Modern Columbariums in the Philippines

As Filipinos realized the importance of land and how limited it is in the country, they started to adapt an old way of internment practiced by those who lived during the early Stone Age – cremation. Nowadays, cremation has become a trend that the younger generation prefer. It is argued to be economically efficient due to the lower maintenance it requires compared to traditional burials. Some believe that the process is cleaner than that of interment, where the buried body would be left to decompose while being eaten by microorganisms.

With the rise in the demand for cremation plus the evolutionary transition of our modern society, man has thought of new ways and means to transform traditional inurnment into a sleek and more sophisticated practice. Filipinos, have in fact learned to adapt the latest interpretation of columbariums – a room or building filled with niches where funeral urns are stored. In this article, the aforementioned will be referred to as modern columbariums.

There are quite a number of modern columbariums established in the metropolis. Although they still serve the same purpose as that of a traditional columbarium, a modern columbarium has added luxuries that may attract consumers.

  1. Clean lines and sleek outer structure – Traditional columbariums in Manila are usually located inside churches, temples or cemeteries. These structures, however accustomed we are to seeing them, may still give off an uninviting vibe. Even though the intricate and heavy designs that surround these places may seem mesmerizing to some, it can still possess an aura that is far from the mainstream interpretation of peace, which is light. Modern columbariums are designed to express this meaning of peace at the same time, blend with other contemporary buildings that are present in the city. Most of them have a simple exterior painted with earthy colors, surrounded by green grass, if not the city pavements. Some may even appear as one-story structures, while others go as high as hotel buildings. Without the signage that will label the structure as a columbarium, one may not be able to guess that the place actually houses urns of the dead based on its exterior.
  2. Bright interior – Compared to modern columbariums, traditional ones normally have dim lighting. They depend on natural light to illuminate the whole place and have standard lights (florescent or yellow light) to brighten up the place at night. With this, designers of modern columbariums included pin lights that are often used in the interior museums. Not only does this brighten the place, but it also gives a sense of ease to visitors who fear visiting tombs.
  3. Advance facilities – Modern columbariums offer more advance facilities compared to traditional columbariums. More often than not, these structures are fully air-conditioned. The centralized air-conditioning system adds to the comfort of visitors especially during hot summer days. Moreover, these establishments are equipped with elevators and escalators if ever they are more than one-story high. Modern columbariums also have state-of-the-art communal comfort rooms just as those in malls or hotels.

Some of the modern columbariums that can be found in the metropolis include:

Sanctuarium – Located at the corner of Araneta Avenue and Agno Extension, Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, Sanctuarium possesses the façade of a 5-star hotel. This establishment is not just a columbarium, but offers other facilities and amenities such as funeral chapels, viewing rooms, multi-functional lobby, coffee shop, flower shop, convenience store and a crematorium as well.

Elysium Garden Columbariums – Located at E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City, Elysium Gardens Columbariums is built with a modern classical structure that features indoor vaults/crypts that is illuminated through its glass walls. Elysium Garden Columbariums prides itself of using the best quality materials such as sandstone and Italian marbles for its wall vaults.

St. Therese’s Columbarium – Located at Newport City, Villamor, Pasay City, St. Therese’s Columbarum houses an estimate of 38,000 imported vaults in air-conditioned and alfresco areas. It also features amenties such as security access and basement parking. an Ecclesi- astical museum featuring a life-sized artwork on the life of St. Therese and a solemn Remembering chapel where masses are held in daily remembrance of the dead. Furthermore, unlike any other, St. Ther- ese’s houses a digital archive of the memories of the inurned persons for future viewing by the families and friends of the departed.

It is apparent that modernity has taken over the present and genera- tion and will most likely take over the generations to come. Though this may be the case, we can be certain that the past will keep influ- encing the present to create a better future.

Houses for the dead

Have you ever wondered what the building or house-like structures in cemeteries were called? They usually vary in structure and design. Some are as big as houses, even bigger while some are small, and can be as big as a regular room. These structures are varying per family in size, shape and design. Mausoleums are buildings/structures, which encloses the burial chambers of a deceased person.

The word mausoleum is derived from the Mausoleums of Halicarnassus, King Mausolus’ grave that is located in present-day Turkey. It is historically built as a resting place for people of influence such as leaders, but eventually became widespread with people of nobility in various countries. Mausoleums are large and exquisite and the structures are usually associated with religion. Recently, mausoleums are small buildings that contain walls, which encloses the burialchambers. Mausoleums are located either in churchyards, private lands or cemeteries. Modern mausoleums can also be used as columbaria, a mausoleum for the remains of the cremated, which are usually placed in urns.

The Mausoleums of Halicarnassus is one of the most notable mausoleums in the world. It was built around 350 B.C., but due to several earthquakes and other external factors, it was destroyed around 1522 A.D. The mausoleum was higly influenced by Egyptian, Greek and Lycian  designs. The structure was built as a tribute to the King by his queen and sister, Artemisia, making one of the grandest mausoleum in the world and also, associating this with one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The best architects, sculptors, craftsmen and workmen were imported in different places in order to create this structure. This structure was situated on a hill that has a great view of the city. For around 17 centuries it hassurvived earthquakes, city attacks, invasions of pirates etc,until the Crusaders, who does has little respect for the culture finally ruined the structure making it unrecognizable. Other popular Mausoleums include St. Peter’s Basilica, Westminster Abbey, Taj Mahal, Lenin’s mausoleum and several others as well.

Another one of the most notable mausoleums in the world is the Quezon Memorial Circle. This was built for the late former President Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines. It is where the late president’s remains are currently located. This monumental structure took over four decades before it was completed. It is situated in the middle of the Elliptical Road in Quezon City, a very diverse road that can easily access the whole Q.C. area, such as North Avenue,Quezon Avenue, Philcoa, etc. Q.C. Memorial Circle is also considered as a national park, a tourist destination where anyone can ride bike, can jog and can have a picnic.

Mausoleums can also be a sign of wealth and prosperity, as it is expensive to own and constantly maintain them. It can also be a reflection of the characters of the family, depending on the design. The designs of mausoleums depend on the family’s preference, culture or religion. There are some mausoleums that indicate what kind of culture the living family members. Some are designed as those similar to the Chinese temples, usually painted with red, green and white, like those of Buddhist or Taoist temples. One example of a mausoleum that is designed based on theperson’s religion is that of the Manalos. The design is patterned to that of an Iglesia Ni Cristo church.

The family of the founder of the INC church, Felix Y. Manalo, owns the mausoleum. Although the remains of Felix Y. Manalo are not buried there, his deceased family members remain in that mausoleum. The Manalo family’s mausoleum is currently located at Loyola Memorial Park, Marikina.

Inside the Manila Chinese Cemetery, there are also popular people who are currently resting in that area. It is the second oldest cemetery in Manila (1879), next to the cemetery in Paco (1820). Through the years, the prominent Chinese people interred their dead, and soon became a private cemetery,  which was acquired by the Philippine- Chinese Charitable Assocition Inc. The prime movers were Don Carlos Palanca Tanchueco and Lim Ong tandem, which they also purchased both the Chinese cemetery and the Chinese General Hospital. Don Domingo Yu Chu’s family also has a mausoleum in the Chinese cemetery. This Filipino-Chinese educator found UNO High school, and helped in the establishment of Chang Kai Shek College. He was not just an educator, he was also a businessman and philanthropist. It is one of the most popular and massive mausoleums in the cemetery because of its 3-4 story-high building with green tile roofs, tombstones that are imported from Italy, Chinese fu-dogs that guard the main entrance and the statue of Don Domingo Yu Chu.

Another popular mausoleum belongs to Mr. Ma Mon Luk (also known as the Mami King), along with his two wives on his sides. He was a salesman, showman and a cook, which at present, owns three fully functional restaurants near Banawe, near Quiapo church and Quezon City and in Benavides (Masuki).

Although expensive, there are a lot of mausoleums that are still existing and are well maintained around the country.  It has a lot of different styles/designs which makes each of the mausoleums grand and unique. When visiting the cemetery, it is hard not to look at these structures because of the exquisite beauty. Despite of its expensiveness especially with maintenance of the place, families still make efforts to spend on these lots also because it they usually want to keep the family together, even if they are deceased already. Some families reconstruct and add floors, some are cremated and placed on the sides of the main tombs wherein the first and the most prominent family member rests, or they also place the remains of the newly deceased with those of the previous people who reside in the main tomb.


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