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Nation

Conservation of La Loma Cemetery chapel underway

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Conservation of La Loma Cemetery chapel underway
Archival photo of La Loma Chapel.
Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation Inc. / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Diocese of Kalookan and non-government organization Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation recently partnered to save the old La Loma Cemetery Chapel in Caloocan City from further deterioration.

The diocese launched the conservation of the chapel, declared as a National Cultural Treasure, the highest designation given to a valuable cultural asset last June 19.

The Kalookan Diocese recognized the need for conservation considering its current state.

As La Loma Cemetery Chapel is considered a National Cultural Treasure, it has "unique cultural property found locally possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation.”

Meanwhile, La Loma Cemetery is formerly known as Binondo Cemetery, one of the oldest extramural cemeteries (i.e., outside Intramuros) primarily due to public health concerns in the 18th century.

It is likewise considered to be the oldest active cemetery in Manila.

The conservation project will begin with the restoration of the façade. However, the plans for its restoration began in 2017 when Bishop Pablo Virgilio David approached Escuela Taller for assistance in removing the heavy plant growth on the walls of the old cemetery chapel.

The conservation team said its restoration would involve documentation and a survey of the chapel to assess its conditions. After which, the team would then remove plants “by introducing appropriate herbicides and possibly disassembly of some parts of the masonry wall to completely remove the plant, including the roots system.”

The project would be handled by the graduates of Escuella Taller which is also a vocational school that imparts skills and disciplines related to the field of heritage conservation.

They would be the primary workforce of the projects as they are familiar with the building type, materials such as adobe (volcanic tuff) and apog (lime), as well as the methodology in treating historic structures through their training and experience in similar projects.

Jeffrey Cobilla, architect and head of Escuella Taller’s conservation team, said they expected to complete the façade work within eight months. However, he said the conservation of the entire chapel and site would take several years.

With its conservation, Fr. Paul Woo, director of the Diocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage said the diocese and the community said they wanted the La Loma Chapel to become a center for worship again, not only during All Saints or All Souls Day.

Woo said they plan to make the chapel more accessible and functional to provide liturgical services available.

 “And of course, we want to return the old chapel to its glory,” he said.

Aside from the physical restoration of the historic chapel, the diocese also teamed up with Escuella Taller to draft a Conservation Management to inform and guide the Diocese and the community on how to manage and care for the chapel regularly and sustainably.

“It is important to educate the community about heritage and heritage sites. The value that comes from every artifact is a gentle reminder for all of us to appreciate the richness of history, culture, and heritage that come from within,” Woo said.

“It is also an opportune time to educate everyone else in the Diocese and perhaps even other natives or residents who belong to other faith traditions to give importance to structures, find meaning in it and develop a sense of appreciation as each artifact turn back time for all of us such that we can also pass it on to the next generation,” he added.

ESCUELLA TALLER
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