On my last day of matsurfing with Robert, I follow a recommendation and go for a wander around Manila South cemetary, a 25 hectare square of land in the middle of the Makati district. The cemetery is fully enclosed by a 9 foot wall, and I’m circling the perimeter until I find the entrance.
While I’m doing this I’m spotted by a group of 3 or 4 children, probably between 4 and 6 year’s old, running along the top of the wall, chasing me down the street.
“Hello!” Hello!” “What’s your name?”, they are shouting at me, which is already a familiar question after my first week here from curious kids who spot foreigners.
“I’m Craig. What’s your name?” I shout back and am greeted with the usual giggles before they run off. ‘Why are there a bunch of kids playing in the cemetery?’ I’m thinking as I finally locate the entrance.
The cemetery is nothing like I was expecting. I presumed I’d see greenery, headstones, flowers etc. Instead, it was like a separate walled town which had its own buildings pathways and street signposts. At the entrance there were a bunch of street vendors selling packets of snacks and bottled water, and, as opposed to headstones, it was large tomb buildings which dominated the ground.
The pathways are not too busy, but there are a fair few people around. A mother is on her iPhone at a stone table just off the pathway, while her kids are playing on the ground with some toy trucks. A guy is hanging out some washing on a railing while another guy shouts something in Tagalog to him while driving by on a scooter.
My popularity in this place seems to have disappeared with the kids who were running along the wall 15 minutes ago, no-one here says anything to me but I’m getting a few strange looks.
‘People are living here’, it suddenly dawns on me…and it makes sense. It’s an unmanned area, open to all, and full of buildings which can provide shelter and a place to sleep.
I finish my quick loop of the ground and head back. I catch up with Robert once he’s back from work.
“How was your day?”
“Yeah, really nice thanks”, I reply, “I even took your recommendation and took a trip to the South cemetary.”
Robert’s eyes widened a bit in surprise, his smile dropped a centimeter, and he then answered quietly, “That wasn’t my recommendation”.
“No definitely not. Maybe your friend recommended it, but I wouldn’t. It’s not particularly safe in there to just walk around.”
My mind goes back to the 3 big guys, fully tatooed, pedaling slowly on tiny bikes around the pathways just before I left…………It never seems good when massive guys are riding tiny bikes……….
A bit confused, I ask Kev a bit later over a beer.
“Kev, did you recommend me having a look around the South cemetery?”
Kev makes exactly the same face Robert did a few hours earlier. “No, definitely not! It’s a ghetto! Really high crime rate…especially muggings and robberies!”
“Did I just make this up? I was convinced someone told me to drop by..”
“You must have done, no-one who lives here would tell you to go there!”
“Ok…well I’m going to try and not imagine recomendations for the rest of the trip!”