Going out of your way to visit a cemetery (other than those where your loved ones are buried this All Saints’ Day) is not something most people would want to do during a holiday. Visiting crypts, graveyards and tombs do not hold the same appeal for tourists compared to visiting beaches, waterfalls and other natural attractions.
But around the Philippines, you can find hauntingly beautiful and bizarre cemeteries that have become tourist spots in their own right. Here are just a few of the unusual burial grounds in the country worth traveling to any time of the year.
1. Sunken Cemetery, Camiguin
Camiguin’s recent viral tourism video gives us a glimpse of the volcanic island’s beauty. One of the most iconic landmarks you can find in this Northern Mindanao province is the Sunken Cemetery, marked by a large cross that memorializes the cemetery driven 20 feet underwater when Mount Vulcan erupted in the 1870s.
The cemetery located off the shore of Barrio Bonbon in Catarman, Camiguin is considered one of the best dive sites in the island. According to locals, the site right beneath the cross offers an eerie and fascinating spot for scuba divers and snorkelers to see marine life swimming among tombstones encrusted by corals. Read more about Camiguin here. Photo by author
2. Hanging Coffins, Sagada
Aside from Kiltepan Peak and Sumaguing Caves, one of the most recognizable landmarks of Sagada, Mt. Province are its hanging coffins.
These coffins, made from hollowed-out logs hanging from limestone cliffs and cave walls, are part of Igorot burial ritual of pre-colonial Philippines. The Lumiang Burial Cave offers a glimpse of ancient traditions as the placement of the coffins was believed to put the departed closer to heaven. Here’s what else you can do in Sagada. Photo by author
3. Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Laguna
Dubbed the only underground cemetery in the country, the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is located in Barangay Bambang, two kilometers south of downtown Nagcarlan in the province of Laguna. This national historical landmark and museum was built in 1845 under the supervision of Franciscan priest, Fr. Vicente Velloc as a public burial site. Its underground crypt was kept exclusively for Spanish friars, prominent town citizens and members of elite Catholic families
The cemetery was also said to be a meeting place of the Filipino independence fighters - the Katipuneros, making it even more historic. For those into art and history, this Baroque cemetery with its circular cemetery is worth a stop if you’re taking a road trip around the Laguna area. Photo by author
4. The Cemetery of Negativism, Baguio
Baguio City is always popular this time of the year. One of the famous landmarks you can find inside Camp John Hay that has been around for decades is The Lost Cemetery, also know as the Cemetery of Negativism. This isn’t your typical cemetery where people are buried, but one intended for “man’s greatest self-imposed infliction” - negativism.
Kitschy tombstones and animal markers with pun-filled names scattered throughout a small garden indicate how creatures died from passivity and inaction, serving as a reminder for the living to be more positive. As the main marker at the site says: “Have a good day - treat today like it’s your last, though it’s the first day of the rest.” Photo by author
5. Bajao Cemetery, Zamboanga City
One of the top tourist attractions in Zamboanga City is Great Santa Cruz Island, well-known for its pink coralline sand beach. But before tourists enjoyed the shores and sunny skies at the island, locals from the Badjao and the Sama Bangingi tribes were using some parts of the island as a burial ground.
Visitors can still see the old Badjao burial site underneath a canopy of trees in the forest on the eastern part of the beach. The Badjaos, known as sea nomads or gypsies of Sulu Sea, believe that the journey continues in the afterlife. Aside from the concrete markers and gravestones here, visitors can still spot miniature boats made of wood with cloth sails, which are meant to transport the departed on their great voyage beyond the sea. Read more about Zamboanga’s beautiful Pink Sand Beach here. Photo by author
For more travel stories, visit the author’s blog Travel Up (www.traveling-up.com)