Not everyone knows that Luneta was not Dr. Jose Rizal’s original resting place. After he was executed on December 31, 1896, his body was brought to San Juan de Dios Hospital, then to his burial place, an unmarked grave at the farthest area of Paco Cemetery or what is now popularly known as Paco Park. His family found it difficult to trace Rizal’s grave, but was later located with the help of the caretaker. Rizal’s initials in reverse, RPJ, were then marked.
Originally, the cemetery was planned to be the municipal cemetery for the affluent Spanish families of the District of Dilao, former name of Paco. In 1822, it was used to inter fatalities of cholera that plagued the country. In 1912, interment in the cemetery was stopped. The park then served as an ammunition depot during the Second World War. And in 1966, it was finally declared a National Park.
Serving as the perfect centrepiece to this historical landmark is the St. Pancratius Chapel, a chapel that follows the circular shape of the whole cemetery. Aside from Jose Rizal, the cemetery is also where the remains of the three martyr priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (collectively known as GOMBURZA) who were executed in 1872, were laid. The park cemetery and complex can be explored in one to two hours.
Today, the park serves as venue for a regular Concert at the Park, and has been one of the most favorite venues for weddings and photo shoots. The Paco Park and Cemetery is open daily from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
The easiest way to get there is via LRT 1. Alight at the United Nations Avenue Station, ride a pedicab and tell the driver your destination. Alternatively, you can just walk along General Luna Street for around five minutes until you reach the park’s entrance.