Rediscovered Beauty of Cementerio General de La Loma

Buried Beauty v16

  • Beauty Unburied: Urban Planning of Cementerio General de La Loma, Manila (1864-1882)
  • Martin Gaerlan

Abstract: This study is about the planning history of Cementerio General de la Loma and begins with the author’s accidental acquisition of digital copies of the proposed cemetery’s never-before published architectural and cartographic drawings which were left “buried” in the National Archives of Spain. The author unravels the untold story of the inception of Manila’s second public cemetery (the first being Cementerio General de Dilao, Paco, Manila) – away from the dominant short-term narrative of Spanish public officials scrambling to plan and open the cemetery in September 1882 due to the terrible human loss caused by the August 1882 cholera epidemic – to a much longer planning period of 18 years (1864-1882). Based on the first ever study of 212 pages of archival documents (excluding the maps and plans), the author provides an initial perspective about the planning challenges that the municipal planning committees and architects faced starting from the first July 29, 1864 project design parameters (policy, environment, economic, esthetic) up until the issuance of a Royal Order on October 24, 1882. The author highlights the unfulfilled (or frustrated) ambition of Manila’s architects to build a beautiful cemetery aligned with the practical aesthetics of the famous public garden cemeteries of France, England, and even, India. In the end, although not the sole reason, the author suggests that other urban public financing priorities (reconstruction of public structures damaged during the 1863 earthquake, Carriedo waterworks), and not a lack of planning ambition or imagination, buried the Spanish Manila’s beautiful cemetery.

~ by Martin Gaerlan on February 14, 2015.

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