I was randomly walking along a tourist area of Manila (Intramuros) on my first full day in Manila when I ran into a grandma (Liza) and we started talking. She offered to show me another tourist site and taught me to ride the jeepneys. Liza wanted to invite me over for dinner but I already had a dinner commitment to a couple of nice Filipinas that I had met earlier and I had offered to take them out for dinner that evening. So Liza said let's meet at a certain location tomorrow.
Anyway, the dinner with the Filipinas went great (6 hours we stayed there!). The next day I met with Liza and her son came and then her sister-in-law. Little did I know that this was the start of a week long adventure with all the friends and family! We visited a local tourist site, the Chinese Cemetery (below), then went to a friend's place for lunch and then went to a karaoke restaurant/bar until late into the night (yes, they endured some of my singing!). I ended up staying at their place. The next morning they offered for me to join them on their vacation which was starting that day! So I retrieved my things back at my guesthouse and we headed for Tagaytay and the volcano there (more on that later).
The tourist site we saw in Manila was the Chinese cemetery. It is a large area of maybe 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer (at least) of what looks like houses or condos. But it is really a graveyard and the local rich Chinese people get buried there along with their familes. If you didn't know better, you might think it was a (very!) quiet suburban subdivision. Mostly there are just some security guards going around.
Here is a picture of one of the graves from the street (yes, there are streets just like a subdivision):
Here is a picture inside a typical "grave house" for lack of a better term:
Here is a picture down one of the "streets". For the most part, I saw only maintenance and security people during our visit (those are their cars in the picture):
Many of the "grave houses" are air-conditioned!
So is this elaborate burial rite only a Chinese practice in the Philippines? I have not seen anything like this elsewhere. What beliefs (Buddhism?) drive this behavior and why?