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Dispatch From Manila: Hard Life Among the Dead in the Philippines

MANILA — Manila North Cemetery, opened in 1904, is one of the oldest and largest in the Philippines. Its elaborate mausoleums and endless rows of humble, stacked tombs are home to an estimated one million of the dead — and a few thousand of the living.

The final resting place of presidents, movie stars and literary icons, the cemetery is also inhabited by some of Manila’s poorest people. Many live in the crypts and mausoleums of wealthy families, who pay them a stipend to clean and watch over them.

Others find different ways to engage the economy of death and burial. “There is really no work here inside the cemetery, so I taught myself how to do this in 2007,” Ferdinand Zapata, 39, said as he chiseled the name of a dead man into an ornate marble headstone.

“This is the best job in the cemetery because you don’t have a boss,” said Mr. Zapata, who grew up in the cemetery and has raised two children here. “The masons who make the niches and mausoleums can earn more, though.”

Source: NYT > World

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