Paco Park
Ermita, Manila - November 25, 2011
Paco Park was created in the late 1700s to serve as the municipal cemetery for Manila’s elite during Spanish colonial times. It stopped being an active cemetery in 1912.

Interred there was the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. His remains were secretly buried at Paco Park after his execution at Luneta Park in 1896. His sister, Narcisa, searched burial grounds in Manila and found freshly turned earth on an unmarked grave at Paco Park. She then bribed a caretaker to label it, "RPJ", Dr. Jose Rizal’s initials in reverse.

Dr. Rizal’s remains were subsequently transferred to its present location at Luneta Park in 1912, after the U.S. -- now the country's colonizer after it defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War -- commemorated Dr. Rizal for his patriotism, heroism, and numerous intellectual achievements.

Also buried at Paco Park were Fathers Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora. Twenty-four years before Rizal was executed, a captured Filipino rebel fingered Fr. Burgos as plotting a U.S.-backed revolution against the Spaniards. At the time, Spain was transitioning the colony from being ruled by religious clergy born in Spain to being governed by secular priests that were mestizos. (A secular priest does not belong to a religious order and a mestizo is a person born in the Philippines of mixed native and Spanish heritage.) Fr. Burgos, being a mestizo secular priest with a doctorate degree in philosophy at that and whose prominence was known even in Spain was considered a threat by the ruling religious clergy. Politics likely played a role and Fr. Burgos was likely framed. Frs. Gomez and Zamora happened to be close to Fr. Burgos and so all three through false accusation were executed by garrote.

Dr. Rizal dedicated one of his books, “El Filibusterismo” to the three martyred priests. Historians believe that the execution of the three priests sparked the Philippine Revolution.

Paco Park is a block away from the high school I attended. During hour-long vacant periods, students from my school including my classmates and I went there. It was an ideal place to study and work on projects because it was relatively unknown to tourists and locals and so besides being scenic it was also quiet and all ours during the schooldays we were there.

I don’t recall knowing about Dr. Rizal’s interment there or of the three martyred priests being buried there while I was in high school. Now that I do, I feel a reverence going there. Visiting places like Paco Park is perhaps the least I can do in remembering and honoring those who took the plunge in very dark times when a bright future was certain only in the revolutionaries’ minds.


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