Beads of perspiration were trickling down my forehead; my shirt was also getting damp. We have just walked all the way from Nagcarlan’s St Bartholomew Parish, passed by Presidencia, the town’s municipal hall and now faced the commanding facade of this town’s most famous national historical landmark, the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.
It’s not my first time to visit this famed underground cemetery, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. It was during Lent 2009 on the way to Laguna’s old stone churches for Visita Iglesia that me, Titus and Tantan decided to stopped by the cemetery. But because there were lots of tourists at that time that also chose that opportunity to visit Nagcarlan’s Libingan sa Ilalim ng Lupa, the place become so crowded that we’ve decided to forego the chance to descend to the underground chamber and move on.
Last June 11, a day before the 115th Philippines Independence Day celebration, I along with Titus I finally explored this national historical landmark. The banner and the tarpaulins that you see hanging on the wall is for the Araw ng Kalayaan celebration. If I get the chance again to visit Nagcarlan, I’ll update this post with a picture of the façade without the banners, it’s more impressive unadorned.
Built in 1845, this structure stand today as one of Laguna’s nationally inscribed historical sites by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
One of its arresting features is the arched gate with brick tiled pathway that leads to the cemetery chapel. Wings on both sides of the chapel forms an arc where you can find the above-ground niches. On the left wing are 120 niches, same number on the right wing. Why only 240 apartment niches? I really don’t know but it’s interesting to find out. So if you know, please share info. =)
Upon entering the gate these verdant greens will greet visitors, a nice contrast to the aged wall and its graves. Was this perfectly manicured lawn a newer addition or really part of the original structure?
If you are a fond of gazing at old structures especially from colonial times, I bet you’ll
lik e love this chapel. So much history it was privy to too.
We entered the chapel’s wooden door; there was a registration book for visitors to sign so I did the signing for both me and Titus. It was a slow day for this tourist spot – we were the lone one when we arrived. When we left a few visitors arrived.
Looks like masses or at least prayers are still held at the chapel for there was an altar and three chairs at the front. Pews are limited so the small chapel can get crowded.
Right to the chapel’s door reveals the two flight of stairs going down to the underground chamber, the light illuminating the crypt was from the stair’s lamp and the small incandescent bulb on the far corner of the chamber which effectively gives it a warm glow. There is also a small window on the wall facing the stair where a bit of sunlight stream through.
Into the chamber under
I used filter in these chamber pics, otherwise it would be so dark and difficult to make out the details of the room.
The single chamber is small, I was surprised about that. I was expecting multiple levels of crypts that go down and down to the bowels of the earth. Lol I must have been reading lots of Dan Brown’s hehe. I was thinking this because I did not know yet that not everyone gets buried in the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. I thought it was the town’s public cemetery which of course, should have been big to accommodate all townspeople.
But just like in the society of the living, there is a demarcation of who gets the privilege to be buried in the underground crypt. If you were a friar during the Spanish colonial days or a prominent townsman, you then have a chance to rest in peace in the secluded area underground. Otherwise, it’s the public cemetery for you which is separate from this famous sementeryo.
Tombs and Graves of Nagcarlan famous tourist spot
As to current situation, no burials have been allowed on the underground cemetery of Nagcarlan after this site made it to the list of national historical landmarks last August 1, 1973.
The reason why this site was accepted by NHCP was because our Katipuneros, the revolutionary heroes of Laguna lead by Pedro Paterno and General Severino Tainio used the underground crypt as venue for their meetings. Also during the tumultuous times of the Filipino – American War and World War II, this place has also served as a meeting place, hiding ground and shelter for our nationalist.
Now for a ‘daw’, a trivia shared by Titus, he is from neighboring Liliw and have heard tales of a ‘secret passage’. Story goes that there is a tunnel in the underground chamber which leads all the way to the Nagcarlan church complex, a distance of almost one kilometer. This tunnel was also supposedly used by the revolutionaries in getting in and out of the cemetery undetected by enemies. Truth or Made-up? No idea but while we were underground, I still tried to look for an opening that will suggest a tunnel is nearby. I did not find any though or maybe it was already sealed! =)
We surfaced back to the ground, am happy with the realization that I’ve stood where our katipuneros and revolutionaries once stood. Our timing was almost perfect, the day after is the commemoration of the Philippines Independence Day.
View from the chapel to the arch
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery not only has protected the remains of the living but also has sheltered those who fought for the freedom that we are enjoying today. Mabuhay ang ating Mga Bayani! Long Live Philippine Independence!
Come drop by Nagcarlan and visit this important site. It’s open for public viewing from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8:30 in the morning. to 4:30 in the afternoon. =)
How to go to Nagcarlan via Commute:
If from Manila, take a bus bound for Lucena or San Pablo. Get down in San Pablo City, make your way to the San Pablo Cathedral. Adjacent to the cathedral there is the city’s Fire Station, after the fire station you can find the Liliw jeepney terminal. Hop on this Liliw bound jeep. Nagcarlan is before Liliw. The underground cemetery is beside the road on the left, fare from San Pablo to Nagcarlan is P26.
Suggested side trips: Lake Pandin of San Pablo | Liliw Tsinelas Capital | Bunga Falls Nagcarlan
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