Arguably the most popular attraction in the town of Nagcarlan, Laguna is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (Wikipedia). Touted as the country’s only underground cemetery, this octagonal-shaped tourist attraction was constructed by the Fransciscans in 1845 to serve as the town’s cemetery. Due to its cultural importance, it was declared as a National Historical Landmark.
Despite its name, the cemetery does actually have above-ground niches as can be seen in this photo. The only underground portion is the crypt beneath the cemetery’s chapel which was reserved for Spanish friars and prominent town citizens (see this photo). The crypt contains 36 niches arranged on four walls. Aside from these, there are an additional 240 wall niches divided into two groups of 120 on either side of the chapel. The oldest tomb dates to 1886 and the latest in 1982 shortly after the site was declared a National Historical Landmark and no more further burials were allowed. Subsequently, burials are now done at the Nagcarlan municipal cemetery located about 1 kilometer to the north.
Aside from being a place to inter the dearly departed, the cemetery also figured in Philippine history as a meeting place for the Filipino revolutionaries in 1896 and as a hideout for guerrillas during World War II. This, together with the cemetery’s unique features and architectural elements, were the reason why it was designated a historical landmark.
If you want to visit the cemetery, it is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m and admission is free of charge. While the cemetery is still owned by the Catholic Church, it is currently managed as a museum by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Please visit the NHCP’s web page for the cemetery to learn more.