Paco Cemetery: First Extramural Cemetery
The first cemetery built outside the city walls of Manila is the Cementerio General de Dilao or Paco (better known today as Paco Park). The project was approved on May 6, 1814 and contruction started during the 4th quarter of that same year. The first burials were done in the year 1820 even if the cemetery was not yet fully completed due to the tragic deaths brought about by a cholera epidemic.
The cemetery, with its 1,782 niches, was ordered closed on July 10, 1913 by the Philippine American colonial authorities. From 1901 to 1912, Paco cemetery burial records averaged about 297 burials per year. In contrast, from 1835 to 1844, Paco cemetery averaged a total of 102 burials per year.
The photo below shows the facade and entrance to Paco cemetery with decorations for the celebration of All Saints Day (Philippine National Library).
The Paco cemetery has two concentric circular walls about four meters in height with balustraded terrace. The walls are cut up into niches grouped into three tiers. The image below shows what relatives of the dead have left in memory of their loved ones. In some cases, the niche is covered, not just by the lapida, but by an outer glass door which allows for an image of the Virgin Mary, or Infant Jesus, or some ornamental flower, to be placed.
During the Philippine American War, American soldiers killed in action were buried in Paco cemetery. For some, Paco cemetery started as the starting point for their journey back to American burial grounds.
Funeral services were also done of which the most prominent was for General Henry W. Lawton on December 30, 1899.
Sentinels were position inside and outside the Paco funerary chapel for about nine days until that fateful day when the General’s body was to be moved from the chapel to the transport ship that would bring him to his final resting place.
Photo left: Note the beautiful Paco funerary chapel whose interior has been described as “remarkably neat ; and the altar, which is white and gold, is particularly so, from its elegant simplicity and chasteness of ornament: on each side of it are repositories for the remains of governors and bishops.”
Photo Above: General Lawton’s funeral casket inside Paco funerary chapel, December 30, 1899 (The Samuel Culberton Mansion).