Some men go into woodworking. Others make desktop gardens. Raymond Fariñas visits the tombstones of the once famous and vlogs about it on YouTube.
The CPA and financial auditor runs the channel Graveyard Pinoy TV, a veritable In Memoriam reel of Philippine cinema, with each episode featuring two or three actors and a visit to their final resting places. Throw in some trivia, a glimpse of their filmography, plus movie scenes they appear in, and you have 7 to 10 minutes worth of WFH distraction and solid infotainment.
The project was inspired by American vlogger Arthur Dark’s Hollywood Graveyard Channel. “I have been following his channel for over two years now and I’m amazed with the program format,” says Fariñas. “I never thought I will be the first and only one to do this vlog locally for notable Filipinos.”
And while Hollywood Graveyard features stars from as far back as the silent era, Graveyard Pinoy TV visits the tombstones of celebrities from as early as the great studio days of local films—from Pugo and Tugo to Carmen Rosales and Rogelio Dela Rosa, from Alicia Vergel to Lou Salvador Sr. to Mila del Sol. Even the recently departed, like April Boy Regino, has earned an episode in the channel, as well as former presidents (Ramon Magsaysay, Jose P. Laurel, Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas), brilliant directors (Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal), matinee idols (Alfie Anido and Joel Alano) and screen villains (Bella Flores and Romy Diaz).
Fariñas just started working on the videos around Christmas last year. He planned on visiting the grave of his idol Teddy Diaz, the original guitarist of the rock band The Dawn, for a premier episode—but he was unable to locate it. The fan ended up filming the tombstones of movie queen Amalia Fuentes, 80s heartthrob Jon Hernandez, and Jon's uncle Anthony Alonzo, the action star. Fariñas says they’re all neighbors in a section at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.
How does Fariñas know who is buried where? “I built up a database from scratch, starting from a few departed celebrities that I am aware of, and then I Google the rest. From there, I can plan a visit to the park,” says the vlogger.
“The park internment record is the best source of information to locate any individual interred at the park,” he adds. “However, the park’s record is my last resort, as normally caretakers can direct you to specific graves or mausoleums. Even the information about how often the surviving family visits, they will tell you—if you ask.”
In less than five months, Fariñas has visited over 30 cemeteries and columbaria including the large memorial parks like Manila North, La Loma, and Manila Memorial Park. He has visited over 100 famous personalities and published more than 80 episodes, with his first one premiering last January 3. He publishes a new episode daily, or at least five times a week. It’s a lot of work but isn’t that what labors of love are made of?
Fariñas was born in his mother’s hometown, Catbalogan, Samar, but grew up in Pasig. He finished his accountancy course at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa. He now works for a Swiss company based in Geneva as part of a global auditing team focused on Asia.
Before the pandemic, he was traveling a lot around the region “and had regular assignments in Europe, US, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.” He is married with two kids.
So why does he do it—visit the dead for his vlogs, we mean? “Prior to vlogging and documenting my grave visits, I was already fascinated with visiting the graves of the famous, even when I was travelling overseas,” answers Fariñas. “I’ve visited the grave of Asia’s Eternal Queen of Pop in Taipei [Teresa Teng], for example, in 2018.”
He says the YouTube channel is not just about making the trip to cemeteries. It's about revisiting the careers of those who once brought movies to life. It's about celebrating their lives. “Every episode posted is a feat,” Fariñas says.
He’s actually made several trips outside of Manila just for the vlog. He was in Pampanga recently to locate the tomb of one time movie star Roxanne Abad Santos (“Miracle of Love”). He’s traveled to Cavite to visit the resting places of famous Caviteños Nardong Putik, Ramon Revilla, and Emilio Aguinaldo. In Batangas, he searched for the tomb of Jose P Laurel. In Bulacan, he looked for the final resting places of Redford White, Bert Marcelo, Sammy Lagmay, and Bella Flores.
Of all the tombstones he’s visited, he says the most “bongga’ is Ramon Revilla Sr’s at Angelus in Imus. “Grand and lavish,” is how Fariñas describes it. The most unforgettable are comedian Patsy’s and actor Von Serna’s at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina. “You wouldn’t know that the graves exist kasi nabaon na sa lupa ang markers.” And whose graves were the ones he was most looking forward to see? “I was so glad to have located the tomb of Lilian Velez in Manila North Cemetery,” he answers. “And when I learned and confirmed that Roxanne Abad Santos is interred at Holy Mary in Angeles City, I drove immediately to Pampanga to pay a visit and shoot her final resting place. For now, I hope to finally locate Teddy Diaz.”
Finally, morbid as it may sound but since we are in the subject, we asked the vlogger if he already knows what he wants to see on his own tombstone. Fariñas says he hasn't given it much thought, before saying he wants this written on his marker: “Watch your step!”