ASIDE from being the world’s only family mausoleum situated in the middle of the street, the Familia de Luzuriaga Cemetery in Bacolod City has many other features waiting to be uncovered.
For about a century now, it has become a living landmark of the Negrenses’ past.
Established during the pre-war period in honor of the late Negros Occidental Governor Jose Ruiz de Luzuriaga, the 500-square meter mausoleum lies in the intersection of Burgos and Lopez Jaena Streets in Barangay Villamonte.
The mausoleum of the Luzuriaga family is surrounded by three other historic places in the city. These are the Jayme-Gamboa Mausoleum on the left side, the Burgos Public Cemetery on the right, and the Lopez Mausoleum across Burgos Street.
The two other mausoleums were also built for the two former governors of the province, Antonio Jayme and Manuel Lopez.
Raymond Alunan, provincial tourism operations assistant, said the history of the mausoleum can be traced back in the 1950’s when the City Government of Bacolod implemented a road widening project in the area.
Alunan said that instead of displacing almost half of the mausoleum, the local government used only a portion of the Burgos Public Cemetery making it as another one-way road.
Tombs at the affected portion were transferred inside the public cemetery to give way to the development.
“The City Government opted not to touch the Luzuriaga Mausoleum in exchange for the old city hall donated by the former governor,” Alunan said, adding that the government structure was then built on the site of the former Luzuriaga residence.
Mausoleum is the root word of museum which means a “resting place” or an area where a family is buried as a group.
It was in the 1980’s when the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Familia de Luzuriaga Cemetery as the only family mausoleum built in the middle of the street.
From being the resting place of Luzuriaga in the 1920’s, the mausoleum now houses more than 10 other tombs of the former governor’s family members.
It has remained a private mausoleum. The public may enter for viewing upon the permission of the family, Alunan said.
Alunan, who is doing cemetery tours in the province, said more than the mausoleum itself, it is also important that the people especially Negrenses should be able to recognize the person buried there and his contribution to the history of the province.
Luzuriaga, who became the first appointed governor of Negros Occidental in 1901, served as arbiter or “middle person” of the Negrenses and Spaniards during the Negros Revolution.
He can therefore be considered as one of the Negrense heroes vital to the province’s freedom from Spanish colonizers, Alunan said.
Luzuriaga, an haciendero, contributed to the development of sugar industry during his stint as governor. He was one of the signatories for the separation of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental in 1901.
His major achievements also included being the first Filipino delegate to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, known as the St. Louis World's Fair, in United States in the 1900’s.
“Unlike other well-known cemeteries, the Luzuriaga Mausoleum is just a simple resting place. The tombs are not even made of marbles or decorated with any special stone. What makes it special is its rich story that mirrors the history, culture, and tradition of the Negrenses," Alunan said.
Cemetery tour is now one of the emerging tourism offerings of the province. It is part of the cultural heritage tours attracting a growing number of local and foreign tourists.
The Negros Occidental Tourism Division has been pushing for the conduct of cultural mapping in Bacolod City, which will give way to the creation of an ordinance preserving its important cultural assets like the Luzuriaga Mausoleum.
Alunan said that Negros Occidental has so much to tell about its cemeteries.
“There are still a lot of stories waiting to be told,” he added.
Locals are urged to visit cemeteries as one way of “getting closer” to the past, which is an important part of the present.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on October 31, 2017.
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