• FEATURE

    Laguna’s underground cemetery crypt turns into historical landmark

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    What stood as mute witness to the secret meeting place of Filipino revolutionaries during the 1800s in the province of Laguna was turned into a museum to preserve its rich heritage and culture.

    Last Friday, officials of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) inaugurated the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Museum after some restoration works to preserve the area, although small compared to other historical landmarks, were finished.

    The new museum features a brief history of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, the characteristics of heritage materials and the conservation techniques used by the NHCP to restore the chapel and perimeter walls.

    NAGCARLAN Underground Cemetery Museum (right) was formally opened by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines with (from left) NHCP acting Chairman and Commissioner Rene Escalante; Nagcarlan Mayor Nelson Osuna, Prof. Regalado Trota Jose, University of Santo Tomas chief archivist; Ma. Serena Diokno, former NHCP director; and Zarah Escueta, NHCP coordinator. PHOTO BY ROSELLE AQUINO

    NAGCARLAN Underground Cemetery Museum (right) was formally opened by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines with (from left) NHCP acting Chairman and Commissioner Rene Escalante; Nagcarlan Mayor Nelson Osuna, Prof. Regalado Trota Jose, University of Santo Tomas chief archivist; Ma. Serena Diokno, former NHCP director; and Zarah Escueta, NHCP coordinator. PHOTO BY ROSELLE AQUINO

    In addition to original artifacts, the museum uses infographics, touchscreen terminals, and an audiovisual presentation.

    NHCP acting Chairman and Commissioner Rene Escalante said they chose the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery because it is the only one of its kind in the Philippines with a burial site located beneath a church.

    The church was built and designed for funeral Masses in 1845 by Franciscan priest Father Vicente Velloc, who also directed the construction of an underground graveyard 15 feet below the church.

    It is considered a national historical landmark because the underground crypt was used as a secret meeting place by Filipino revolutionaries or the Katipuneros in 1896.

    During the Filipino-American War, Filipino patriots also used the underground cemetery to formulate their battle plans and seek shelter. It also became a safehouse for Filipino guerillas during World War II.

    No famous personality or hero was ever buried here though.

    At present, the church is no longer operational as regular Masses are not held here anymore. However, a Holy Mass is celebrated only on special occasions such as the Feast of Christ the King and during the Holy Week.

    It becomes alive during the Lenten Season when the senakulo or staged presentation of the Christ’s Passion is held there. The historic place also adds a poignant ambiance to the play.

    The NHCP is the national government agency mandated to promote Philippine history through its museums and publications, and preserve the nation’s historical heritage.

    Escalante said some 15 museums around the country have been opened or made available for viewing to the public. Next week, the Museo ni Ramon Magsaysay in Castillejos, Zambales will be opened. . It would be the last museum to be opened by NHCP this year, he added.

    Last Friday’s opening was led by Escalante; Professor Regalado Trota Jose, Chief Archivist of the University of Santo Tomas; with Ludovico Badoy, NHCP acting Executive Director and Mayor Nelson Osuna of Nagcarlan.

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    2 Comments

    1. NAGCARLAN UNDERGROUND CEMETERY is considered a National Historical Landmark not only because it was used by the Katipuneros during their uprising against the Spaniards in 1896, and not only because it was also used as a safe hiding place by the Guerrillas fighting the Japanese soldiers during WW2 in the Philippines. The simple fact remains that from the year 1845 when the Franciscan missionary, Father Vicente Belloc started the construction of the underground cemetery, up to the present time, NAGCARLAN UNDERGROUND CEMETERY remains the only existing underground cemetery in the whole Asian continent. Additionally the question of whether or not the existence of the long held belief by many Nagcarlenos living in Nagcarlan that there existed a “hidden underground tunnel” that connected NAGCARLAN UNDERGROUND CEMETERY below the altar of NAGCARLAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is an intriguing question that has not yet fully been resolved.

    2. “It is considered a national historical landmark because the underground crypt was used as a secret meeting place by Filipino revolutionaries or the Katipuneros in 1896.”

      Nagtatanong lang po, di po ba ang mga pari noon ay kalaban ng mga katipunero?