The old La Loma Cemetery Chapel is a National Cultural Treasure, the highest designation given to a valuable cultural asset. As such, it has unique value and has been demmed possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic, and scientific value, which is highly significant and important to the nation. La Loma Cemetery, formerly known as Binondo Cemetery, is one of the oldest extramural cemeteries, primarily due to public health concerns in the 18th century. It is regarded to be the oldest active cemetery in Manila.
Considering its current state, the Diocese of Kalookan and Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation spearhead the conservation of La Loma Chapel. The project will begin with the restoration of the façade. After the assessment of the chapel’s condition, appropriate herbicides will be introduced to remove the plants covering the wall.
According to Arch. Jeffrey Cobilla, head of Escuela Taller’s conservation team, they expect to complete the work on the façade within eight months, but they expect several years to conserve the entire chapel and its site. Escuela Taller recommends having a preventive maintenance program after the project for the continuous care of the heritage site. Fortunately, adobe (volcanic tuff) and apog (lime) are still commercially available and the graduates of Escuela Taller are more than familiar with treating historic structures through their rigorous training and experience with similar projects.
Apart from the physical conservation, the Diocese of Kalookan has also been working with Escuela Taller to draft a Conservation Management Plan to inform and guide the diocese and the community on how to manage and care for the chapel regularly and sustainably.
Launch and ceremonial signing of the La Loma Chapel Conservation Project
Fr. Paul Woo, Director of the Diocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage says that the diocese and the community clamored that they want the La Loma Chapel to become a center for worship again, not only during All Saints and All Souls Day. And, of course, returning the old chapel to its former glory will be beneficial for Filipino culture. The plan is to make it more accessible and functional to provide liturgical services.
“It is important to educate the community about heritage and heritage sites,” Fr. Woo adds. “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. 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.”