Manila North Cemetery no place for ‘overstaying’By Maricar Brizuela
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Since the start of the year, the bones of more than 200 people buried at the Manila North Cemetery have been dug up and removed from their resting place after their next of kin failed to pay the annual fee or the “lease contract” for the use of the grave expired, according to the cemetery administrator.
Most of the remains were subsequently transferred to other cemeteries or in the case of those with no claimants, buried in mass graves.
According to Manila North Cemetery administrator Edgardo Noriega, a grave can be rented for a minimum of five years at varying rates.
The cheapest fee is P900 which covers an apartment-style niche, a permit from city hall and a tombstone.
Bigger niches can cost from P2,000 to P2,500, depending on the materials and decorations requested by the dead person’s family. Stand-alone tombs, according to Noriega, can be rented for five years at anywhere from P7,000 to P8,000.
“Once the lease contract expires, we inform the concerned family and if they chose not to renew the contract, we transfer the bones to other cemeteries or bury them in mass graves,” Noriega told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.
After the tombs have been cleared of their previous occupants, these are renovated and restored for their new users.
Noriega said there was a pauper’s section in the North Cemetery where people can be buried for free. Some of those who have been interred here include unidentified persons whose bodies were found in the streets.
He added that these were just some of the measures that the local government has come up with to provide enough burial places for legitimate city residents.
Meanwhile, interment services at the cemetery have been suspended since Monday to avoid crowding.
“The burials will resume on November 5 when the cemetery has been cleared [of people] after the observance of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day,” Noriega said.
The Manila police force is on full alert at the cemetery as people have started to troop to the area to pay their respects to their dead.
Police assistance desks have also been set up around the cemetery and visitors are being asked to present their belongings for inspection to prevent the entry of banned items like knives, liquor and noise-making gadgets like radios and sound systems.