The idea of burying one’s dead and the attendant rites and rituals are not new to pre-hispanic Filipinos as there were already burial practices in place before the coming of the Spaniards. The remains were usually located in caves or cliffs. When Catholicism was introduced, it was not hard for the natives to accept the introduced system which was now done in one place, the cemetery.
The camposanto or cemetery was, of course, a given in the simbahan complex and in the early part of the Spanish colonization era, these were located in the churchyard, usually adjoining the church. It was only later in the 18th century, in the year 1787, that King Charles VI of Spain, for reasons of hygiene, decreed that these should now be located a good distance from the church.The colonial camposanto, whether beside or far from the church usually have a perimeter fence to protect the graves from defilement by animals or by man, an arch or in some cases, a gate that marks the entrance, a cross to mark that it is a cemetery, nichos or niches for the affluent (and the dug cold and damp earth for the rest) and for those towns that can afford it, a funerary chapel where masses are held during specific days of the week and especially, on November.
Colonial era cemeteries are one of the most endangered and often neglected heritage structures in the country today unlike the simbahan where a restoration and preservation program is in place. Except maybe for that in Tabaco City in Albay, Paco Park in Manila and to some extent, one or two in Iloilo like San Joaquin (pictured above), the rest are in a bad and disorganized state.
Many are crumbling, with usually the funerary chapel missing or was demolished. If the walls are still existing, these are usually in ruins or what remains are the thick foundations of the archway. In many areas that I’ve visited, not a single trace of the camposanto is left.
These are also significant structures that needs to be preserved for it is an important part of our heritage and culture. In this site, the different state and condition of these cemeteries or what’s left of it will be included.
To see all cemetery posts, click on this category tag: CAMPOSANTO