This first appeared in issue #2 of 'History Notes', compiled by the late Phillip Bruce. It is reproduced here on Gwulo by kind permission of Mr Bruce's family.
In the Eternal Lawn section of the Manila Memorial Park at Paranaque, a southern suburb of the Philippine capital, Manila, in the shade of a candelnut tree, wafted by the fragrance of a nearby frangipani, lie all that is left of the British Protestant Cemetery of Manila.
As the simple granite memorial stone announces: "Here lie the remains of those who were buried in the Protestant Cemetery at San Pedro, Makati, between the years 1863-1968.
Well, that's the end of the story, what about the rest?
The first British contact with the Philippines is said to have been the visit of the 'Seahorse' to Manila in 1644, but trade could not proceed due to a blockade by the Dutch. The first British people started to come to the islands in the early eighteenth century and established trading links selling textiles (chiefly cotton) and buying silver, pearls, skins, leather, tobacco, sugar and even horses. Trade prospered between the Philippines and Mexico and particularly with China - mostly through English merchants - so that the islands were described as an "Anglo-Chinese colony flying the Spanish flag." As many of those involved in trade also had connections with India, it was inevitable that the country which had been ruled by the Spanish since 1565 would come to the attention of the British military. Sure enough, in 1762 an expedition under Colonel Draper was launched from Madras and captured Manila after a two-week campaign. Incidentally, Colonel Monson, the second-in-command is buried in the South Park Street Cemetery in Calcutta).
Although this campaign has been written about extensively, it is still worthy of a further investigation. What happened to the graves of the 800 or so who were killed, drowned in the landing during a typhoon or died of disease? No physical evidence of this has yet been found although contemporary maps indicated at La Loma a "Burial place of infidels." Infidels comprised non-Catholics and included European Protestants, Chinese and Indians. Incidentally, still living in Cainta, only a few miles away are the descendants of the Indian troops of the expedition who decided to stay after deserting or being left behind after their boat capsized, but their distinctive looks are, however, slowly disappearing. Sadly, after being governed by the East India Company for 18 months, Manila had to be returned to the Spanish by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Speculation still exists amongst Filipino scholars about what the Philippines might have been if the British had remained in control - a British colony in the Far East, rich in natural resources, 50 years before the acquisition of Singapore and Malaya and 80 years before Hong Kong.
Trade continued to prosper after the resumption of Spanish authority, and until 1821 the Philippines continued to be run from Mexico. Treaty ports and trading posts were established in several places, including Sual in Pangasinan, on Luzon Island, and Iloilo on Panay and on Cebu, and Protestant cemeteries were established in each town, where beforehand the burial of Protestants in consecrated ground was prohibited, as was the importation of Protestant bibles.
With the expansion of trade, a burial place for the 400 to 500 aliens from Europe and North America living in Manila was becoming an urgent necessity.
In 1827 the first British Consul General was appointed and it was his successor, John William Peary Farren (sometimes referred to as Fearon) who, in 1860, attempted to establish a Protestant cemetery for the mostly, but not exclusively, British residents. Sadly, Farren became one of the cemetery's first residents within weeks of its establishment.
On May 27, 1862, the Spanish government by a "Superior Decreto" granted permission to construct the cemetery, and on March 11, 1864, a lease was signed between Farren and Don Jose Bonifacio Roxas, the owner of the Hacienda de San Pedro, of a parcel of land of 31 656 "varas cuadradas" (22 467.85 square metres or 5.55 acres) for a cemetery for Protestant foreigners and the right to construct a cemetery was confirmed by the Spanish government by a further Superior Decreto of August 30, 1864. The lease was for a period of 90 years, from May 2, 1863, at an annual rental of 100 Philippine pesos.
In 1907 the area of the cemetery was reduced to allow for the construction of an electric street car line from Pasig to Manila and the rent for the remaining 16 811 square metres (4.15 acres) was reduced to 85 pesos. Road widening took another 469 square metres in June 1941, shortly before the Japanese occupation, during which the destruction of the boundary wall added to the inevitable neglect. Nevertheless, 429.30 pesos back rental for the period of the war had to be paid in January 1946. In 1947 the lease was extended until December 31, 1987.
The 500 odd burials give an interesting insight into the variety of life amongst foreigners who took up living halfway across the world in these lovely islands.
Mostly British, with Germans the second-largest national group, they included master mariners from Liverpool and Plymouth, seamen from Nova Scotia, Belfast and Hamburg; businessmen from London and Lancashire, a Parisian shopkeeper, an operatic impressario from Milan, engineers on the British-owned Manila Railroad, a diplomat who had served in the American Consular Service for 45 years, and many children. Jews were also buried in the cemetery, as were Japanese, although all these remains were removed to Japan during the occupation in 1942. Perhaps the most interesting burial was Prince Ludwig Zu Lowenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg who went to Manila as a military observer during the revolution against American occupation and was killed by a stray bullet during fighting in Batangas in March 1899.
There were 93 recorded British deaths in the Philippines during the Second World War, mostly priests and civilians, from natural causes, privation, enemy action and execution by Japanese and by Filipino collaborators. These people were buried in many different places, including Baguio Cathedral, Cebu, Davao, La Loma, North, South, and Number Two Military Cemeteries in Manila, Los Banos, as well as the Protestant cemetery.
As with so many cemeteries elsewhere in poor tropical countries, deterioration was rapid. Torrential rain washed away the soil around graves, grave stones were stolen to be recarved and used elsewhere and the cemetery became a playground for young and old.
In July 1973, 14 years earlier than due, the cemetery was handed over by the British Consul, C.L.F. Parker, to the Ayala Corporation, the successors in title to Roxas, who donated 10 000 pesos to help in the transfer of all remains to their new resting place.
The historically valuable gravestones were turned over to a "British Association." Their present whereabouts are a mystery.
The site of the old cemetery was developed by the Ayala Corporation, the developers of the "new town" of Makati, Manila's business district, into a housing estate for its middle management staff and is now known as Barrio Olympia (Olympic Village).
The few British graves in the Sual Cemetery were, at last report, being well tended by the the local authorities. Sadly, however, the Iloilo "English Cemetery" (lots 158 and 674) in the very "heart of the city" was closed in October 1946 "for the purposes of health and sanitation and as part of the programme of beautifying the City of Iloilo", but the British Protestant remains lie peacefully in Southern Manila.
I am indebted to several people for assistance in these brief and, I am sure, not fully comprehensive notes - in particular Father Gabriel Casal and Carlos Quirino of the Ayala Museum, Dr Serafin Quiason of the Philippines National Library and Peter Karmy of the British Embassy in Manila.
- David Mahoney.