Diary of John E.T. Milsaps

Monday, Oct. 31st, 1898

Manila, Luzon Island –Entry made in parlor of No. 2 Calle Santa Elena, Tondo.

Weather quite warm. Heavy clouds but no rain. Cooked breakfast, mush-corn meal, fried bacon & coffee. Washed dishes. Swept out front room. Put my camera in order & commenced a catalogue of Kodaks taken principally by me.

De Vine (Landon) took dinner with me. After the meal he & I struck out for the Roman Catholic cemetery – Paco, south of the Pasig out in the marsh. A strange thing is this place – a house of horrors. In two great circles the vaults are built – several tiers high. At the back end in the mortuary chapel with walls about 10 feet thick. Back of this building is a gate-arched – which leads into 2 smaller circles enclosed in a square or parallelogram. At the back end is a false gate with a panel representing a number of skulls. No information accompanies the bas-relief. On the night & left of this enclosure are steps made of concrete leading to the top of the tombs. Ascending to the top Landon discovered a back wall leaving a space about 5 feet inside & ten feet high. Into that receptacle has been thrown or dumped pell mell, the remains of numberless human beings. Piles of skulls, thigh and arm bones, ribs, human hair etc. fill the cavity about half to the top. Graves are opened & the occupants thrown into this receptacle when the living cease to pay rent for the dead. We found on top of the wall a metal coffin that had lately been broken open & left there. The contents were probably mixed with the heterogenous mass below. I thought these were Catholics. They supported that church while living with their money. After death if, friends or relatives are too poor to pay or money is not forthcoming, the church they so loyally supported flings their bones into a heap like the remains of so many dogs.”

I took several photos of the cemetery. — Visitors at No. 2, 3.