Friday, April 10, 2015

Laguna day trip part 2: The underground cemetery of Nagcarlan

On to Part 2 of the Laguna day trip of the doctors...

It was a perfectly sunny day to be outdoors and we weren't too tired yet. So after our visit to the twin lakes of San Pablo City, we took off to Nagcarlan, Laguna... the home of the underground cemetery.

I've been to the Underground Cemetery three years ago. I never realised, until this trip, that I haven't been to this side of Laguna for a long time. I'm amazed that each time I visit, I find new features of the cemetery to focus on. Last time, it was all about the feeling of solitude exuded by the place. Today, it was about the fleeting nature of life and the finality of death...

See, it started when I walked up to the gate of the Underground Cemetery. Old people were hobbling towards the gate and a child was attempting to fly a kite on the cemetery's garden. As I walked the red brick path, I noticed that the gate and the red stone walls were overgrown with weeds and mosses, as if marking the passage of time and the gradual return of something man-made to nature. Then I reached the chapel; it has an architectural style that reminds me of the Baroque churches of Ilocoandia... down to the stylised Chinese clouds and curlicues.  

I wonder how beautiful this chapel is back in its heyday. I could just imagine that stained glass adorned the exteriors, providing a kaleidoscope of colours for people mourning their dead as the priest imparted final blessings. It's a good thing I was with Noan, Matty, Lawrence, Martin, and Erjohn during this trip; otherwise, I might have imagined myself walking to Westminster Abbey a la Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu in the Da Vinci Code movie (complete with the ghostly images of people walking in and out of the church). 

Entering the chapel, it struck me that this was the last place the departed went before they were buried in the crypt below (if they were Spanish friars or rich people) or in niches above ground (the normal people). The finality of death was even more emphasised by the presence of the Santo Sepulcro, a reclined statue of Jesus Christ in a glass coffin. 

The guide inside the chapel mentioned that this venue is no longer used for requiem Mass nor for burials. Indeed, the dates and inscriptions on the niches indicate that the people resting in peace in this cemetery have all moved on in the last century. Nobody from the recent past (i.e., 2000s) occupies the niches. And so we eventually moved down the crypt. A Spanish inscription I've been curious about ever since I've noticed it was still painted on the wall but I don't know what it says. Fortunately, someone from the historical committee translated it into English (source: Wikipedia):

Go forth, Mortal man, full of life
Today you visit happily this shelter,
But after you have gone out,
Remember, you have a resting place here,
Prepared for you.

Creepy, no? But it does point out (somewhat) the fleeting nature of one's life. One day, we walk in and go out as tourists; someday, we go to the cemetery one last time... and there's no going out anymore.