Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery: A Unique Burial Ground in Laguna

The Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan is dubbed as the only underground cemetery in the country.

Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan Laguna by Elmer B Domingo via Wikipedia CC

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery: Laguna’s Unique Man-made Wonder

Nagcarlan, Philippines – A lot of travelers love to explore far-flung, undiscovered, and road less traveled destinations but we often forget to explore nearby destinations that are not just significant but are also historically relevant. One of them is The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery – a burial site that is one of a kind in the Philippines.

Campo Santo of Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
Campo Santo of Nagcarlan’s Underground Cemetery

Along with PHILTOA Members, travel writers (print and online), and DOT officers, we explored the Province of Laguna as part of our Southern Tagalog Familiarization Tour. PHILTOA in partnership with DOT Region IV and various local tourism stakeholders organized the Southern Tagalog FAM tour in preparation for the upcoming Philippine Travel Mart 2014.

“We would like to promote more destinations that involve land travel, and that is easy to reach from Metro Manila via the tourism convergence highways, including the CALABARZON Expressway, CAVITEX, and the Pan-Philippine Highway.”  – Mr. Cesar Cruz, PHILTOA President

Entrance to the Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan Laguna
Entrance to the Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan Laguna

After gathering at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City, the participants, onboard a freezing tourist bus, went directly to Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery – our first stop. I’ve seen this in many postcards, textbooks, and other blogs but it was my first time to set foot on this historical and religious landmark.

Inside Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
Inside Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

The Campo Santo or the Chapel inside the cemetery was designed for a funeral mass in 1845 by the Franciscan priest Fr. Vicente Velloc.

Back in the days, only Spanish friars, prominent town citizens and members of elite Catholic families can be buried inside the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.

More Tombs outside the Church
More Tombs outside the Church

Upon entering the Chapel, a curator facilitated the tour by giving a short historical background of the Underground Cemetery. For those who want to buy souvenirs, a small table full of postcards, religious materials, and local delicacies was placed on the left side of the chapel entrance right next to the wooden door.

Tombs 15 feet beneath the church
Tombs 15 feet beneath the church

To get to the underground cemetery, the entry point is located on the right side of the Chapel, and after few steps down, you will find yourself inside a dungeonlike space full of the graveyard that belongs to the towns elite Catholic families.

Tourist Orientation inside the Campo Santo
Tourist Orientation inside the Campo Santo

During the Filipino-American war, this place was used as a secret rendezvous of Filipino Revolutionaries or Katipuneros. It was also used as a safe house of the Filipino Guerillas during World War II.

The cemetery has 240 apartment-type niches on the walls where each side of the chapel contains 120 niches. Overall, there are 276 niches.

GoPro Shot inside Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Chapel courtesy of Renz Abasolo
GoPro Shot inside Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Chapel courtesy of Renz Abasolo

Declaration as a Historical Landmark

The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery was declared as a National Historical Landmark by virtue of Presidential Decree no. 260, dated August 1, 1973, with amendments by Administrative Order 1505, dated June 11, 1978.

Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan Laguna by Elmer B Domingo via Wikipedia CC
Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan Laguna By Elmer B. Domingo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, CC

Since the declaration, no more burials were allowed in the cemetery. It underwent renovations before it was again opened to the public during the unveiling of the marker on October 24, 1981. The oldest tomb is dated 1886 while the last interment was in 1982 when it was formally declared as a National Historical Landmark.

No entrance fees are collected from the visiting tourists but donations are welcome for the maintenance of the historical landmark. The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is open on Tuesdays to Sundays, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. No flash photography is allowed inside the Church and the Underground Cemetery.

Hotels in San Pablo City: G and E Garden Pavilion and La Verandah Hotel (check rates and availability)

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