Chinese Cemetery -Santa Cruz, Manila – Philippines
Chong Hock Tong temple ( photo :by the author )
Chong Hock Tong Temple was built in 1878, it was one of the very few remaining pre-war structures in Manila. Gobernadorcillio Carlos Palanca Tanchueco ( Chinese name: Tan Quien Sien) and Mr. Lim Ong who has been credited for supervising the construction , financing the cost of construction . The temple is closely affiliated with the Tsinoy community, it was never declared a historic landmark by the government. There are also century-old acacias and mango trees within the grounds with neatly manicured lawn.
temple main altar ( before the demolition )
The architecture has been described as “reminiscent of those in Fujian province as well as those in Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia with their colorful friezes and uniquely upturned eaves.” There is also a small inner courtyard where sunlight can penetrate.
side altar ( with statue of Don Carlos Palanca) right side
The temple is very simple but the details are very vivid and colorful, it is also guarded by two fu- dogs and old bells are found at the side of the temple
fu dogs guarding the entrance
There was a persistent rumors late last year that the old temple will eventually be demolished to pave way for a bigger and stronger structure.
I manage to got a first hand information a few days ago when a distant relative told me that the old temple was demolished when they went to the cemetery to pay homage to their parents.
Leaving no time to waste, I felt the urge to visit the Chinese cemetery to confirm if the story was true. Lo and behold, the old temple was indeed demolished.
Manage to personally interviewed at least 10 people from caretakers, gardeners, mausoleum owners , security guards and joggers who frequent the place on what happened to the old temple. Each had different accounts and stories to tell.
” The demolition of the temple started mid- February 2015 and ended sometime last week around March 13 or 14, 2015 . We were sadden by the recent development, We always try to visit the old temple and pay some homage to our fore bearers . We visit the grave site almost on a weekly basis” according to Mrs. Marilyn who requested to withheld her surname.
old logs from the temple
” It was demolished to pave way for a bigger temple twice the size of the current one, Artisan and craftsmen will come from Taiwan . The structure will be stronger and better compared to the old ones which had termite infestation and can accommodate more people. ” a caretaker from nearby mausoleum.
” The demolition is quite slow last February but took a quick phase as some of the wood are weak and were easily dismantled towards mid-March” . – caretaker
” It will be renovated and larger temple will be built , They were able to keep some old logs , altar , Buddha statues , bells and the statue of the one who built the temple ” ( Referring to Don Carlos Palanca. ) -caretaker
” We will surely missed the old temple , It was built during the Spanish regime . It was a time when Chinese and the non -Christians were segregated and have their own cemetery and the temple reflects some touch of Filipino artisans , some of the laborers who built the shrine are trained by the local Chinese and their mastery and craftsmanship is superb. The temple managed to stand for more than 130 -plus years is already a legacy on its own. I have no idea if they are restoring them or enlarging the temple. It seems to be re-building a new one” . – According to a mausoleum owner.
” Masakit na mawala ang lumang templo na saksi na sa mga kasaysayan at kaganapan dito sa lugar. Noong bata pa kami madalas kaming pumunta diyan at umuupo pa kami sa mga batong upuan diyan para magpahinga” – an old lady with several relatives that were buried in an apartment type grave.
” Ang templo na iyan ay parang landmark o reference point namin kung bumibista kami dito, Diyan namin matatandaan na malapit na ang puntod ng aming mga kaanak. ” visitor to the cemetery.
this statue is a mute witness to the destruction of the temple
” There was no proper consultation or even a public hearing conducted by the association , with regard to the demolition of the temple ” . They should have properly consulted those families which have plots here . I think they just decided on their own“. – Ms. Betty Lao
Based on what i have heard, there was no plan to restore the temple , but it was more of making the temple larger and grander with artisan from Taiwan and some say Mainland China -Fujian province .
The cemetery officials and the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association which managed the place cannot be reached for possible plans on the temple.
Note: The names of the persons interviewed during the process were withheld for security , safety reasons ( except for those who willingly express that their sentiments to be published online) .
“We are saddened to hear about the demolition of Manila’s oldest surviving Chinese temple at the Manila Chinese Cemetery and shocked at the level of ignorance regarding heritage conservation in the country,” says Heritage Conservation Society president Ivan Henares.