This centuries old cemetery is the ONLY underground cemetery in the country and the whole of South-East Asia. The uniqueness and beauty of this place describes the treasure hidden within Laguna.
A cemetery is commonly defined as the place where the remains of our beloved onesare buried or otherwise interred. A body is buried beneath the soil but what ifwe bury bodies in a ground underneath the ground? Dumbfounded?
If you wish to revisit history and cultures of the past, this cemetery is the right place. This historical landmark is in fact the only underground cemetery in our country and the South-East Asia. The Cemetery stands as a unique final resting place that has withstood the test of time and has a unique role in history.
The first things that will greet you as you come to this site are an arched gate and stone walls adorned by wrought-iron grills. From there,you have to walk along a pathway in the middle of a green lawn to reach the Campo Santo, the chapel in the cemetery. There are 240 niches at the walls of the cemetery and 36 niches in the underground crypt. The chapel stands for the final mass for the departed souls before burying.
THE HISTORIC CEMETERY
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery was built in 1845 under the direction of the Franciscan Friar Vicente Velloc, the concurrent parish priest of Nagcarlan. Fr. Velloc is also the designer of the facade of the chapel. Way back then, a cemetery is also built beside St. Bartholomew Parish Church, but Fr. Velloc desired to build another graveyard away from the church.After the chapel and the cemetery was finished, the friar saw the prospect of building an underground graveyard because of the place’s sloping terrain.
According to the historical records, the Underground Cemetery was built for the wealthy Catholic families and priests of Nagcarlan. After its construction in 1845, the first burial happened on the same year. The oldest dated tomb was 1886 while the last interment happened in 1978 because the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery was then declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute, prohibiting any burials to preserve its history and beauty.
The underground cemetery is considered as a historical landmark because of the important role it played during the various colonization periods in the Philippines. It was used by the Filipino Katipuneros as a secret meeting place in 1896.
FUN HISTORIC FACT, Pedro Paterno and Gen. Severino Taiño of the”Maluningning” command held a meeting at the cemetery where they planned the historic Pact of Biak-na-Bato in 1897.
Inside the chapel you can see a lot of Latin inscriptions on the walls which are now washed-out but still somehow readable. One special inscription was translated by the Nagcarlan Historical Committee and it says:
“Go forth, Mortal man, full of life
Today you visit happily this shelter,
But after you have gone out,
Remember, you have a resting place here,
Prepared for you.”
Sad to say, but it is not allowed to take photos of the inscriptions because it is currently under restoration. A Museum was built by NHCP beside the cemetery to promote its history to tourists and visitors.
MY GRANDMOTHER’S STORY
My grandmother, Nanay Manda, once told a story about this Underground Cemetery. She believes that the cemetery has a series of underground tunnels and passages that goes through many places. Before, during her young age, she said that many people has seen the secret tunnels and walk through it. The tunnels reaches the back of the altar of the Nagcarlan Church which is roughly 1 kilometer away from the Underground Cemetery. Story says that the tunnels were finally sealed by the Katipuneros to hide it from the Spanish and American invaders. Today, the legend is still alive in many Nagcarlenos like me.
HOW TO GET THERE?
- From San Pablo City– Ride a Jeep to Nagcarlan, the terminal is beside the Fire Station near the Cathedral. The fare up to Nagcarlan town proper is Php 25. You can see the cemetery when you are near the town proper, it is beside the National Road.
- Entrance Fee– None, donations are accepted
- Museum Fee– None
- Souvenirs are available inside.
A PLACE THAT ONES WRITE OUR HISTORY
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is really a place of the past and must be preserved due to its national importance and significance to our country’s history. The place will really educate the youth like me about how we, Filipinos, fought and obtained our independence. Our predecessors gave their lives for our freedom and this is a humble place to appreciate that.