The summer air was warm like a whiff of air from the oven. Although sleep was calling, the hobbit had to fight his heavy eyelids or he would miss the next stop, the wildest secret of Nagcarlan: an almost 200-year old underground cemetery.*

When he stepped down the jeepney, it wasn’t a cemetery that greeted him, but a national treasure under the oversight of the National Historical Institute.**

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

The elaborate facade to the graveyard.

Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryWhat’s in this burial place, the entrance to the underworld, he thought.

The hobbit walked close to the gates, his little eyes staring intently at the arch made of red bricks. On one side of the entrance was a nameplate telling visitors they’ve just stepped on a historical landmark, an architectural masterpiece dating back to the Spanish colonial period.

Hearing only his footsteps—his mind playing with thoughts about people who died in the 1800’s—the hobbit continued with short steps.

He looked to his left, there were tombs. To his right, there were tombs.
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryNagcarlan Underground CemeteryAnd then he reached the door from where you can see an altar of what looked like a place of worship. It’s the entrance to the world of the dead.Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryNagcarlan Underground CemeteryNagcarlan Underground CemeteryA caretaker asked him to leaf through a book and write down his name in the growing list of curious visitors. It was eerily quiet. The atmosphere was nothing familiar to hobbits.

He looked back…
Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryAnd made up his mind. There’s no turning back.

He took a flight of stairs down to the underground.

Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryTh^e summer air was gone, only cold air that smell of molds. The underground was a small quiet space, dark, no sign of life. The whole place looked like a sanctuary for invisible watchers, perhaps the souls of men who sought refuge in this hideout during the Filipino-American war.

On one side of the room, you can figure out what seems to be an altar. It was bare, only a concrete wall that stained over the years. On the other side of the room, there are more tombs. With names. And dates of their passing away for whatever reason.

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

Nagcarlan Underground CemeteryThe hobbit took photos, but couldn’t quite decide whether it was proper or it would wake up some spirits. But he still took a few photos. And then rushed up the stairs back to the entrance.

Tombs. Tombs. Tombs. Creepy for a hobbit.

* Nagcarlan is one of the towns of Laguna and is a short forty-five minute ride from San Pablo City.

**  The underground cemetery was declared a national historical landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1978.

From the bus terminals in Cubao, Buendia, or Alabang in Manila you can take a bus that plies the route of either Sta Cruz or Lucena.

Bus lines: HM Transport, DLTB, Green Star Express Fare: about P130 to P150 Travel time: at least 2.5 hours, depending on traffic; leave early from Manila to avoid the congested EDSA

Route 1: Get off at Sta. Cruz public market and ride a jeepney bound to Nagcarlan.
Travel time: about 45 to 60 mins.
Fare: minimum fare

Route 2: Get off at San Pablo City junction and take a jeepney to Liliw. Get off at the Nagcarlan downtown. The jeepneys operate 24 hours, but can take some time at night when they have to get enough passengers.
Travel time: 30-45 mins.
Fare: minimum fare

Photos taken with Cherry Mobile Flare.


ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.