the first day of November

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – On the first day of this month, being All Saints’ Day, I went with my good friend, Karen, to the Montjuic Cemetery. It’s a very picturesque cemetery, being on top of the hill. It has a very good view of the city, the east and the west. To the east you will see the Mediterranean Sea and on the other side, the city of Barcelona. The first day of November in Barcelona is not as festive as it is in the Philippines. The locals go to the cemetery with lots of flowers and two big candles. According to statistics, the Spanish usually spends around 30 euros for flowers on this day of the dead. The highest being close to 50 euros on Sant Jordi, in April, the day of book- and flower-giving.

Last year, I went to the cemetery with another friend but without my camera. This year, I decided to bring my dear Nikon despite the promise of a very gloomy November day. Karen was already waiting for me at the bus stop when I arrived. We immediately boarded the special bus going to the cemetery. We were already at the cemetery gates after seven minutes. No other stops. Inside the cemetery, there is another special bus that goes around and to the other side of the mountain. We inched our way up to the highest point of this spacious graveyard. There is no big cross in this cemetery as everybody gets to have their own lot or space. For the right annual fee, of course.

A view from the other side of Montjuic.

To date, the cemetery has over a million occupants aka dead. This huge garden of remembrance, opened in 1883, is also a tourist destination. It features various art forms -gothic, neo-gothic, modernist, neo-Egyptian, art-nouveau and realist. This may sound morbid but the city of Barcelona has free guided tours every second and fourth Sunday of the month. There are three routes that the tourist may opt to follow: artistic (40 graves and maosuleoms); historic (48); and, the combination with 37 graves of famous persons like Francesc Macia (President of Catalunya), Mossin Cinto Verdaguer (Catalan poet), Joan Miro (Catalan), and many more. The tours, however, are in Spanish and Catalan only.

We tried looking for the famous graves according to the book that Karen brought but the locations were not properly indicated. The book only indicated 15 tombs so we made our own route by combining the book’s and the arrows of the city’s artistic and historic routes.

This open air museum is a feast for art lovers while at the same time contemplating on what’s really on the other side. A visit to the Montjuic Cemetery would certainly make anyone ponder about the beauty of life and the mystery of death.

An angel turns its back against the sunrise.

A pensive angel on top of a tomb.

A sample of a realist art in the Cemetery of Montjuic.

This used to be an angel. Until they clipped its wings.