History and museums
Paco Park is a 4,114.80 m2 (44,291.3 sq ft) recreational garden and was once Manila’s municipal cemetery built by the Dominicans during the Spanish colonial period. It is located on General Luna St. and at the east end of Padre Faura Street in Paco, Manila, Philippines.
According to an on-site inscription, an order for the construction of a cemetery in Bagumbayan was issued in 1807, due to the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Manila. Maestro de Obras Don Nicolas Ruiz developed a plan for the Paco Cemetery, while Don Jose Coll served as supervisor of the construction work. The cemetery was primarily designed as a municipal cemetery for the affluent and established aristocratic Spanish families who resided in the old Manila, or the city within the walls of Intramuros during the Spanish colonial era. It was on April 22, 1822 when the cemetery was officially inaugurated, although it had been in use for two years prior to its completion.
In 1859, Governor Fernando de Norzagaray proposed the extension of the cemetery to approximately 4,500 square yards, enclosing the original plan with another circular outer wall. For the amount of Php 19,700, a Chinese builder won the bid to build the outer portion of the cemetery. At that time, the niches cost Php 20 for three years, which was subject to renewals as no one was granted privilege to own the niches in perpetuity.
On December 30, 1896, Philippine national hero Dr. José P. Rizal was interred at Paco Park after his execution at Bagumbayan.
Interment at the Paco Cemetery ceased in 1912. It had been the burial ground for several generations and descendants of those buried in the park had the remains of their ancestors exhumed and transferred to other cemeteries in Manila.
During the Second World War, Japanese forces used Paco Park as a central supply and ammunition depot. The high thick adobe walls around the park were ideal for defensive positions of the Japanese. Prior to the liberation of Manila in 1945, the Japanese dug several trenches and pill boxes around and within the Park with three 75 millimeter guns to defend their fortification against the charging 1st Battalion of the 148th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army and Philippine Commonwealth Army.
The park was converted into a National Park in 1966 during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal. Paco Park’s grandeur was slowly restored after the war and since then has remained as a public park and promenade for the community.
Paco Park and its care was placed under the responsibility of the National Park’s Development Committee (NPDC) during the regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos.During the Marcos period, through the efforts of former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, culture was given emphasis and priority in the country and Paco Park was one of the few venues chosen to host events related to culture. On February 29, 1980, then Press and Cultural Attache of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Philippines, Dr. Christoph Jessen with then NPDC Vice-Chairperson Teodoro Valencia started a classical concert within Paco Park as part of the celebrations for the “Philippine-German Month,” and the program became a tradition, a weekly fare held every Friday afternoons called the “Paco Park Presents.”
The event featured and highlighted the exchange of Filipino and German musical artists who performed at Paco Park and it served as a means to strengthen the bond between Germany and the Philippines.In 1998, the celebration of Philippine-German month was moved from February to March, with the concert starting at 7:00PM However, Paco Park Presents continues to celebrate its anniversary every February. The park is open Monday to Sunday (except on Wednesday) from 8:00AM to 5:00PM. In addition, "Paco Park Presents" features as well the finest musical artists and chorales, local and guests performers for an evening of classical and traditional Filipino music every Friday by sunset and is aired on the National Broadcasting Network.
Moreover, Paco Park has become a very popular venue for weddings and receptions for couples who prefer garden-like settings. The Chapel of St. Pancratius is under the care of the San Vicente de Paul Parish and the Vincentian fathers who also manage the nearby Adamson University.
Paco Park is circular in shape, with an inner circular fort that stood as the original cemetery. Its walls were made hollow to serve as niches, and as the population continued to grow, a second outer wall was built with thick adobe walls. The top of the walls were then made into pathways for promenades. A small, domed Roman Catholic chapel was also built inside the walls of the park and was dedicated to St. Pancratius.
Inside the Paco Cemetery is a chapel dedicated to St. Pancratius,a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity, and was beheaded for his faith at the age of just 14 around the year 304. His name is Greek and literally means "the one that holds everything".