Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beauty at Paco Park

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The St. Pancratius Chapel of  Paco Park

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I found myself once again at the historic Paco Park*, along General Luna Street in the district of Paco, Manila. Within this park is the Saint Pancratius Chapel (above), a  dome and oval-shaped chapel that once had an altar of gold.  The chapel is surrounded by old acacia trees, lush greenery, and concentric stone walls.

The spot where Jose Rizal was once buried

Did you know that Paco Park was originally designed as a cemetery for the aristocrats of Manila during the Spanish colonization of the Philippine Islands?  However, when it was completed in 1822, it served as a cemetery for the victims of a cholera epidemic. In addition, the remains of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal were secretly buried in its grounds in 1896. His remains are now interred at the  Rizal Park.  The bodies of the three martyred priests, Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, were also buried at the Paco Cemetery. Most of the tombs, which are basically niches on the park's stone walls, are now empty.
A pigeon watches over the empty niches.  
Paco Park's sublime beauty and rich history draws both the young and old.  It is currently one of Manila's popular venues for church weddings. Some people find this strange and surprising. After exploring its promenade and alcoves, I realized that Paco Park as a wedding venue isn't surprising at all.  Paco Park is like a hidden gem in the city, a romantic, peaceful sanctuary with an old world charm. It's a great reminder of the brevity of  life and the mystery of what lies beyond it. 

Have you been to Paco Park? When was the last time you visited? 

*- Paco Park is one of the heritage sites for the Lakbay Jose Rizal at 150.  Entrance fee to the park is only PhP 5.00. From the U.N. Avenue station of the LRT, you can take a pedicab to Paco Park or take a long walk until you reach the Paco Fire Station. Paco Park is across it.  

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