Zoning dilemmas: home burials

Indigenous peoples in the Cordilleras bury their dead in their yards. This is their custom as ancient as time. It is practiced even in dense urban communities such as Baguio City, a highly-urbanized city, and La Trinidad, the capital city of Benguet Province.

Further, for Baguio City and La Trinidad, being the major urban areas in the Cordilleras, home burials are not discussed in zoning boards precisely because such subjects are not brought to that level; since it has always been a local practice no one taught of questioning it.

Universal standard practice is that home burials are not allowed in cities and urban areas.

In the US: in California, burial must be in an established cemetery and home burials in rural areas are decided on by local officials. Michael Jackson’s family requested the Santa Barbara Country to have his body interred in his 3,000 acre Neverland Ranch but “the bureaucratic hurdles on the state and local level for interment on property that wasn’t designated a cemetery were extensive”. In these cases, celebrity status doesn’t earn you brownie points. He was finally buried, as we know, in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale County. In Delaware, home burials are allowed but only outside the towns of Kent and Sussex counties. In Memphis – well, there was its most famous resident Elvis Presley whose family had to apply for a zoning variance to have his body buried in his home, Graceland.

In the Philippines, yard burials as a practice in residential areas are not mentioned in zoning regulations particularly among the allowed uses in residential areas although it is mentioned as an allowable use in Infrastructure Areas (which include cemeteries and memorial parks). And, as I mentioned above, there has not been evaluations or regular reviews of zoning dilemmas (home burials as one) faced by local zoning boards such that local regulations are made more specific and useful.

But, indigenous custom or not, there has got to be a line drawn somewhere as to the more appropriate (i.e. in terms of public health, community acceptance, aesthetics, property value) burial place. It is a let down at least for me to reside in a city expecting to breathe modernity and live urbanity only to find myself next to or leaning into from my, say, kitchen window, a family cemetery.

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