Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Cemeteries in Pampanga

There are two cemeteries in my mother's town in Pampanga. A private one called a Memorial cemetery with its manicured lawns, drainage system and sprinklers. Here the funeral rites often have this cowboy and his horse-drawn carriage bringing out the dead.

The Memorial cemetery used to be a rice field and a nesting ground for migrating herons.

Now its too crowded out here on All Saints Day. You could hardly see the tombstones, it feels more like a park or some outdoor barbecue event.

The other one is the Public Cemetery, the one I am more familiar with. There is no planning or mapping involved in creating this sprawl. Here the sepulturero is King. He decides who comes and goes where and for how much. He knows the empty plots, the forgotten bones and the fresh ones still decomposing since what year. 

Pink is the color of the season

Some tombstones are handmade and handwritten with love

While some remain forgotten and nameless

Some remain grand, towering over others. These are spaces for people who once walked the earth. They are known as Condominiums.

Some do get evicted from their plot. 

Some are hidden by the laundry of the living.

A few are still swimming in some organic soup since the typhoon.

This small town public cemetery in Minalin is also a testament to centuries of inbreeding. I could map out the families and realized I am not far removed from their bloodlines. Kampampangans tend to intermarry into clans within the town.

I also find interesting what other people often put on the grave while visiting- food, shoes, letters, trinkets, toys, beer, photos and even pieces of clothing.

Excuse my tapophilia, my fascination for cemeteries stems from no underlying deathwish, but from a grave need to understand and archive the past in my own way. 

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