Cemetery Corner

Bacolod City, the Philippines

April 17, 2011

I walked amongst the dead.

Every morning of my childhood, the gaping gate of the public cemetery would greet me. I lived in a house directly across it. My first parade was a funeral procession, my first live band music a dirge. My neighbors across the street were stacked in cement boxes painted white, guarded by frozen angels and adorned with melted candle wax and wilted flowers.

Familia Luzuriaga Cemetery, Lopez Jaena St. cor. Burgos St., Bacolod City

On week days, I would trudge to the street corner to take a jeepney to school. Locals called the intersection bangga patyo (Ilonggo for “cemetery corner”) for the graves surrounding it. The public cemetery and private mausoleums were kitty-corner from each other. In the middle of the street lay the Familia Luzuriaga Cemetery, flanked by rows of frangipani trees.

Popularly accorded the distinction of being “the only cemetery at the intersection of two highways” by the Guinness Book of World Records, the private cemetery of the Luzuriaga family occupied the center island of Lopez Jaena Street, perpendicular to Burgos Street. I never saw the location as odd or unique. I thought the middle of the street was a customary place to inter the dead. Only recently had I learned of its claim to fame; though I had never been able to verify it. The distinction was not far-fetched; Bacolod was known for its wide streets (apparently wide enough to fit a cemetery).

The general belief was that the graveyard preceded the street. In the early days of Bacolod’s urban sprawl, the family donated plots of land to the city government, but a proposed street would have to cut through the family graveyard. Rather than moving the graves, city officials decided to split the street. Thus, the one-of-a-kind feature of my hometown, and my childhood, came to be.

The Cemetery in the Middle of the Street

Coming home from school in the afternoons, I would get off at bangga patyo. Met by the fragrance of frangipani trees, I knew I was close to home. In my culture, the strong perfume of frangipani flowers was believed to protect the spirit of the dead. I never ascribed such power to this flower, but its scent would always take me back to my childhood, my daily walk amongst the dead. Sometimes I thought how it was to join my silent neighbors on the other side of the street.

I wondered if it would feel like coming home – making that final turn around bangga patyo.

*******

This post is my entry to the October 2011 edition of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ blog carnival with the theme “dark tourism” and hosted byΒ The Pinay Solo Backpacker.

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61 thoughts on “Cemetery Corner

  1. Taga Bangga Patyo ka gali? Hehe.

    Why is it that frangipani is always found in cemeteries (at least in the Philippines). I remember I was so traumatized as a child when somebody gave me a garland of this aromatic flower. I didn’t sleep for days! I felt as if it was a sign of my impending death!

    But really, Banga Patyo is quite a landmark. The only one of its kind.

    1. Ho-o guid. Ikaw haw taga diin ka? πŸ™‚

      I happen to like frangipani flowers and their fragrance. Since I grew up near the cemetery, I hardly get spooked. The living scares me more than the dead!

    1. Thanks Mary! I’m glad I was able to let you smell the frangipani fragrance even through my story. Happy Halloween! πŸ™‚

    1. Ok here’s the address: Lopez Jaena St. corner Burgos St. Just ask where “bangga patyo” is. Or look for the public cemetery. Check it out next time!

  2. How amazing! From your photo it looks like a lovely cemetery and well cared for. I also love the smell of frangipani flowers. Living by a cemetery would not scare me either. My birthday is on Halloween – I love black cats and zombies lol.

    1. How fun, Mari! Your birthday party is always a costume party. πŸ™‚ Yeah, it’s a well-tended graveyard. And when I came home recently, I was glad to see the trees still there.

  3. Age, another thread of connection here. I just love walking through cemeteries and taking in the quiet and calm of the place. I read tombstones and also check the age of the individuals who are laid. Some stones are quite unique.

    Long ago, I did a post on the same topic. I am giving the link: http://meanderingsandreflections.blogspot.com/2010/01/at-home-with-those-asleep.html

    Age, glad to know that we have many points of connection. There are so many across the world with whom we share so many aspects of ourselves. Inspite of all these connections, we are unique by ourselves. Wonderful, isn’t it?

    Thanks for spurring on thought-after-thought, dear Age.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    1. Point of connection – love how you put it. It’s like we connected the dots we shared to form our friendship.

      Thanks for sharing your post. We could do a cemetery tour when we find ourselves in each other’s countries. πŸ™‚

      I also read epitaphs and sometimes I make stories out of the earthly lives of the departed. I will be visiting a particular cemetery more often now for my dad. This time I will not be imagining the life he lived, but remembering.

      Hope to see you soon, Mrs. Sus!

    1. Ilonggo ka man gali! Wala amo ni sa Iloilo kay “only in Bacolod” lang ni. Patyo ang amon nga “pride of Bacolod” – te diin ka pa! Haha!

  4. From the photo it looks like a pretty cemetery. Pwede pang indie film. Hahaha. But where are the puntods? Are those the white ones at the end of the path? Is it like a long cemetery?

    1. Honored to be graced by your presence, Dyosa ng Bagets. πŸ™‚ Yup, yung puting thingy sa dulo ang mga puntod. It was padlocked eh. Wala din akong phallic lens for a bonggang zoom. Elongated ang drama ng graveyard kasi nga nasa center island ng highway.

  5. yay! ang creepy ng neighborhood. hehehe! In fairness ang ganda niya ha. Pang wall paper. Well guess what? My house is also a few blocks away from a cemetery. I always say “Ma! Sa Paraiso lang ha”. Imagine a 9 year old saying that. Weird diba? Minsan ang laswa pakinggan. yan kasi name e. hahah!

    1. @aylablahs: Siguro nga. Wouldn’t know though cuz I stayed home during Undas. The neighborhood was too crowded and I’m Protestant so we don’t celebrate Undas with the same fervor as Catholics.

      @Claire: Hahaha, tomoh. Magbabalik sa Lupa…one of the first Tagalog songs I learned.

  6. AJ, another incredible writing on a subject such as …. A cemetery? How do you do it? Every word , every phrase painted a childhood story complete with details that added drama, color and aroma to an otherwise “common” tale. What talent!

    1. You floored me, Lili! As they say, write about what you know. That’s my golden rule in writing. I’m glad you liked this post.

    1. Oh, be careful what you wish for, Nelieta. This is just the first entry in my hometown series. Brace yourself for more childhood memories. πŸ™‚

  7. Hi! It looks beautiful and one of a kind! I’ve lived around some but to my surprise never felt uncomfortable around them…which ideally I should have considering the fact that I was such a (and still am a lil) nervous rack! hehe πŸ˜‰

    Cheers!

    1. Nehha, we share a dark past! Haha! As I’ve said, the living scares the living daylights outta me more than the dead.

      Cheerio!

  8. wow, di ko toh nakita sa bacolod. onga naman, dun iisa lang naman ang route namin nuon, from Bata to San Agustin school. thanks for sharing this AJ! Ilongga ka man guid? – my Ilonggo sucks big time. hehe. didn’t realize you lived in Bacolod pala. hehe.

    –love the perspective of the first photo! πŸ˜€

    1. Tuod guid ko nga Ilonggo kay ka-tikalon sa kon, hahaha! Born and raised in Bacolod. We were island neighbors! Oh well, my Cebuano also sucks. I only know one question: unsa ka man dong? πŸ˜€

  9. Cuz, do you have a pic of the gate ng house nyo from across the street? yung dati pa nung wala pa ang building sa corner. as a child, i remember looking up those walls and gates and imagining how creepy it was to walk through the courtyard with all the big trees (starapple ba yun or mango) towering on both sides. Tapos ang dark pang tingnan from the outside, and then just across the street sementeryo! I wonder why Peque Gallaga missed that location. It would have made a good backdrop for Shake Rattle and Roll! Hahaha. Happy Halloween! ; )

    1. Hey Toto Jonas! Yudi ha…kumu-comment ka na. πŸ˜€ Daw wala gid ko pic of the gate. We have many photos of the house lang, but no one thought of taking a pic of that red gate (formerly green, now rusty brown I think, hehe). Honga it looked spooky. You’re right, pang horror films sana. Mahina ang location scouts ni Peque Gallaga!

      Happy All Souls Day! πŸ™‚

      1. FYI…Tito Peque Gallaga is a Ruiz De Luzuriaga. He most probably did not include the Patio with his movie. Thank you for sharing this.

      2. It’s an honor to have a Luzuriaga commenting on this post. Bacolod society is truly a small world. I should’ve guessed Direk Peque was a family member! Thanks back, Christopher!

  10. Hello AJ,
    You have a way with words. What a nice writeup. And a lovely photo of the place as well. I wasnt able to do justice with mine. Well done!

    I was there around May 2010.

    1. Huh? I have 2 photos in this post. I can see them in my lappie naman. Hmmm strange. There must be a ghost that hides photos in this post.

      1. hahaha… ayun nakita ko na. baka hindi lang na load kanina. ganda nito. havent seen this yet despite the number of times ive been to bacolod. ngayon ko lang din to nakita sa blog. great find AJ!

    2. It’s not really a tourist attraction. It’s just…there. πŸ˜€ Thank goodness the photos showed. Minsan nga it takes time to load. Salamat Dong!

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