Channel NewsAsia

Philippine columbarium businesses flourish as more choose cremation

Families of the deceased are looking at alternatives as land prices rise, and that has led to the flourishing business of cremation in the country.

MANILA: In the Philippines, mega mausoleums are becoming a thing of the past. Families of the deceased are looking at alternatives as land prices rise, and that has led to the flourishing business of cremation in the country.

Modern columbaries have been sprouting all over the capital, as more Filipino families choose to cremate their loved ones instead of having traditional burials in cemeteries.

A change in attitude by the influential Catholic Church also led to more pragmatic choices.

Eugene Cheng, vice president for operations at Sanctuarium, said: “When the Catholic Church lifted the lid on cremation, more Filipino families started asking about cremation and choosing cremation over the traditional burial.

“Initially when we started, around 15-20 per cent only will choose cremation. Now, up to 62 per cent of those who avail of our services prefer cremation.”

A traditional burial costs 50 per cent more than cremation services.

The cost of a cremation service stands at about US$650. In contrast, the cheapest lot for burial now costs about US$2,250. The more posh mausoleums can average US$46,000.

Over the past couple of years, the sale of columbarium units has overtaken the sale of the traditional lawn lots. Some memorial parks have also started offering columbaries in their services.

Hermigilda Macalalad, SVP-Finance and Administration at Group Developers Inc, said: “Before, our sales in columbaries were only averaging like five to 10 units a month. Now it has gone up to 30 to 50 units a month.

“It's more affordable than garden lots. It's hard to find lots here in Metro Manila because we need a bigger land area. It's easier for us to build columbaries and we have a plan to build more columbaries around the perimeter fence.”

As major cities in the metropolis run out of land for cemeteries, local governments and the Catholic Church are building their own crematorium and columbaries. 

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia