Bizarre Kalinga cemetery keeps memories of the dead alive

TABUK CITY, Kalinga — A peculiar cemetery in a village here is serving two purposes – a resting place for the dead and a tourist attraction for the living.

From the usual white rectangular tomb that we see in cemeteries, colorful niches shaped like a ship, chopper, dove, cake, shoes, plane, bible, horse, a church, van and others are on a cemetery beside a highway here catches the attention of the public passing by Barangay Nambaran.

“These are not displays, they are real burial grounds with corpses which the families thought of making based on what their loved ones do or enjoyed when they were alive,” said a resident in the area. depicting the wishes, dreams, aspirations, likes, profession and favorite things owned by the deceased during their lifetime, keeping their good and happy memories alive.
The latest design, a guitar, constructed is that of the tomb of Jimboy Layugan, 23, a native of the place who died in a vehicular accident in August 2017.

According to his brother Jimwel, Jimboy as a small child loved a guitar. He used to play with the broom acting out as if he was playing a guitar. He was 23 when he got one for himself which he saved up for years. After he had it, he played with it singing with different tunes early in the morning. Their family decided to make a guitar on top of his tomb.

Jimboy’s tomb is beside his grandfather that has a horse, which Jimwel said was decided on by his family because of his liking for the “Red Horse” alcoholic drink.

The plane design is on the tomb of a 92 year old woman who died in 2015 which according to the stories of residents in the area said that prior to the death of the woman, she had wished to ride a plane that would bring her to their home village in the upland Barangay of Tulgao in Tinglayan, Kalinga. Her desire to ride an airplane came from stories of her grandchildren who were able to ride an airplane in their trips abroad.

Before she died, she wanted to ride an airplane to be able to return to her home village. This, however, did not materialize due to financial constraints.

But her wishes did not fall on deaf ears. After she died, the family decided to have an airplane-design niche.

Mayor Ferdinand Tubban said the cemetery was established in 2016 on a government lot, a Pasteur land in the village, for the residents.

He said Tabuk, then still a municipality has come up with an ordinance prohibiting the burial of the dead on their backyard, which is a tradition in the Cordillera.

He said that placing designs is not a violation of the culture, but on the other hand, gives happiness to the family for fulfilling the wishes of a departed. Others use it to remember always the good memories about their deceased relative.

Tubban said the cemetery is located about 20 minutes from Bulanao, the city’s center towards the direction of Tuguegarao from the intersection.

The first design was a van, because the person buried was fond of travelling.

Kagawad Vicente, a village councilor explained that the families of the first few ones who were buried there also planned to make designs based on the wishes of their loved ones but the cost prevented them.

“This is expensive as the cost depends on the design. The village did not plan to make the cemetery an attraction because the designs were made by the families to give happiness to their loved ones,” he said.

Also catching attention is the dove where the person buried there loved to take care of doves.

The shoe is the symbol of a precious gift received by the deceased from his grandchild. There is also a niche with the logo of the New People’s Army etched, being a member of the NPA. There is also the fighting cock mural on the niche of a person who loves to take care of fighting cocks.

There is also a niche which looks like a church with the deceased being a catechist during his lifetime. Another has the Volkswagen design for one who loved cars. Also getting so much attention in the cemetery is the rice terraces where a farmer is buried. There is also a rifle where the one buried is a former soldier.

Passersby often stop to take a selfie or simply photograph the different niche designs, providing fun and enjoyment for the living. with Jesse Magguiya/