When it comes to places to visit, a cemetery is unlikely to be near the top of the list—if it even makes the list at all. On All Saints Day and All Souls Day, November 1 and 2, respectively, Filipinos go to cemeteries to pay their respects to their departed loved ones. Most people avoid places linked with the dead for the remainder of the year.
However, people routinely visit shops, parks, and even churches that were formerly cemetery. These old cemeteries were dismantled, developed, and replaced with living establishments for a variety of causes, including the effects of war, urbanization, modernization, and, at some time, gentrification.
Starmall Alabang (Alabang, Muntinlupa City)
Because of its history, Starmall Alabang is one of the most popular of the nine Starmall locations in the Philippines. The five-story commercial mall in Muntinlupa was built in the 1990s on the site of the Alabang Cemetery.
Starmalls Inc., a subsidiary of former Senate president and Filipino tycoon Manuel Villar’s listed property holding firm Vista Complexes and Lifescapes Inc., developed and operates the Starmall brand of retail malls. According to US magazine Forbes, Villar is the country’s second richest man in 2018, with a net worth of $5 billion.
Plaza Cristo Rey (Poblacion, Makati City)
Poblacion in Makati City is increasingly being regarded as a hangout spot for hip and cool young people. But beyond the throngs of restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs is Plaza Cristo Rey, a public square built on the site of the former San Pedro de Macati Cemetery.
The cemetery’s building date is unknown, although documentation mentioning the cemetery’s existence were found in 1892, according to a heritage marker posted in the vicinity. The Saint Peter and Saint Paul Parish Church, which still stands today, is located in front of Plaza Cristo Rey.
Harrison Plaza (Malate, Manila)
Harrison Plaza, which opened in 1976, was one of the country’s earliest commercial shopping malls. Apart from that, it was built atop a former burial cemetery, which is an intriguing detail about it.
According to a 2013 Rappler story, there was a historic cemetery called Ermita cemetery in the Fort of San Antonio Abad. The fort, also known as Polvorin de San Antonio Abad, was built as a bulwark during the Spanish colonial period and afterwards used to store gunpowder.
Remedios Circle (Malate, Manila)
The historic Malate Cemetery, where Remedios Circle presently stands, is one of Manila’s oldest burial grounds.
People living in the area claim that human bones and antique artifacts such as kitchen utensils were excavated from the site during redevelopment before the traffic circle was transformed into what it is today—a public park with a fountain in the middle, where the townspeople gather to hang out and spend time—in an episode of GMA 7’s Investigative Documentaries aired in 2017.
The original Remedios Circle was destroyed during WWII, according to the video, and the human remains were moved to the Manila South Cemetery.
The Remedios Circle is now surrounded by a vibrant nightlife that includes restaurants and other businesses.
Paco Park (Paco, Manila)
The round-shaped public park near San Marcelino St. in Paco, Manila, was also a previous burial ground, similar to the Remedios Circle.
In the same Investigative Documentaries episode, Penelope Belmonte, executive director of the National Parks Development Committee, claimed that what sets it distinct is that the deceased buried in the old Paco Cemetery all came from well-off and renowned families.
Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, and the three martyr Catholic priests Mariano Gomez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora are among the illustrious names interred, albeit temporarily, at the 4,000-square-meter park (aka GomBurZa).
Most Holy Trinity Parish Church (Sampaloc, Manila)
Former burial grounds were not only turned into parks and shopping complexes, but also into churches. For example, the Most Holy Trinity Parish in Sampaloc, Manila, was built on the site of the Balic-Balic Cemetery.
The Balic-Balic Cemetery was established in 1884, according to the church’s official website. It withstood the bloodshed of the 1896 revolution but was later utilized as a hideaway for American soldiers during the Philippine-American war, leading to its closure in 1925.
In 1932, the parish of the Most Holy Trinity was built.
Espiritu Santo Parish Church (Sta. Cruz, Manila)
The Archdiocesan Shrine of Espiritu Santo in Sta. Cruz, Manila is another church erected on a former burial cemetery.
Where the church and its parochial school are standing, there was formerly a public cemetery. According to a 2013 Rappler report, it was shuttered in 1913 because of “health issues.”
The church was founded in 1926, and the Espiritu Santo Parochial School was created in 1947.