Chong Hock Tong Temple in Manila’s Chinese Cemetery Demolished to Paveway for a New One

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.

temple ground

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.

cement rubble

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 ownI have no idea if they are restoring them or enlarging the templeIt 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.

Spooktacular – Manila mounts,mausoleum and monument tour

Cemeteries from all over the world tells a lot of interesting stories from romantic relationships, tragedy, lavish lifestyles to ghost  hunting and their spooky encounters with the living. Some famous attractions are the mausoleums examples are Vladimir Lenin , Ho Chi Minh , Eva  Peron , Emperor’s tomb in  Xian ,  China , Abraham Lincoln and ancient catacombs . Like  the living , the dead also tell their stories.

Manila North Cemetery ( Cementerio del Norte) is Manila largest public cemetery occupying 54 hectares of land , is considered the biggest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Metro Manila. Beside it are two other important cemeteries, namely the La Loma Cemetery and the Manila Chinese Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the Manila city government and has initiated an expansion program to build more “apartment tombs” and a crematorium. Located inside the cemetery complex  is a chapel, tennis court ,  veterinary office and is considered as home to a large group of  informal communities .

pyramid shaped family tomb of Tuazon -Arroyo family clan complete with Spinx

Gov. General Francis Burton Harrison

Francis Burton Harrison (December 18, 1873 – November 21, 1957) was an American statesman who served in the United States House of Representatives and appointed as Governor- General of the Philippines by United States President Woodrow Wilson . Harrison was a prominent adviser to a commonwealth president  four  other Presidents of the country. Harrison Plaza was named after him.

Pancho Villa tombstone marker

Francisco Guilledo (August 1, 1901 – July 14, 1925), more popularly known as Pancho Villa, boxer. Villa, who stood only 5 feet and 1 inch (154 cm) tall and never weighed more than 114 pounds (51 kg), rose from obscurity to win the World Flyweight boxing champion in 1923, earning acclaim in some quarters as “the greatest Asian fighter in boxing history”.

an ornately decorated family tomb

President Ramon Magsaysay tomb

Fernando Poe Jr. tomb and family mausoleum

Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (August 20, 1939 – December 14, 2004), better known as Fernando Poe, Jr. and colloquially known as FPJ and Da King, was a  an actor and cultural icon. He was honored on May 24, 2006 as Philippine National Artist through Philippine Proclamation No. 1065.

Notable personalities buried within the cemetery were Jose Corazon de Jesus ( poet) , President Roxas,  President Sergio Osmeña y Suico among others.

Manila Chinese Cemetery

Manila Chinese Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in Manila  after Paco Cemetery and was designated as the resting place for the Chinese citizens who were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries during the Spanish colonial period. The cemetery was witness to many executions during World War II. Among them were Girl Scouts organizer Josefa Llanes Escoda , literary geniuses  Rafael Roces and Manuel Arguilla , star athlete-turned-guerrilla spy Virgilio Logregat , and Chinese Consul General Yang Guangsheng. Apolinario Mabini was also buried in the cemetery before his remains were transferred to  Batangas .

Chong Hock Tong Temple (宗福堂)

Built in the 1850s, this is the oldest Chinese temple in Manila. Though not as elaborate, the architecture is still reminiscent of those in Fujian province as well as those in Singapore and Malaysia with their colorful friezes and uniquely upturned eaves.

temple gate with fu-dog

Second World War memorial

Crematorium

2nd Lt. Carlos Lopez of AFP grave and monument

Dr. Clarence Kuangson Young memorial shrine

He was the consul general from  China in the Philippine island with Frangipani trees Plumeria rubra- alba growing around the memorial rotunda . A school was named after the consul general  Dr. Kwangson Young Memorial School at  1044 Albuquerque in Barangay 7  Tondo, Manila.

Familia Maria Uy de Tee mausoleum

The family mausoleum looked like a mansion with its own gate

Familia Eusebio Tankeh mausoleum circa 1948

Paulino P. Gocheco mausoleum

This family mausoleum is a typical art deco architecture style

A champaka tree ( Michelia champaca ) growing beside the family mausoleum.

This tree is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia . It is best known for its strongly fragrant yellow or white flowers. It is however primarily cultivated for its timber, and is also used in urban landscaping . Its aril -covered seeds are highly attractive to birds .

Common names include champaca, champaka , champak or champac, champa, cempaka, sampenga, sampangi, sampige and shamba.

The flowers are used in Southeast Asia for several purposes. They are floated in bowls of water to scent the room, as a fragrant decoration for bridal beds, and for garlands and hair ointments. Old superstitious beliefs that unseen spirits may inhabit big champaka trees – spirits are usually attracted to fragrant smell emitted by the flowers .

Horticulturists and plant lovers may put cemeteries as ” one of their must been places to visit”. There are approximately several dozens species of  plant varieties from trees, shrubs, ornamental plants that are planted all through out the cemetery.

a traditional Chinese style grave ( turtle shaped)

The turtle shell is the symbol of heaven and the flat square underside the symbol of earth. Based on this understanding, the turtle carries the world on its back. Being the symbol of fertility, vitality and great patience the Chinese believed these animals foretold future events and therefore, fortune tellers use turtles shell to read the future in the pattern on the turtle shell. In older grave sites of Okinawa , Taiwan , China, Malaysia  and Korea  you can still encounter this type of grave tomb site .

Visit the Filipino- Chinese families richly ornate buildings and mausoleum.

Manila Chinese Cemetery

Location :Felix Huertas Street corner Aurora Boulevard

Transportation : jeepney ride, tricycle , ( LRT- Blumentritt station) , pedicab
Opening Hours: 7.30 am to 7.00 pm daily.
Admission: Free.

Note: Tour guides are available ( offered by the cemetery) rates differ from Php 300 to Php 500  individual or group.

But if you knew someone with dead relatives or friends just hop along with them.

Video taping is not allowed . ( permission must be sought)

* The author occasionally does a free walking tour around the area upon request by close friends or relatives.

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