In the heart of the City of Manila is a small and old circular park which used to be a municipal cemetery for Spanish aristocrats of the old walled city of Intramuros – the Paco Park and Cemetery.
Situated in the western boundary of the district of Paco (San Fernando de Dilao district during the Spanish era) and in the eastern end of Padre Faura Street, Paco Park and Cemetery was completed and opened to public in 1822 as a burial ground for victims of Asiatic cholera pandemic that swept across the continent in 1817 to 1824. It later became a resting place of the Spanish high society in late 1800’s.
But aside from the Spanish aristocrats buried in the cemetery, it was also a resting ground of four Filipino National Heroes. The martyred priests Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgoz and Jacinto Zamora were buried on its ground after their executions, February 17, 1872. Meanwhile, our foremost National Hero Jose Rizal was secretly buried here after his execution on the early morning of December 30, 1896, where it was dug up and kept by the family in an urn in August 17, 1898 and later on enshrined in Luneta, December 30, 1912.
Interment stopped in 1913 and in 1966 it was declared a National Park.
The original cemetery is the inner circular wall with five tiers of wall niches, but due to flooding the floor was raised thus the three top layers of niches are visible today, eventually an outer wall was built to accommodate the increasing population. At the top of the main gate of the first circular wall is a wood with the classic Latin text common to old cemeteries, “Beati mortui qui in domino moriuntur”, which means “Blessed are the dead who die in the grace of Lord”.
At the center of the park is a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to St. Pancratius. The oval chapel has cemented dome and according to a marker outside the chapel, the original altar used to be white and gold with the repositories for remains of governor and bishops during the Spanish times at the sides.
Today, the Paco Park is a favorite venue for weddings, photo shoots and musical concerts; of artists, families and lovers. It is a romantic spot amid the busy City and a reminder of Manila’s rich past.
Paco Park is open everyday from 7AM to 5PM, entrance fee is P5.00. It is maintained by National Park’s Development Committee (NPDC) while the chapel is under the jurisdiction of San Vicente de Paul Parish, Ermita, Manila.