The old cemetery chapels located in the camposanto built during the Spanish colonial era is one of the interesting religious heritage structures in the country. Unfortunately, many don’t have the focus they deserve. Only a few remain that still exists in the Philippines and their deterioration continues to this day.
This Top 10 list is a good start and that Filipinos should visit or be aware of. This listing is in no way complete as there are still some places that I have to visit but do note that this list covers cemetery chapels found outside of Metro Manila. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any cemetery chapels in Mindanao. Another note, this doesn’t include mortuary chapels which are found beside or infront of the church.
1 San Joaquin, Iloilo
Perhaps one of the most beautiful in the country, the cemetery chapel in San Joaquin, Iloilo is a head turner as one passes by the highway. A gated entrance leads to a grand staircase and on to this beautiful baroque structure that always awes visitors.
2 Cabatuan, Iloilo
Cabatuan in Iloilo is known mostly for its massive and beautiful church with a retablos made of sandstone. But few know that its cemetery chapel along the highway has one of the most stylized skull and cross bones in mortuary art during the Spanish colonial period. More info and images here.
3 Tabaco City, Albay
The cemetery chapel in Tabaco City is one of the well preserved structures in the Bicol region. It uses black lava stones abundant in the area, similar to the construction material of the old church. It has interesting bas relief details at its facade.
4 Tayabas, Quezon
The Santuario de las almas in Tayabas is one of two cemetery chapel found in the municiaplity. This beautiful structure is one of the biggest in the country and where Spaniards and Filipino elites were used to be interred. Though located a few hundred meters from the basilica, it faces it directly.
5 Tayabas, Quezon
The cemetery chapel in Tayabas, Quezon is interesting as it is one of a few chapels with twin belfries, similar to Lucban, in the same province, which is now in ruins. What makes it more interesting is the use of Gothic architectural style which is represented by the trefoil pediment reminiscent of Lucban church and the lancet blind niche, central niche and entrance.
6 Nagcarlan, Laguna
Nagcarlan in Laguna is famous for its underground cemetery, the only public catacomb in the country. Like the simbaan a bassit in Vigan, it has an espadana at the top serving as its pediment, a pair of blind oculi and a central niche. It is also the highlight of a circular cemetery.
7 Simbaan a bassit, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Historic Vigan City is admired for its old structures and one of these is the cemetery chapel also called Simbaan a bassit. Done in the neoclassical style and adorned with a pair of volutes at the side (a baroque style) and some floral details, its the only one that has an espadana (top part where the bells are hung) in the Ilocos region.
8 Calamba, Cebu City
Of the cemetery chapels listed here, its only the Calamba chapel that has been refurbished and renovated badly with the front added with a badly designed portico and the lower portion cemented. This chapel is interesting for its bas relief located at the center of the pediment. It shows death with a scythe, crowned and holding an hour glass which readily drives down to men his mortality.
9 Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
Tucked in one of the least visited places in Laoag City (well, except during 1 November), the cemetery chapel of this city is one of the bigger ones but quaint and built in subdued baroque style. Like Saravia, it is one of the few intact brick cemetery chapel in the country.
10 E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental
E.B. Magalona, formerly Saravia, in Negros Occidental has a beautiful cemetery chapel that is located near the highway. Of the many places I’ve visited, it is one of the very few brick structure that has an intact facade that I have seen. However, the interior has been renovated already and the roof has been replaced. More info here.