The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) has stabilized and restored the mortuary chapel of the San Joaquin Campo Santo in Iloilo damaged by treasure hunters who dug up a 60-ft-deep pit, compromising the integrity of the Spanish-era Baroque structure early this year.
The cemetery, built by Augustinian Fr. Mariano Vamba in 1892, was declared a National Cultural Treasure (NCT) by the NMP in December 2015, 14 years after the church known for its bas relief of the Battle of Tetuan in Morocco, with the ruins of its sprawling convent, was declared an NCT.
Both the church and the cemetery are now called by the NMP as the “San Joaquin Church Complex and Campo Santo of San Joaquin, Iloilo, a National Cultural Treasure.”
NMP acting assistant director Angel Bautista told the Inquirer the illegal treasure-hunting pit has already been systematically back-filled to bring back the integrity of the structure.
The rehabilitation came after an extensive assessment by the NMP, the San Joaquin municipal government, and Mines Geosciences Bureau Region VI, with assistance from a structural engineer of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), said Bautista, also the NMP’s Cultural Properties and Regulatory Division chief.
The proper mixture of soil, rocks and cement was applied to make sure the compactness of the materials filled into the pit.
Bautista said the NMP had proposed the NCCA conduct a Conservation Management Plan of the Campo Santo to determine its buffer zone to ensure the protection and preservation of the cultural property.
NMP also suggested the cultural mapping of San Joaquin town to identify the cultural and natural heritage properties of the town, added Bautista.
NMP had installed the NCT marker for the cemetery in August, eight months after it was declared as such.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the 10 suspects rounded up, including former parish priest Fr. Nelson Silvela, had been charged for violating Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. —CONTRIBUTED