North Cemetery runs out of space; vertical burials seen

By Tarra Quismundo
Inquirer News Service

THE COUNTRY'S biggest cemetery has just run out of space and one Manila official is set to file a bill that will require the dead to be buried standing up.

Manila North Cemetery Chief Administrator Florante Baltazar said that while the idea may sound funny, the practice of vertical burials has a practical side to it.

"If this will be the system, three coffins can occupy the space of one coffin that is interred laterally," Baltazar said Friday.

Baltazar said that the cemetery has ran out of lots for the departed ones, and cited in jest that the only free space in the 54-hectare cemetery are the streets.

"The first burial here happened in May 1904," Baltazar said. "Imagine how many of the dead are buried here."

As for the total "population" of the cemetery, Baltazar only gave a rough estimate of "millions."

The administrator, who is also head of the Manila Health Department, said that an average of 70 to 80 bodies was buried in the public cemetery in a week.

With the lots used up, Baltazar said some families have resorted to burying their departed relatives in lots occupied by those who died before.

Exhumed remains are reburied at the North Cemetery Circle or put beside the coffin of the one buried in its place.

Baltazar, who takes care of Manila residents "from womb to tomb" since he also administers lying-in clinics and health centers, said that the cemetery offers wall niches for those who could not afford separate lots.

He said that 14,000 of the dead are buried in such niches, popularly called "apartments," for which 1,000 pesos is paid every five years.


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