The old cemetery of Oton, Iloilo

The chapel at the old cemetery of Oton. Its outer wall was renovated in 21 October 1997

Inscription above the chapel portal

Located less than a kilometer from the church grounds and ruins of Oton in Iloilo is the old Catholic cemetery of the municipality. I still have to come across research that dates the construction of the cemetery chapel and walls but, this is just a hunch, it might have been built before the time of Fray Demetrio Cobos (1844-1854), parish priest, who laid the foundations of the beautiful gothic church. When compared with the other cemetery chapels in the province, it lacks the artistry and sophistication of Cabatuan, Janiuay, Miag-ao and San Joaquin.

The octagonal chapel, located at the center, akin to that of Cabatuan and Miag-ao, is simple with only an arch at its portal sparsely decorated with bas reliefs of skull and cross bones at each side with a finial at the top. Above it is an inscription done in, as per Bernie Arellano, a friend, archaic Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) and Karay-a:

Sa Dios magdayao ang manga tol-an sang mga nagpaobus sining cabuhi

In modern Hiligaynon, this roughly translates to: In God the bones praise for those who are humble in this life. This might not be the true translation but considering that it is archaic, tol-an might refer to the dead and not necessarily bones. The outer wall of the chapel was renovated by painting the surface and then making stone mark outlines. This softened the edges of the octagonal structure that it comes out circular. This was dated at 21 October 1997 based on a writing at the back.

I’m not sure what the material used in building the chapel but based on one skull and cross bone relief at the side (check photo below) where the paint has peeled off and showed the weathered stone, it might be soft limestone or sandstone, the same construction material used in Miag-ao and Cabatuan churches.

The chapel’s interior is even sparse. There are no niches like those of other cemetery chapels. There is a big crucifix at the center. Looking up, you can still see the wooden trusses that supports the roof. Originally, it has three portals like the chapel of Cabatuan but, probably after the renovation, the side entrances were sealed.

There are no longer traces of the original niches, usually at the back but the walls are still present. At the gate are two coral stone pillars topped with a metal grill arch. I’m not sure if the original sported a stone arch, like most old cemetery walls around the country but I can faintly remember a few years ago that when I passed Oton, it was different. At the side, the stone pillars are of mamposteria (rocks) and not of cut coral stone.


  1. Is the tile (tisa) roof still there? I can’t discern from the picture.

    When I visited this cemetery chapel many years ago, it still had an original tiled roof and the walls were not renovated yet.

    I think I still have pictures of how the structure looked back then, before it was renovated.

  2. Pingback: » Oton cemetery chapel circa July 1986 | Simbahan: Catholic Architecture & Heritage Blog

  3. Apparently, the person who instigated this renovation practically robbed the town of one of its remaining evidence of it’s historical past and replaced it with tasteless whatchamacallit.

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