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There is no fee to enter Manila’s Chinese Cemetery, although you may want to to rent a bicycle to explore its sprawling avenues. Signage is very limited, which means that to find the most impressive mansion tombs, not to mention official temples and memorial halls, it helps to have a guide, who can also explain the complex fusions of Chinese Buddhism and Christianity here.
Chinese Cemetery tours typically form part of a longer Manila day or half-day tour, but the sheer weirdness of the place means some could happily spend half a day exploring. For this, it’s often best to hire a private guide (you shouldn’t need a driver).
Things to Know Before You Go
A must-visit for dark tourists, fans of quirk, and people of Chinese heritage, the Chinese Cemetery is one of Manila’s most underrated attractions.
Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking, or even cycling, quite a lot.
Dress respectfully to explore the graveyard.
Younger children may find the cemetery disturbing.
How to Get There
Set in Loma, south central Manila, the Chinese Cemetery is refreshingly easy to reach by public transport. Just catch LRT Line 1 to Abad Santos and walk for a few minutes (or take a tricycle). If you’re combining the Chinese Cemetery with other Manila attractions, it makes sense to book a tour that includes transport.
When to Get There
The Manila Chinese Cemetery is open seven days a week from morning until early evening. Two substantial festivals see Tsinoys—Chinese Filipinos—paying their respects to the souls of the ancestors here. The first is the ancient Chinese tomb-sweeping festival of Qingming, which follows the lunar calendar and usually falls in early April. The second is comprised of the Christian festivals of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, on November 1 and 2.
Chinese in the Philippines
Known as Tsinoy (based on “Pinoy,” meaning Filipino), Chinese Filipinos are one of southeast Asia’s largest Chinese communities. Their influence is obvious in Binondo, the city’s historical Chinatown, and at the Chinese Cemetery, the second oldest in Manila. Many Chinese Filipinos come from Hokkien or Cantonese backgrounds, and although the Chinese Cemetery features temples, the overwhelming majority of Chinese Filipinos are Christian.