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Manila Living
Manila North Cemetery

For the most recent issue of Vice Magazine, the mono-appellated Bahag explored a cemetery colonized by thousands of families who have transformed it into a thriving necropolis.

Tucked within the hyper-saturated Philippine capital, Manila, the denizens (opportunistic urban planners, if you will) of this supposedly counter-urban void have augmented it with some of the trappings of urban living: shared public spaces, vernacular customs, an informal service infrastructure, classrooms and even several karaoke bars.

Manila North Cemetery

Manila North Cemetery

Quoting Bahag:

Some families ended up here almost accidentally. Some inherited the mausoleums that they now live in from their great-grandparents. Others came from the provinces and couldn’t make enough money to live in the big city. In all cases, they’re basically families with nowhere else to go.

The people who live here manage to extract livelihoods from the dead. Teenagers carry coffins for 50 Filipino pesos—about 50 American cents. Children collect scrap metal, plastic, and other garbage to sell. Their fathers are employed to repair and maintain tombs while their mothers maintain the house, which could be the family mausoleum or the mausoleum of their employers. Rent-free shanties are wedged between or on top of crypts.

It's an adaptive reuse carried out at an urban scale, a reflection of economic realities and communal creativity rather than a particular disregard for the dead.

Cemeteries as Major Disaster Response Protocol

  • Anonymous
  • January 24, 2008 at 8:34:00 PM CST
  • I find it difficult to believe that 50 pesos equals 50 American cents. Otherwise, interesting post.

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