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Ancient Bohol Mystery: Why Are These Tombs Empty?

Saturday, November 02, 2013
 

If there's one place in Bohol that has the perfect blend of religious significance and reality TV-worthy details, it would be the municipality of Dimiao.
Dimiao is famed for its cemetery, which the National Museum has declared a National Cultural Treasure. The cemetery is known as the Ermita Ruins.
Built in the early 1800s, the ruins include walls of tombs arranged like honeycombs—but they're all empty. The uniquely structured sepulchers are the only ones found in the Philippines.
According to the information on Dimiao website, the overall structure of the Ermita Ruins resembles that of the Paco Cemetery.
Historians have speculated that many of the area's residents died of an unknown epidemic before the cemetery was completed.
They theorize that the epidemic must have hit Dimiao hard, to the point where only a few members of the community were able to take care of the dead. This would explain why archeological teams have dug up some skeletons piled up in a mass grave, a patch of land at the very center of the empty honeycomb-shaped niches.
Then again, there are researchers who say that the absence of bones in the hundreds of small niches may have a very simple explanation. Dimiao history logs reveal that Fr. Manuel Carususan had the cemetery closed in 1844. Perhaps, researchers said, he thought it "unhealthy" that it was so near the church.
This is not to say the "fear factor" of the Ermita Ruins is Dimiao's only tourist draw. Like most Bohol spots, it has the centuries-old San Nicolas Tolentino Parish Church, where, at one point, Fr. Leon Inchausti and Fr. Jose Rada of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects (OAR) were assigned. The two priests are knows as one of the Eight Martyrs of Motril, as they were executed for their faith during the Spanish Civil War. Both priests were shot by gunmen in 1936. They were among those beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.
Both the Ermita Ruins and the San Nicolas Tolentino Parish Church were affected by the quake that hit the area last month. However, the damage they sustained is not as severe as those suffered by other Bohol historical spots.

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