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.
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.