It was during a visit in Pulilan, on the occasion of the Kneeling Carabao Festival last month that I have finally explored more of this municipality in Bulacan. Before, I just pass the town enroute to Baliuag or Cagayan Valley and only know when I’m there once I see the statue of a kneeling carabao and a farmer sculpture near the crossing. Of course, the town have some things to offer, including a visit to the spanish colonial church, currently being restored, and the Pulilan cemetery right beside the church.
Pulilan, formerly known as San Isidro was a barangay of Quingua, now Plaridel. It was established in 1749 and declared an independent parish sometime in the 1780s. The stone church was built by Fray Juan Rico, probably an Augustinian, starting in 1826. I haven’t yet read a reference when the cemetery was built but what is interesting is that it is one of five municipalities in the province wherein the camposanto is right beside the church.
The cemetery arch and gate
Although not unusual, as early churches had their graveyards just beside or at the back of the church. As what I mentioned in the camposanto post, King Charles VI of Spain decreed in 1787 the transfer of graveyards away from churches for health reasons. This was again decreed several times in the following decades and into the 19th century. Some churches, as we know now didn’t heed this one. And Pulilan, together with Meycauayan, Obando, Bulacan and Marilao are these five municipalities in Bulacan alone. There are a few in other provinces in Luzon and the Visayas.
The Pulilan cemetery is located at the gospel side of the church. It has a three tier entrance arch made from adobe and bricks with the pediment surmounted by a cross. This entrance arch is more than a meter thick. Curiously, the right side of the facade has a series of steps that terminate at the second level of the structure wherein a niche is built. I think this is unique to Pulilan. Interred was Don Catalino Castillo. Below the steps are three other niches.
The perimeter fence is still intact and the cemetery reaches the back of the church. There are two art deco graves and the rest are the typical niche design.