Baguio City, Philippines – Established in the 1900’s, Baguio City in Northern Philippines was developed by Americans primarily as a health resort where the American soldiers and civilian employees could find respite from the sweltering lowland heat. Designed by American architect Daniel Burnham, Baguio City was envisioned to have a resident population of no more than 30,000. Today, this summer resort is home to 300,000 people.
Baguio’s overpopulation has caught up with its dead. The Baguio City cemetery has reached more than its capacity, and the city government has a bright idea to make room for the dead and dying. According to a new city policy, graves of Americans and city residents may lose their place in the cemetery if no one visits them in five years.
Victor Padua, public services assistant of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), said his office was asking families to execute an agreement that stipulates that their dead are no more than tenants with rights to stay in the cemetery for five years, renewable only when they pay the five-year tenancy fee of One Hundred Pesos. The agreement is also a waiver that grants the city government the authority to remove their dead. It stipulates that the city cemetery managers “can transfer and/or rebury/re-inter the remains at other locations after the tenancy period if the relative fails to pay the corresponding fees for extension.”
Long-time residents of Baguio, many of whom have an average of 5 or 6 relatives buried in the cemetery, are gathering signatures for a petition to be presented to city hall. The petition demands that the Baguio City Hall be converted into a mausoleum as a way to solve the cemetery’s problem of overcrowding. “In this modern age where almost all city business can be transacted online, city officials and employees don’t need offices to do their job,” the petition says. It is estimated that the conversion will make available anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 additional graves and vaults for cremated remains.
The Adobo Chronicles also learned that residents are organizing a special “neighborhood watch” to be stationed at the cemetery to guard the tombs 24 hours a day in order to deter city officials from excavating graves and evicting the dead.
Petition leaders have reached out to President NoyNoy Aquino to intervene in this controversy. They threatened that if Aquino ignores their plea, they will come up with a second petition demanding that the Mansion House, the sprawling official summer residence of the Philippine president in Baguio City, be converted as well into a mausoleum and burial ground.