The Cebu Chinese cemetery interests me for two reasons: (1) I have a grand-aunt who married a Chinese (not significant, but still the grand-aunt intrigues me because I never met her), and (2) my grandmother always tells us that come All Soul’s Day, she and her friends would walk to the cemetery because the Chinese families would be giving out hopis (or mooncake) to anyone who visits.
Cemeteries are important in the study of the history of a place. I remembered Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his book 100 Years of Solitude, writing that a place does not get established until someone gets buried in that place (or something to that effect).
We’ve been to the Chinese cemetery twice, and the feeling the place stirs in me is sadness. Sadness because of the apparent ruin of the place, the many abandoned graves, and the illegal settlers. Yet, I am also in awe of the many well-designed and splendid mausoleums and I think the old days were probably grander than today.
The Cebu Chinese Cemetery, whose gates are located in Mabolo, was established in 1909 by the Associacion Benevola de Cebu, which also runs the Chong Hua Hospital. The hospital used to be located at the front of the cemetery before the hospital relocated to midtown Cebu. Don Benito Tan Unchuan, one of the richest Chinese at that time, decided to establish the cemetery to provide a resting place for his fellow Chinese some of whose bones would later be repatriated to China.
The influence of the Chinese and the Chinese culture in Cebu is made very apparent in this cemetery. You’d go around and poke into the names of the tombs and mausuleoms and you’d find that you probably heard of the names, or at least their family names. The cemetery is the resting place for many successful Chinese in Cebu, like Dona Modesto Gaisano, Don Manuel Gotianuy (grandfather of Augusto Go, owner of the University of Cebu), Don Carlos Go Thong, Don Sulipicio Go, and Cebu’s first billionaire, Don Cayetano Ludo, owner of Ludo & Luym.
Source: Bernales, J., 2012, The fate of the old Chinese cemetery, Cebu Daily News, June 7, 2012