MANILA, NOVEMBER 1, 2003  (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe - To solve the age-old problem of congested cemeteries, authorities in the city of Manila have proposed that the dead be buried standing up instead of lying down.

They said this would maximize space especially in Manila’s four major cemeteries — Manila North, Manila South, La Loma and Chinese cemetery — which are so crowded, only the streets at the entrance of the premises are free of tombs.

Dr. Florencio Baltazar, chief of Manila City Hall’s health department, said the idea should be considered to help ease the situation in cemeteries in the country’s capital.

Baltazar said no one knows how many corpses are buried at the Manila North Cemetery, where the first interment was recorded in May 1904. Graves are all over the place and there is no more free space left.

"If the idea pushes through, the space which occupies one coffin will accommodate three," said Baltazar, who supervises all the public cemeteries in Manila.

Baltazar said he sees nothing wrong with the idea. "The mummy in Baguio City was buried sitting down. Why not bury them while standing up?" he asked.

However, Baltazar admitted that the idea is still far from reality as the proposal needs to be discussed by the city council, which would consider its practicability and doability.

He said arguments against the proposal should also be addressed so as not to create a problem in the future.

If he will have his way, Baltazar said he will start the "conversion" at a portion of the cemetery where graves are no longer visited by relatives.

The Manila North Cemetery, which measures 54 hectares, is considered one of the biggest and oldest cemeteries in Metro Manila.

Graves of prominent Filipinos, including those of Presidents Ramon Magsaysay, Manuel Roxas and Sergio Osmeña, Sen. Claro M. Recto and Mayors Antonio Villegas and Arsenio Lacson, to name a few, are all located at the North Cemetery.

The city has also put up "Heaven for the Angels" inside the North Cemetery. The space is allocated for fetuses and dead infants abandoned by their parents.

Baltazar said there are 286 units in the "Heaven for Angels," each of which could accommodate three fetuses or infants. He noted that one-third of the space has already been filled.

"The city government believes that it is part of its responsibility to provide space for these innocent little angels," he added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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