enter the gate. I was scared and curious at the same time but didn’t let the curiosity get me. We just took pictures of the well manicured adobe walls which led to the inner circle of the park.
Just the same, we walked past the cemetery of infants and made another sign of the cross for the babies interred there. We continued to walk and saw for ourselves at the temporary burial site of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Thereafter, we continued with our walking tour of the niches and graves surrounding the park.
While burials there ceased in 1912 and most of the niches in those walls are now empty and sealed up, it’s still a cemetery. There are still 65 people interred in those lovely adobe walls, including 22 children. The cemetery was originally meant for the affluent and aristocratic Spaniards who resided in the walled city of Intramuros.
Upon reaching the area where we started, we entered the inner wall of the park and marveled at the view of the dome-shaped St. Pancratius and the circular fountain (pool?) surrounded by well-maintained lawns.
Paco Park is a must-visit when your in Old Manila. Its adobe walls, cobbled pathways, and well-manicured lawns will transport you to the Spanish era. Most importantly, its atmosphere breeds of our historic past which should never ever be forgotten. Being at Paco Park silences the hustle and bustle of modern Manila.
Hey, do you want to try touring around niches and graves from our historic past? Go and visit the Paco Park and Cemetery. It is located at General Luna Street, and at the east end of Padre Faura Street in Paco, Manila. If you are an LRT commuter, alight at the UN Avenue Station. It’s best to visit during daytime, of course! 😉 The park is open Monday to Sunday (except on Wednesday) from 8:00AM to 5:00PM. Entrance fee is only PhP 10.00.
*Photos were taken with Khai’s Samsung 5j.