Cementerio del Norte

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Philippines cemetery provides Manila’s poor a place to live among the dead

Thousands of families have made city graveyard their home as authorities grapple with rising population and housing shortage

A child walks on a makeshift bridge between shanty homes built on top of banks of tombs inside the north Manila cemetery. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Every morning, Alberto Lagarda Evangelista, 71, leaves the two-storey, lemon-yellow home he has lived in for the past decade and walks to work at the cemetery next door. As a caretaker of about 20 graves, Evangelista earns just 20,000 pesos (£315) a year, a sum so small that he must share his house with seven other people – all of whom are dead.

Evangelista lives and works in the Cementerio del Norte, a sprawling, 54-hectare green space in north Manila that is also home to some 1,000 other families. Here in the Philippines‘ largest public graveyard, century-old tombs have been converted into stalls selling sachets of shampoo and instant noodles, clothes lines are strung between crosses and car batteries power radios, karaoke machines and television sets. Evangelista’s home is a mausoleum housing eight graves. The breezy second storey where the owners pay their annual respects to the dead doubles as his bedroom. “Just look at my view,” he says, pointing his cigarette out towards the grave-studded horizon.

Today, the shady lanes are busy with the sundry activities of any normal neighbourhood: a group of boys plays basketball; adults while away the afternoon heat with sodas and playing cards; couples canoodle atop the graves that double as their beds; and women prepare chicken adobo in their mausoleum cafes.

The cemetery’s inhabitants rank among the poorest of the poor in Manila, a capital where roughly 43% of the city’s 13 million residents live in informal settlements like this one, according to a 2011 Asian Development Bank report. This Roman Catholic country has one of Asia’s fastest growing populations and a massive housing shortage – meaning that the urban poor must usually find, build or cobble together housing anywhere there is space: under bridges, along highways, in alleys, perched atop flood channels, or even among the dead.

No one knows exactly when the cemetery became a living village. But many of Manila North’s 6,000-odd residents were born here and expect to spend their whole lives here. Gravedigger Steve Esbacos, 52, a muscular man with blue-rimmed eyes, was born and raised in the same mausoleum where he now raises his own four children. “Sometimes I don’t like living here, because it’s dirty and it smells bad,” he says, before admitting that he’s never wanted to live anywhere else. “My father is buried just over there and I don’t know where else I’d go.”

Ramil and Josephine Raviz run a stall selling instant noodles and peanuts to residents and mourners. They earn enough money to send their 10-year-old daughter to school, and say they prefer life here to the possibilities “outside” the cemetery’s four walls.

“When I first came to Norte 30 years ago, there weren’t so many families here – it was quiet and peaceful and safe, very different to the outside slums in Manila,” says Ramil, 46, in his mausoleum housing a fan, fridge, rocking chair, microwave, blankets and mattresses, and six graves. “But once people realised they could work here and live here for free, they moved in.”

The cemetery hasn’t retained that peaceful aura. Robberies and muggings are common, residents admit, with gangs said to be working different corners of the sprawling greenery.


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Literally the living among the dead




Boating Underground


One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature

Beaches, boats, bats and caves – for an experience like no other, put the Puerto Princesa Underground River on your bucket list! The Underground River, as it is also known, or shortened even more to PPUR, was recently officially named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Where else can you combine tropical white sand and waves, outriggers and canoes, stalagmites and stalactites, monkeys and monitor lizards all in one experience? Oh, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, besides!

The Underground River is located in the Philippines, on the island of Palawan. If you look at a map of the Philippines, Palawan is the long skinny island off by itself at the westernmost part. Palawan is known as the Last Frontier of the Philippines, as it is one of the least developed islands, with the most virgin forest still intact.

Our family is proud to call Palawan our adopted home. We first moved here about 30 years ago, in the early ’80s, so have seen the island grow and change. We really love Palawan. And we like to make sure our visitors fit in a trip to the Underground River when they come.

I personally think the entrance to the Underground River is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

Source Bucket List Publications Read a great story

Myths are strange – they become real

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Most of you will have seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy and will fondly remember the hobbits, in particular Bilbo Baggins. Do you remember his house? Those of you who don’t should seriously think about getting some kultcha!

Bilbo Baggin's House

Small place, round front door, etc.

Well in Manila, the capital of the Philippines there is a bar called The Hobbit House.

Apparently, it is world famous, except that I’ve never heard of it before this morning.

Which is strange because famous implies well-known, doesn’t it?

So, a quick google…

The Hobbit House Bar

Yup, it’s there all right. Terrible photo, but when one is stealing photos from the internet, beggars can’t be choosers. Image credit… cityseekr


Philippines’ little people thinking big

People of small stature in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, have ambitions to build a new community – of small houses – on a greenfield site. It’s an unusual idea, but they are completely serious and determined to succeed.

Inspired by the books of JRR Tolkien, the Hobbit House is one of Manila’s best-known bars. There are illustrations from the Lord of the Rings on the wall, and you enter through a round wooden door, just as if you were arriving at Bilbo Baggins’ house.

But the illusion doesn’t stop there – the waiters are all under 4ft (1.2m) tall.

“Hobbit House is very unique – we only recruit little people,” says the proud manager, Pidoy Fetalino, 3ft 6in tall, who has been working at the bar for more than 30 years.

While some might question how politically correct it is, the reality is that a job at the Hobbit House is undoubtedly one of the best the staff can get.

The Philippines doesn’t provide much, if any, state support, and many jobs have height restrictions, making a market which is already competitive due to high unemployment even tougher.

The waiters say that most of their friends, if they have jobs at all, work in the entertainment industry – as boxers, bit-part actors or even as human cannonballs.

One said his friend was paid half what other employees were paid just because he was short.

Source: BBC News Read more


The Planet is Getting a Little Crowded

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Yes, folks, it’s time to move over.

As the song goes:

There were ten little kids lying in the bed

And the little one said,

“Roll over, roll over,”

They all rolled over and one fell out,

And the little one said,

“Roll over…”

7,000,000,000 people are now hugging this dirt ball they call home. 31st October 2011 is the official estiamted date for the birth of the 7,000,000,000th person.

I saw somewhere that it was best guessed that he/she would be born in the northwest of India, one of the more prolific areas of the planet; but apparently not.

Baby 7,000,000,000 arrived “symbolically’ in the Philippines.

A baby girl named Danica Camacho has been chosen symbolically as the world's seven billionth baby. Photograph: Erik De Castro/AFP/Getty Images

“Danica May Camacho, a girl born in Philippine capital Manila, is chosen by UN to symbolically mark global population milestone.”

Danica will join 12-year-old Adnan Nevic of Bosnia Herzogovina, the sixth billionth baby, and Matej Gaspar from Croatia, who was number five billion in July 1987, no one knows for sure when in 1974 that the world population became 4 billion.

Source: The Guardian Read more

We are overloaded. There’s too many people. Somebody has to stop the bus and let a few off.

I read recently that the planet can support a maximum of 500 million and retain its sustainability; i.e. Mother Nature’s balance. But we have interfered with her equation to such an extent that we have doomed ourselves to extinction. Yes, our extinction is no longer a matter of maybe, it is guaranteed.

How have we unbalanced the scales so much? Simply we do not let people die. People (and some very notable scientists amongst them) have said the birthrate is too high. That’s pure unadulterated bollocks, the birthrate is perfect; Mother Nature designed that so it is perfect. What man has done behind Mother nature’s back has been to extend the life of many individuals so that less people are dying than she planned.

Have you ever wondered why we have global warming, worsening hurricanes, more earthquakes, resistant diseases and the like? Mother Nature is trying to balance the equation.

Imagine that the planet is like a dog, we are the fleas and Mother Nature is simply having a good scratch.

You want another analogy:

Agent John Smith to Morpheus in Matrix…

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species, and I realised that humans are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet, you are a plague, and we… are the cure.

I happen to think that is so true, mankind is the virus on this planet.

I think it’s time for breakfast…

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