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Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery » Buried Memories of Another Time

Old Spanish front gate of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
“Go forth, Mortal man, full of life
Today you visit happily this shelter, but after you have gone out,
Remember, you have a resting place here, prepared for you.”
-Underground Cemetery Spanish Inscription-

Nagcarlan, Laguna – I have to stand there outside the arched gate for a minute, staring at all the magnificent details like a child on a field trip, excited and awed. The old brown lichens, cracked walls and an empty niche that used to be a resting place of an unknown saint’s icon properly evokes what this gate signifies – death and departure from life in this world.

This arched gate that leads to the chapel built into the cemetery's inner wall is inviting me inside. This alone strikes me as odd.
Historical circle
Panoramic photo of the front facade of the cemetery
Front facade serving as a beautiful entrance to the Chapel
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Historical Landmark, built by the Franciscan Friar Vicente Velloc in 1845 is a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture.

Underground Cemetery Historical marker in Filipino posted at the gate
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery historical marker
This small portion among the Philippine’s large collection of Spanish colonial footprints - always marred by our Katipunero’s traumatic and sad tales, is said to be one of its kind in the Philippines. It is declared as a national historical landmark because its underground crypt was used as a secret meeting place in 1896 by Filipino revolutionaries, during the Filipino-American War.
Details of the Spanish colonial architecture reflected on the cemetery gate
Details of the old gate
The façade of this magnificent century-old Underground Cemetery at the boundary of the Nagcarlan town proper and Barangay Bambang is the most recognizable monument along the Nagcarlan Road. Its walls, decorated with wrought-iron grills and decorative stonework, enclosing its octagonal grounds is like magically protecting the memories of another time.

At the back of my mind I thought, “Ahh so this is the great historical circle of Nagcarlan.”

Creepy crypt

The day being cloudy, and the weather apparently on a mood swing, and since this is just a side trip, we decided to just do a quick camwhoring inside the famed underground crypt.

Entrance facade of the chapel leading to the underground crypt
Entrance to the Chapel leading to the crypt
After taking photos at the gate, I let my friends go inside the chapel first so I can get a clear panoramic shot on my smartphone. Upon entering the gate, I find myself inside the cemetery, the enclosed octagonal grounds was surprisingly wide like a park.

Panorama photo of the Chapel with above ground tombs
Panoramic view of the Chapel with above ground tombs 
Wings of the chapel radiate from the sides, forming an arc where the above ground niches are found. Connecting the gate and the chapel passing the center is a lovely brick patio with manicured green hedges. The natural growing green grasses offer a welcome contrast which also highlight the old walls that has withstood decades of decay and nature’s harsh effects. This could be a perfect isle for a bride on a glamorous wedding, but hey this is a cemetery.
Wooden entrance of the cemetry Chapel
Old wooden doors of the Chapel

Details of the interior of the underground cemetery chapel
Interior of the cemetery Chapel with image of St. Sepulcro
The Chapel is as old as the façade. Upon entering the two creaking wooden doors of the chapel, a centerpiece image of the Saint Sepulcro, as large as the one being paraded during Holy Week at Quiapo immediately catches my attention. I thought there is an entrance fee because there is a guy sitting just after the Chapel entrance, but luckily he is there just to remind visitors not to use flash when taking photos inside the crypt and also to make sure visitors signed the visitor’s registration.

Patches of decorative wooden planks are still attached against the obviously newly painted ceiling, probably in an effort to preserve the original interior.

Entrance to the underground Cemetery crypt below ground
Entrance to the underground crypt
Old Altar inside the underground crypt
Creepy altar inside the crypt
Under the chapel, 15 feet under ground accessible via two flights of stairs, is the crypt. The first nine steps lead to a landing where there are Spanish inscriptions, but are no longer visible. At first I thought those are vandals made by visitors.
Stairs leading to the underground crypt
Last six steps leading to the underground crypt
Details of the underground cypt ceiling
Decorative ceiling of the underground crypt
The last six steps lead to the underground portion of the cemetery, lit by a small circular window that ominously opens to the ground level. Inside are rows of niches on the walls where the dead are buried.

Rows of tombs at the underground cemetery
Rows of old tombs where the dead are buried
Underground cemetery old tomb marker
Oldest tomb I can find
According to records, the oldest niche in the cemetery had the date 1886 but I can’t find it. The oldest I could find was 1932. The last recorded interment was in 1982, before the cemetery was declared a national historical landmark. Currently, Nagcarlan has opened its municipal cemetery in the town proper.

Final thoughts

Source of light for the underground tombs
Yodi the tomb raider: Source of natural light for the underground tombs
Okay, I have to admit, I am totally obsessed with anything that is old and historic, even if it’s a cemetery. So I really enjoyed our side trip here.

If you are the tourist type I would also recommend dropping by at this old underground cemetery. Arts and architecture students will definitely appreciate this place while some people will just say, “That’s it?”

Well, if it’s your first time in Nagcarlan, you should visit this place – it’s a great way to get a little bit of history and also because it's the touristy thing to do. 
Cemetery ghosts
Hey what's that?

Quick Info:
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
Nagcarlan, Laguna
Location: Along Nagcarlan-Rizal Road – boundary of Nagcarlan town and Brgy. Bambang
Open from 8:00am – 4:00pm (Tuesday-Sunday)
No entrance fee
For inquiries please contact the NHI central office at telephone number +63 2 5249952.

View what's inside the Underground Cemetery on below interactive panorama: 

Inside Nagcarlan's Underground Cemetery Laguna Philippines in Philippines
» Cinco, Maricar. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Visiting RP’s only underground cemetery.[Retrieved: 21 July 2012]
» A Secret Meeting Place. National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
» Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. Laguna Travel Guide 

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