The Capilla in Cabatuan Cemetery as found on Explore Iloilo

Iloilo is known for its beautiful churches and ornate old houses. These are the main historic landmarks that Iloilo can boast of. However, there are two types of historic landmarks that may have been ignored by both amateur historians and avid travelers alike: the cemetery and the market center.

When you travel to Iloilo for some R & R, don't forget to take a look at the town cemeteries. These contain fascinating architecture, especially those chapels built in the middle of the cemeteries, usually directly in front of their main gates.

These are called Capilla. "Capilla" is Spanish for Chapel or Shrine. These were built most likely for the priests to be able to dispense the last rites before the dearly departed are finally buried. In the Cabatuan Cemetery, which I've visited nearly a decade ago, I noticed plaques bearing the names of generous donors and patrons who have helped finance the building of that particular cemetery. Much like those plaques of donors in Catholic Churches, the cemetery Capilla may also have those.

Sadly, due to age and weathering, the antique cemeteries that still boast of Iloilo's splendor during the Spanish era are but shadows of their former selves. But for those who are fascinated by the gothic and the macabre, these structures still evoke a certain eerie beauty.

Taking a trip to Iloilo's cemeteries may not be for the squeamish and the faint of heart. However, if you're the type who does not mind the fact that you're visiting buildings amongst dead people, you'll probably find that cemetery field trips are very relaxing.

According to Explore Iloilo, these are the towns of Iloilo Province that still have their antique cemetery architecture intact:

Northern Towns:

  • Dingle
  • Pototan

Central Towns:

  • Sta. Barbara
  • Cabatuan
  • Janiuay

Southern Towns:

  • Oton
  • Miagao
  • San Joaquin

Back in my angst-ridden teens, I've had a thing for memorial parks. One reason is that they're built beautifully, and the parks evoke a certain kind of stillness and peace. Even graveyards and cemeteries dotted with tombstones bring out the poet in me. And if you add the charm and mystery of architecture from a bygone era, you may find that you'll be transported back in time.

It helps you take a few pensive moments to reassess your life and where you're headed. When you come to terms with the site of someone's final resting place, it's not hard to get into that pensive state of mind.

Should you be thinking about visiting the graveyards and the remarkable architecture of the preserved antique cemeteries of Iloilo, remember to pray for divine protection and you should be fine.

--The Scribbler