Verse Exercises

A portfolio for her verses

Visiting Paco Park

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This is a revision. The first draft appeared in an older blog.

Various times, I have been motivated by wanderlust to go beyond ogling old buildings from within the confines of trains. In one occasion, a friend and I rode the train from EDSA to UN Avenue where we stepped off and looked for Paco Park using directions copied from Google Maps. The park turned out to be a very quick amble from the station. An archway greeted us at the entrance where a posted guard informed us that we had some thirty minutes to explore the place before the park closed at 5:30pm sharp. After paying a minimal fee in a small office to the right of the arch, we proceeded to make the best out of our half hour.

The park is enclosed in a thick circular stone wall. The passing of time and weathering had made the stone a rich habitat for moss and other fungal growth that mottled the wall as gray and black patches. From the inside, we noticed that arched niches had been bored into the thick stone. These looked like medieval ovens or overly large dovecotes. Round fluted column supports lined the wall in intervals. These also grouped the niches into sets of nine arranged in three columns and three rows. The first row from the top was only a few inches taller than I was, so it must have been a little over five feet. Some were empty and merely stored dusty darkness. Many others were sealed, and closer inspection revealed barely readable stenciled epitaphs. These declared their sleeping occupants to be the Spanish dead. The dates competed in age but I had been too hasty to note who trumped the rest in age.

Mossy steps led to a walkway on top of the outer wall. This we climbed. From there we spied a small church at the center of the courtyard enclosed within an inner wall. The chapel was octagonal, topped by a dome roof. Mosses and ferns grew wild in its nooks and crannies, even on the dome roof itself. It had an arched doorway flanked by four gray columns and two stained windows at either side. A low round fountain spouted water in front. It didn’t have the same mossy discoloration and so seemed to me recently installed. After having stared more than was deemed polite (for a wedding had been ongoing at the time), we decided to proceed on the walk way until a troupe practicing a dramatic performance below us caught our attention. We stood on the walk way observing them in their makeshift stage, until we were reminded of our limited time. We discovered that the walk way spanned the park’s circumference.

My friend had read in a blog that the national hero, Jose Rizal, had been buried there before he was finally interred at the Luneta and so like sleuths, we descended from the walk way and went in search for his tomb among the niches. We found a grave instead in the outer circle. It wasn’t difficult to find. A white metal fence about a foot high surrounded it. A white cross stood in the middle and a plaque anticipating our questions why the simple grave, why was he moved, and when. Our curiosity satisfied, we climbed back up the walk way and sat down on one of the small stone benches to transport ourselves in time with our imaginations. In my head, I peopled the park, then Paco Cemetery, with promenading Spanish mestizos and mestizas. I wonder though where they gazed at. Did they direct their eyes toward the inner courtyard toward the church, or did they look beyond the outer walls of Paco? If they did, what did they see?

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Written by thedoe

October 21, 2013 at 2:25 am

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