MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/2 November)–-Jairus Sogue and his family traveled 80 kilometers from Don Carlos town to visit the grave of his father at the old Malaybalay cemetery in Barangay 7 last Thursday, hoping to avoid the huge crowd who will visit their departed loved ones on Friday, All Saints’ Day, which is traditionally the time of the year most Filipinos flock to cemeteries.
But after looking for his father’s grave for about an hour, they failed to find it.
Frustrated, the Sogue family instead lit candles at the “Big Cross,” the popular landmark in this cemetery put up by the San Isidro parish in the 1950s.
Jairus Sogue and his family light candles at the “Big Cross” in the old Malaybalay cemetery in Barangay 7 on October 31. MindaNews photo by Walter Balane
Fr. Noel Suarez, San Isidro Cathedral parish priest, said that starting next year the city’s old cemetery, which sits on a land donated by the Pabillaran clan, will finally get a facelift as part of a long-term development plan crafted 10 years ago.
To avoid the experience of the Sogue family last Thursday, the priest added they will create a directory to help visitors easily locate the graves of their departed loved ones.
Suarez said the parish already launched the fund drive for the building of a memorial chapel inside the cemetery starting next year.
He noted the Diocese of Malaybalay plans to convert the old cemetery into a privately-run Catholic cemetery similar to memorial gardens with the chapel as centerpiece, and will be called the San Isidro Cathedral Memorial Park.
The project involves relocating the graves in the inner portion of the cemetery and arranging them in the perimeters, Suarez said, adding that they have already notified the families of those graves that will be affected by the plan.
Suarez said the notices for relocation were sent starting about three to four years ago when the city government opened its public cemetery.
He said they have also started clearing the graves already vacated or transferred to the city’s other cemeteries like the City Public Cemetery in Gabunan, Barangay Casisang and the privately-owned memorial garden in Barangay Sumpong.
Suarez said the diocese can now operate its Catholic cemetery because public cemeteries are already operational in Malaybalay.
“Before, Malaybalay had no other cemetery. So this one was used for everyone,” he added.
Eventually, Suarez said the cemetery will become the graveyards of deceased priests and religious of the parish.
One of those buried in the cemetery is Fr. Nery Lito Satur, a staunch anti-illegal logging critic killed in 1991.
Suarez said they intend to convert the cemetery into a memorial park where people can come not only to visit the dead but also to reflect and meditate. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)