Garden of Life Park
A cemetery dubbed as a Garden of Life Park may appear ironic at first but an informed awareness of its transformation would soon elicit awe.
The old Mandaluyong City cemetery had a carrying capacity of only 7,717 units for interment. Yet the total number of burials had reached 19,405. The cemetery’s open spaces were sacrificed to accommodate burials that during All Saints’ Day, the cemetery becomes so congested. The mandatory exhumations done every five years had also contributed to storage problems for the remains. Moreover, the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery and the provision of subsidized services had resulted in tremendous income losses for the city.
This prompted the Mandaluyong City LGU to craft a Master Plan for the redevelopment of the cemetery. The Garden of Life Park (GLP) was conceptualized as a “one-stop-shop” project that entailed a 4-C approach—i.e. cemetery, columbarium, crematorium, and chapel all rolled into one. To prevent future congestion, the LGU exhorted the clients to favor cremation.
Consultations and education campaigns were conducted to elicit support and cooperation from the community. Financial assistance was provided to informal settlers in the old cemetery to help them transfer to other lodgings. In addition, experts were consulted to ensure that the crematorium will be compliant with environmental and sanitation standards.
The new cemetery now comprises 5,744 apartment niches, 1,720 bone crypts, and 253 private apartments. Meanwhile, Columbarium 1 has 2,990 ossuaries in the vault and Columbarium 2 has 1,025. Through the project, the LGU is now more capable of providing decent burial and affordable services for indigent families while generating additional income for the city. Supporting legislation provides several payment rates and categories depending on the status of residents or clients. The crematorium and the funeral parlor offers low-cost and reasonably priced packaged services. Compared to other cities which charge between PhP8,000 to PhP15,000 for cremation services from their residents, the GLP charges only PhP8,000, and even as low as PhP2,000 for indigent city residents. The low price has attracted clients outside the city including other funeral services and crematoriums and this has enabled the LGU to actually earn more revenue. The GLP generated a total of PhP2.4 million in its first year after it was launched in 2009. It earned PhP8.7 million in 2010 and PhP9.8 million in 2011.
By transforming the cemetery into a park, the LGU also dispelled the notion that a cemetery is an eerie place. It has practically become an eco-tourism facility, with visitors coming from as far as Olongapo, Davao, Bulacan, Iloilo, Negros, Leyte, Sorsogon and Australia. Many are interested in learning how the City Government was able to convert a once congested public cemetery into an environment-friendly and income generating facility.