NEVER has it occurred to me that a burial or visiting a dead loved one would be so cool ever... not until the trip took us to La Filipina Public Cemetery in Tagum City.

There was nothing really special about this public cemetery at first glance. Its high walls that ring around the whole area were colored white with the sign "La Filipina Public Cemetery of Tagum" painted on them in blue. And just around the corner stands a huge green gate.

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The public graveyard, as one would also expect from any place that's considered "public", could have been anything of average maintenance to something that's totally found on one of Stephen King's horror novels, but not this one, not even close.

The place was neat and well kept. It could even be likened to a community park. It had a rotunda with a huge cross lined with candles at the center, which was surrounded with benches.

To the left of the huge cross lined organized rows of puncheons which were filed according to age, adults separated from children.

To the right of the cross are alphabetically-arranged bone niches which made the cemetery more interesting. The bones of dead who were buried more than five years in the cemetery are transferred in those niches sized one square-meter each.

The niches looked like little apartments built neatly one after the other.

Mr. Ed Valdez, consultant for information and tourism in Tagum, said that the people were appalled at the thought of moving their dead due to the Filipino tradition which made it unethical to touch the corpses.

However, the previous and 'terrifying' state of the cemetery begged for the city mayor to act upon the situation.

Mr. Valdez further said the cemetery was about to be closed because it was already full, the niches were all very old and unkempt and everything that horror stories are made of such that the living relatives no long wanted to visit their dead.

"They would only, very swiftly light candles and hurriedly run off in fear," he said. That was before.

Aside from the alphabetically-arranged bone niches, the gates are color-coded for convenience: the entrance in striking green and the exit in luminescent blue.

To top it all off, the names of the dead were encoded in a computerized directory which can be found at the gates for easy access.

Talk about organizing the dead.


Sunday Essays are articles submitted by Masscom students of the Ateneo de Davao University for their advanced journalism class.