5 best places for Philippine cemetery architecture

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A beautiful mausoleum at La Loma

An intricately carved piece at the Chinese cemetery
Necropolis, city of the dead. Cemeteries can be found in every town and city in the Philippines but there are just some places of repose that are above the rest. In terms of architecture and significance, these four, as listed below, are must sees.

1La Loma, Chinese and North Cemeteries, Manila
This, perhaps, is the biggest cemetery complex in the country and are just beside each other. The La Loma (private and Catholic) opened in 1884, Chinese and North cemeteries are not only the place of repose for ordinary citizens. Buried here are presidents, poets and heroes, and other notable persons. But what makes these cemeteries stand out are the many different mausoleums done in different architectural styles popular during a particular period.

There’s art deco, neoclassic and chinese versions of these styles. Flamboyant decorations or simplistic approaches can also be found on niches and lapidas that are sure to delight and bewilder architects, students and enthusiasts.

San Joaquin's spectacular cemetery chapel

2San Joaquin Cemetery, Iloilo
When passing through the town of San Joaquin, one can’t ignore the beautiful cemetery located just beside the highway. It’s one of a kind cemetery chapel, the crowning glory of this cemetery, with its red dome, columns, finials and lateral occuli, is sure to turn heads. The structure, atop a grand staircase, makes it one of the important architectural treasures of Iloilo.

The cemetery was completed in 1892 by Fray Mariano Vamba using bricks, limestone and coral stone as building materials.

The catacombs below the Nagcarlan cemetery chapel

Nagcarlan cemetery. CLICK TO ENLARGE
3Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Laguna
The province of Laguna is known for the catacombs of Nagcarlan, the only one of its kind that is accessible to the public. It is also one of very few circular cemeteries in the country. The main chapel, done in the baroque style, is also one of some structures with an espadaña type of pediment where a lone bell is hung.

The catacombs, accessed through a flight of stairs below is just eerie but very interesting with its trompe l’oeil, or what remains of it. The cemetery was built in 1845 by the Fransciscan parish priest, Fray Vicente Velloc.

The Osmeña Mausoleum in neoclassic architectural style with art deco entrance posts

Carved lapida
4Original Carreta Cemetery, Cebu
It is one of the most neglected cemeteries in Cebu that has been invaded by squatters but it does have interesting surprises inside:

  • Spanish colonial era niches with thick walls but smaller with arched openings made of bricks, compared to modern ones.
  • art deco niches and mausoleums with intricate marble carvings and etched designs
  • neoclassic mausoleum of the Osmeñas that hold the remains of clan members. Niches are located underground.

There are still a few mausoleums that are quite interesting enough in this area. Check also langyaw.com where this was featured in one of the must go to heritage sites in Cebu.

Ornate, probably Spanish colonial era structure in Bogo's cemetery

Detail of bas relief
5Bogo Cemetery, Cebu

It was an unexpected find. In my usual search for spanish colonial era structures in cemeteries while in Bogo, at the tip of Cebu province, I just came up to this beautiful and ornate tomb. I think, this dates back to the Spanish colonial era when the town was one of the richest sugar estate. The structure is made from coral stones and decorated lavishly with carvings and bas reliefs.

More images at simbahan.net.

Want more? Simbahan.net has an interesting list entitled: 10 old cemetery chapels you shouldn’t miss. Check it out!

Stan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London).

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. Open for work, collaborations and inquiries for site features.

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