Tuesday, July 19, 2011

JANIUAY Cemetery: A Great Repository of Architectural Delight

the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Janiuay circa 18th century, photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

Many of the more interesting historical sights in Iloilo can be found along the main roads going to the different municipalities. And one unique and unusual way to get to know a town’s history is to take a tour to its cemetery. Although there are no guided tours for cemeteries for it easy to see the sight, as you could just drive around them in the comforts of your car.

Cemeteries are reflections of a number of aspects of our culture. Unlike other historical areas in Iloilo, cemeteries were not devastated by wars. They are “untouched,” so, most of the architectures in the area are preserved.

For many Ilonggos, the town of Janiuay is associated with its grand Filipino-Hispano cemetery. This cemetery forms part of the multiplex of Spanish colonial sites of this historically rich province.

photo by Jun Fuerte

The Janiuay Catholic Cemetery is a one hectare tract located east from the poblacion bordering between Barangays Aquino-Nobleza and Damu-ong dates back to 1875. Built on top of a hill, it is one of the most beautiful of its kind in the country. This massive, elevated cemetery is one of the links of the Janiuaynons to the past.

photo by Jun Fuerte

It is made up of three grand arched entrance gates with individual staircases of 21 steps leading to its rightmost entrance; 23 steps going to the main entrance; and 22 steps to its leftmost entrance. It was said that the slabs of stones and limestone blocks used in building the entire cemetery were quarried and hauled by 52 carabaos as far as the town of Dingle---a town 27 kilometers away from Janiuay. The area is fenced by steel supported by columns made of stone.

Common to most Spanish-built structures in Iloilo, egg whites were important ingredients in building this cemetery. When combined with lime and water, the mixture becomes a natural adhesive linking other construction materials together like rocks and bricks. It is also often used as varnishing to cover and protect surfaces of columns, walls and facades of man-made structures.

photo by Ryan Rey Genciana

The octagonal-shaped capilla, partially overgrown with plants and shrubs, is the centerpiece of the cemetery. Artisans from Manila were commissioned to work for its interior. It has lancet-shaped doors and windows. This would have been a place of final vigils and services for the dead.

photo by Jun Fuerte

The building of the cemetery was under the watchful supervision of an Agustinian friar, Fr. Fernando Llorente with actual construction being undertaken by Don Placido Marin through forced labor wherein the town folks had to transport heavy materials such as the stones used in the construction from its boundaries. In November 20, 1885, the cemetery was finished and inaugurated by Archbishop Payo.

photo by Jun Fuerte

Over the past 126 years, the Janiuay Catholic Cemetery, like many other historic cemeteries in Iloilo, has suffered from neglect and natural aging. The present administration, under the leadership of Hon. Franklin H. Locsin recognizes the historical and architectural importance of the site and is lobbying for a major restoration project at the cemetery. The project is dedicated to the preservation of not only the town, but Iloilo’s irreplaceable historic and cultural treasure for future generations.

From Iloilo City, to reach the start of the trail in Janiuay, one may take jeepneys that are readily available in Centraline Terminal fronting Christ the King Memorial Park in Jaro, Iloilo City. Air-conditioned vans are also available at the terminal.

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