Horticultural Stroll within Manila Chinese Cemetery

Manila Chinese Cemetery is one of the biggest cemeteries at 54 hectares about 133. 43 acres which borders Manila and Caloocan City. The site used called “ Paang Bundok” and part of the triumvirate of cemeteries which also includes La Loma Catholic Cemetery and Manila North Cemetery. The area was chosen because of its hilly portion, good feng shui and vantage point.

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rows of mid 20th-century houses leading to the entrance

It is rich in history, architectural heritage, cultural and horticultural wealth. Manila had few areas of greenery and the place is a treasure trove of stories to tell, share and appreciate.

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boungainvillea hybrid

 Boungainvillea hybrid planted by one of the home owner which lives near the cemetery. This tends to get bushy during the rainy season. The owner told us that the flowering shrub also serves as buffer within their property line.

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 Alstonia scholaris  locally known as devil tree / dita tree also found within the cemetery ground

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 Another dita ( Alstonia scholaris ) is flowering, with yellow oleander and ixora ( santan) at the foreground

The cemetery had two gate opening, one is located at Felix Huertas street, Santa Cruz, Manila and is open daily at around 7:00 am until 5:00 pm and R. Papa street within Caloocan City. The R. Papa gate only opens during days leading to All Saint’s Day and All Souls Day.

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newly re-built Chong Hock Tong Temple and administration building at the back

Chong Hock Tong temple which was rebuilt few years ago had a re-landscaping done.

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Chong Hock Tong temple with century-old mangoes and rain trees are planted within the compound.

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Drynaria quercifolia or commonly known as pakpak lawin/ paypaymo/ paipaimo

Most of the trees, plants, shrubs and flowering plants are exotic with very few native species. However what remains within the cemetery is still a sight to behold.  The place is also good site for bird and butterfly watching.

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Drynaria quercifolia with Dendrobium anosmum ( sanggumay)

The rain tree, acacia or akasya tree is a perfect host for different kinds of epiphytes like Drynaria quercifolia and Dendrobium anosmum.

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Shanghai Beauty or Jatropha integrrima

Shanghai Beauty is a flowering shrub was probably introduced into the country in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s by landscapers. They would use the flowering shrub extensively in their projects. This is relatively easy to grow and propagation using different kinds of method. The most popular is thru air layering, cuttings or seeds.

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 banana plant with fruits

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pandakaki , rosal and adenium obesum

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Plumeria alba or Puting kalachuchi is another feature of the cemetery. There are dozens of plumerias planted in different parts of the cemetery. There are red colored plumerias, yellow and pinkish form.

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red kalachuchi

Some of the big kalachuchis were at least 50 years-old. Few years ago, caretakers would collect dried flowers of kalachuchi and sell them to incense maker.

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roses

The pink rose featured above is relatively an old cultivar variety,Which can be grown carefree in lowland areas like in Metro Manila. This used to be very popular flowering plant throughout the archipelago from the 1950’s even until the mid -1990’s.

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Ficus pumila and garlic vine covered this memorial tomb marker

Ficus pumila refers to the latin word” pumilus” meaning small or dwarf and refers to the very small leaves of the plant.

Some local gardeners would sometimes refer this as climbing ivy, creeping fig, wall creeper, climbing ivy or poison ivy. This is popular fig grown in perimeter walls in posh subdivision and old adobe walls.  landscapers would plant this creeping fig to soften the grey color of the walls.

Young fig leaves would have different colors and shades of green, Thus having a cooling effect to the immediate environment.

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Ficus pumila leaves and stems

Ficus pumila tend to entangle the walls and eventually its long roots and stems would tend to erode portions of the walls or adobe stones in the long run. The old vacation house of Manuel Quezon that use to be located along Gilmore Street had several old Ficus pumila growing in its walls, When portion of the walls are being disassemble for transfer to Quezon Memorial Circle.  Most of the old adobe stone walls and hollow blocks had structural defects cause by the massive root system.

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Don Manuel/ Scarlet Bush or Hamelia patens is a flowering semi-bush introduced to the country from Central and South America.

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Annona squamosa commonly known as atis or sugar -apple are also found planted within family mausoleum plots. One caretaker told us that the relatives of this family mausoleum would bring atis and offer them. Then the fruits are eaten and the seeds are discarded at the ground.

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sampaguita/ arabian jasmine

Sampaguita/ Arabian jasmine are also planted in several family mausoleum pocket garden.

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champaka,champaca, chempaka, tsampaka, sampaka, sampaga trees

 Some families emphasize on planting fragrant flowering plants like kamuning, sinamomong sungsong/ cinamomo (Aglaia odorata), gardenia, pandakaki, ixora, kalachuchi,champaka, roses within their plots or mini gardens.

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potted flowering lilium hybrids ( these are locally called star glazer)

Potted flowering liliums, chrysanthemums, orchids, guzmanias and blooming plants  are placed in family mausoleums.

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commonly called Malaysian mums or garden mums

The growing trend among visiting relatives would bring and offer these potted flowering plants at family mausoleums. Flowers can last longer and fresh for several days or even weeks. Compared to offering flower arrangements which could only last between 1 to 3 days.

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caladium or popularly known as corazon de maria

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cassava

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an outdoor garden, outdoor family tomb and a mausoleum

This is a rather large family mausoleum with sprawling garden. There are several old mango trees, ti plant and pineapples planted within the garden area. According to my aunt, this family mausoleum plot belongs to a distant relative’s family. This is located just a few meters away from my grandparents mausoleum.

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This is a more traditional family mausoleum which had been repainted

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De Vera family mausoleum

We would refer those neighbors as (kapit-puntod). In life and death, It is ironic that some relatives, friends and business associates were buried near each other.

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calamansi/ kalamansi

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okra

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Yu family mausoleum or more popularly known as Regal mausoleum

The Yu family clan mausoleum is one of the largest building within the cemetery. Here lies the moral remains of the clan. Caretakers and people would refer this as Regal mausoleum in referral to Mother Lily Y. Monteverde, the clan’s most famous celebrity maker and entrepreneur.

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Kalanchoe daigremontianum or Bryophyllum daigremontianum

Kalanchoe daigremontianum or Bryophyllum daigremontianum had almost naturalized in some family estate plots and on top of family mausoleums. Cacti and succulent enthusiasts would be happy to see these grow in almost carefree environment.

A leisurely stroll within Manila’s Chinese cemetery would yield a lot of interesting stuffs and interest.

Note: All photos are taken by the author