Getting ready for the inevitable
People often veer away from conversations involving death, but 43-year-old supervising science research specialist Marie Galit faces it head-on.
She recently bought two memorial lots because if there’s one thing she learned from her late mother, it’s to plan for everything — especially the inevitable.
“I got that attitude from my mom. She used to think ahead [about memorial planning], even with her parents. So, when she got sick, she pushed us to start preparing everything already,” she shared in Filipino in a phone interview.
And when the unforeseen came, they were ready. The memorial park they chose has a chapel for the memorial plan they purchased, so they didn’t have to travel far for the wake and burial.
Small business owner Cell Trozado, 38, also recently saw the value of purchasing pre-need memorial lots.
“Based on my experience, when my mother and father died, we were not ready for the memorial,” she said over the phone in Filipino.
So, when the opportunity came up, she decided to purchase two lots in the memorial park where her parents are buried.
But for 52-year-old government employee James Velasco, pre-need memorial lot purchases are not only in preparation for the inevitable but is also an opportunity to invest.
James first bought a memorial lot near their family’s residence 10 years ago, but when they had to transfer somewhere farther, he kept the lot as an investment and began purchasing others in different locations.
Golden Bria Holdings Inc. Chairman Manny Villar Jr. of Golden Haven explained in an online interview why memorial lots are good investments.
“It behaves just like a real estate investment at a fraction of the cost. But it also appreciates in value at a faster rate. The nicest part about a memorial investment is the flexibility between letting it appreciate in value but can be easily utilized if something happens to you or your loved ones,” Villar said.
And true enough, James was able to sell a lot for almost thrice its original price to an at-need case, a family urgently needing one, in the past.
A matter of location
Location played a huge role in the three’s decision in purchasing memorial lots.
James prefers lots near their area of residence, a common case for most buyers, though others opt to be buried in their hometowns or provinces. He also looks for something accessible, easily located and near a main road.
The same goes with Marie. Despite having lots in their hometown in Bulacan and in Manila, she chose the memorial park near their current residence in Cavite.
“It’s near so, in case, we would be able to visit her more often. In fact, I’m able to visit her every month. Accessibility also because it’s just along the highway,” she said.
Most also choose memorial parks where their relatives are already buried, like Cell and Marie, who bought lots in the parks where their parents are lain.
James also considers the overall appearance, ensuring it has adequate amenities for visiting loved ones and is well-maintained. Similarly, Cell checked in with her agent regarding the maintenance of the lots before purchasing.
Most memorial parks have a perpetual care fund, which sustains the maintenance of the memorial lots for a long period of time.
Types of memorial lots
James invests in lawn lots, a common type of memorial lot alongside garden, mausoleum and family estate.
The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, regulator of cemeteries and memorials parks in the country, defines lawn areas as underground interment gardens with kept grass and flat marble niches.
Garden lots are similar but are distinguished by raised niche, while mausoleums are “large stately tombs,” which can carry multiple remains.
Some families choose to have their departed loved ones in one place and purchase family estates, private areas meant for family mausoleums.
Marie initially planned to buy a family patio, but other families beat her to it. Instead, she purchased the two adjacent lots beside her mom’s.
“Because I thought, if ever, [our relatives] would just go in one place, no need to be separated,” she said.
The position of the memorial lots also depends on the type and size. Those in prime locations, like near the roads, trees and rivers, are preferred by buyers, but may cost more.
Memorial lots can be costly.
Lawn lots alone go anywhere from P40,000 to P330,000, while garden lots go as high as P2,800,000. Family estates and mausoleums range from P1,000,000 to P20,160,000 and up.
The location of the memorial park also plays a role in the lot’s value. James shared that those within Metro Manila cost more than those in provincial areas. Golden Haven, for example, offers lawn lots in provinces from P40,000, and P300,000 in the city.
Prices also depend on the lot’s placement, as those near the roads are sold higher than the ones in the middle.
They can be expensive, but most developers allow for a year up to five years of installment payment, as in the case of Golden Haven.
“We make sure to offer payment terms that would fit all financial capabilities from paying in cash to spreading it over five years,” Maribeth Tolentino, president of Golden Haven, explained.
Choosing the ‘one’
Tolentino said the park’s track record should also be taken into consideration when investing in a memorial lot.
“How long have they been in the business? The perpetuity involved in buying a memorial lot requires a company to remain in operation for a very long time,” she added.
There are a couple of renowned memorials parks in the country. The pioneer Manila Memorial Park opened in 1964 and has parks in Sucat, Novaliches, Cavite, Cebu and Davao. It offers lawn lots, garden units and family estates across its 342 hectare of accumulated land.
In 1984, Golden Haven opened in Las Piñas City. Golden Haven is the first “themed” memorial park and the only one listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange. It offers lawn lots for P40,000 (provincial) to P300,000 (city) and mausoleums and family estates from P1,000,000 onward. Currently, it has parks in several locations. These includes Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Metro Manila, Batangas, Quezon, Bicol, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga and General Santos City.
Albeit new, having only opened in 2001, The Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City has become a recognized name in the industry. Its official website says its lawn lots are available for P224,000 to P336,000, garden lots from P2,240,000 to P2,800,000 and estate lots from P20,160,000.
Another is Forest Park in Caloocan City. The 22-hectare park primarily caters to lawn type lots priced from P83,000 to P90,000, according to its website.
There is also Loyola Memorial Chapels & Crematorium Inc., which has been arranging memorial services since October 1969. Its private memorial park, Loyola Memorial Park, has two parks located in Marikina and Sucat.
Banking on the idea of a Filipino-centric memorial park, Himlayang Pilipino in Quezon City is dotted with sculptures showcasing local historical and mythological figures and a native-inspired gazebo and chapel. The memorial park has lawn lots, memorial lots, family estates and memorial terraces.
The hundred-hectare Everest Memorial Park is owned by the Vasquez-Madrigal Group of Companies and managed by its subsidiary Peak Development Inc. in Muntinlupa City. It offers lawn lots, memorial court lots, presidential court lots and family estates.
The idea of planning ahead for the unforeseen may seem frightening to some, but Marie reassures that people need not be scared. Instead, they should be afraid of not being prepared.
“It shouldn’t be a cause of fear because it’s the reality of life. Spiritually speaking, you should be excited because you will be united with God. At the same time, for me, if you love your family, you won’t let yourself be a burden to them when the time comes,” she explained in Filipino.
Cell shares the same sentiments saying she doesn’t regret purchasing lots in advance.
“I don’t regret investing in two lots because you never know [what will happen]… At least now, I don’t have to worry much. I don’t want to worry when the time comes,” she said also in Filipino.
Purchasing pre-need memorial lots can also serve as a wise investment that can reap greater values in the future.
James encourages others to plan ahead and think of investing in memorial lots, especially those who are still healthy and earning.
“At-need prices differ from those already purchased for a long time. It’s better you invest [in one] now than when it’s too late. It’s difficult to look for [a memorial lot] when you urgently need it,” he said also in Filipino.