Thursday, November 6, 2008

Elegance in stone: the Camposanto of San Joaquin

At the south-end of the province of Iloilo is an unassuming town called San Joaquin. Some 53 kilometers away from Iloilo City, the historical town is one of the oldest in Panay island, having been cited as the site where the 10 Borneon datus settled in the 12th century.

The town also boasts of two Spanish era architectural gems, its church and lo and behold, its cemetery. In my trip to Iloilo this summer, I only had a day to spare and I was able to squeeze visits to 9 old churches and the one cemetery that is not to be missed, that of San Joaquin.

camposanto de San Joaquin
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.6, 21mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

The San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery was built in 1892. Its old iron grill gate opens to a small flat plaza of coralline cobblestone and grass gardens at its side. A 20-step stone staircase leads directly to its most famous feature, the camposanto or the funerary chapel.

San Joaquin camposanto staircase
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/125s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

The capilla is hexagonal and is built of calcareous coral stone quarried from nearby limestone coast and red bricks of clay. It is capped by a copula roof with an iron cross at its apex.

San Joaquin Camposanto (2)
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.6, 33mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

Florid carvings of flowers and leaves decorate the exterior walls of the chapel, particularly surrounding the door and the roseate windows. There are also carved skull and crossbones, as well as cherubs. At the corners of the hexagon are urn-like finials.

San Joaquin Camposanto
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/5.6, 25mm, ISO 100

Characterized as oriental baroque, the architecture is elaborate in ornamentation, solid in built and delicate and surprising light in appearance, as if it floats on the hill.

San Joaquin Camposanto window
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.6, 48mm, ISO 100

Too bad that the chapel door was bound and locked. Identified and cherished as a historical monument, the camposanto is by no means cold and desolate. It is still in active use and remains a living testament of the faith of the people of San Joaquin in the life beyond the living.

San Joaquin is about an hour and a half from Iloilo City by jeepney.
My deepest thanks too to Bernie for being our knowledgeable tour guide during our Iloilo visit.

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