MANILA (Reuters) – In the crowded sprawl of Manila, the living must compete for space with the dead.
Fortunately for Virginia Bernardino and hundreds of other slum dwellers who have moved into the largest cemetery in the Philippines, the deceased don’t seem to mind.
“So far we have not seen any ghosts here,” the soft-spoken Bernardino, 59, said with a chuckle. “I think that only happens in the movies. As the saying goes, we should fear not the dead but the living.”
For years, Manila North Cemetery, a public graveyard in the center of the capital of 12 million people, has been a thriving community for those evicted from their homes or flocking from the provinces for better opportunities in the big city.
After being forced from their state lot beside the cemetery to make way for a new graveyard, Bernardino and her husband have converted her mother-in-law’s mausoleum into a home for their two sons, their wives and children.
Living conditions are basic but the residents manage some creature comforts. Clothes hang from lines strung among the makeshift shacks and television sets flicker in a few homes with electricity stolen from nearby power lines.