Paco Park is a 4,114.80 square meter recreational garden area and was once Manila’s municipal cemetery during the Spanish colonial period. It is located along General Luna Street and at the east end of Padre Faura Street in Paco district in the City of Manila.
Paco Park was originally planned as a municipal cemetery for the well-off and established aristocratic Spanish families who resided in the old Manila, or the city within the walls of Intramuros during the Spanish colonial era.
Most wealthy families interred the remains of their loved ones inside the municipal cemetery in what was once the district of Dilao (former name for Paco). The cemetery was built in the late 1700s but was completed several decades later and in 1822, the cemetery was used to inter victims of a cholera epidemic that swept across the city.
The cemetery is circular in shape, with an inner circular fort that was the original cemetery and with niches that were placed or located within the hollow walls. As the population continued to grow, a second outer wall was built with the thick adobe walls hollowed as niches and the tops of the walls were made into pathways for promenades.
A Catholic chapel was built inside the walls of the Paco Park and it was dedicated to St. Pancratius.
On 30 December 1896, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was interred at Paco Park after his execution at Bagumbayan.
In 1912, burial or interment at the Paco Park ceased. It had been the burial ground for several generations and descendants of those who were buried in the park had the remains of their ancestors transferred.
World War II
During World War II, Japanese forces used Paco Park as a central supply and ammunition depot. The high thick adobe walls around the park were ideal for the defensive positions of the Japanese.
Just before the liberation of Manila in 1945, the Japanese dug several trenches and pillboxes around and within the park with three 75 millimeter guns to defend their fortification against the charging 148th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Battalion of the United States Army.
Into the Eighties
The park was converted into a national park in 1966 during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal. Its grandeur was slowly restored after the war and since then has remained as a public park and promenade for many teenage sweethearts who could spend quiet moments along the park’s benches and private alcoves.
Paco Park and its care was placed under the responsibility of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) during the regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. During this period, through the efforts of First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, culture was given emphasis in the country and Paco Park was one of the few venues chosen to host events related to culture.
The park is open Monday to Sunday (except on Wednesday) from 8 am to 5 pm. It has become a very popular venue for weddings and receptions for couples who prefer a garden-like setting. The Chapel of St. Pancratius is under the care of the Vincentian fathers who also manage the nearby Adamson University.
Paco Park Presents
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 Philippine-German Month. This 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.
Since then the program has become a tradition, with weekly musical performances every Friday afternoon called “Paco Park Presents.”
In 1998, the celebration of Philippine-German month was moved from February to March, with the concert starting at 7 pm. But Paco Park Presents continues to celebrate its anniversary every February.
- "By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II, 3 February-3 March 1945" by Alphonso J. Aluit (1994) Bookmark, Inc. © 1994 National Commission for Culture and the Arts ISBN 971-569-162-5