Lumang Simbahan gets much needed rehab
Conservationists are saving an old church towering over the La Loma Cemetery.
The Capilla de San Pancracio, also known as the La Loma Chapel or “Lumang Simbahan” (old church), is getting a much-needed rehabilitation after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalookan and Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation Inc. inked a memorandum of agreement (MOA) right in front of the building on June 19.
The chapel is a National Cultural Treasure (NCT), “a cultural property that is a unique object found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to the country and nation.” NCT is the highest designation given to valuable cultural assets.
“The common objective is the overall conservation of the chapel. The first phase is the main façade,” said Jeffrey Cobilla, an architect and head of Escuela Taller’s conservation team. “During the initial inspection, advanced plant growth and stone deterioration were the major problems that we observed.”
It was the plant growth that first alarmed Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, he said in his remarks during the MOA signing.
“The poor state of the façade because of the abundant vegetation, I’ve been horrified by this since five years ago,” he noted. Around that time, he was new to his post as Bishop of Kalookan, covering the cities of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas.
He’d be happy to see that 12 conservation workers from Escuela Taller will work on his longtime concern. The team will remove the plant growth, down to the root systems, meticulously. Using materials compatible with the structure like adobe and apog (lime), they will also fix mortar joints, replace adobe stones and apply a protective plaster, among others.
Work on the façade is expected to take eight months. It would take several more years of work to conserve the entire chapel and its site, for which Escuela Taller and the Church hope to develop a conservation management plan (CMP).
Bishop David acted on his concern for the chapel as early as 2016: “I reached out to the Archbishop of Manila, then His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and broached the idea of coming up with a CMP for La Loma Cemetery.”
“The talks [with Escuela Taller] began in 2017… It took a while not just because of funding or the preparation of the funds, but also because of the coordination,” added Escuela Taller communications and special projects officer Philip Paraan. While the La Loma Cemetery is under the administration of the Bishop of Kalookan, a portion of it lies in Manila. Thus, the jurisdiction is split between the Diocese of Kalookan and the Archdiocese of Manila. The chapel itself is in Manila.
As the initiative finally rolls out, Bishop David wants everything done right—from enlisting the help of experts to involving the community in heritage conservation.
“The last time I celebrated Mass here, somebody … said, ‘Bishop, pa-renovate mo na ‘tong chapel na ito’ and I said, ‘You’re not using the right vocabulary… it is a crime to renovate this chapel.’ We don’t call it renovation; we call it restoration. Some people do not know the distinction, and I must admit that a lot of crimes against heritage have been committed, sometimes even by the religious sector,” he recounted.
The project begins with a P5-million fund that Bishop David secured with the support of Cardinal Tagle, but he admitted that “it’s not very much in restoration work.” In the June 19 event, broadcast live via the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalookan’s Facebook page, he thus issued a call.
“If you find this to be a worthy endeavor, please partner with us,” he said. “I do hope we find more people who are willing to partner with us in this endeavor of preserving and conserving the cultural heritage of the Church.”
Subscribe to our business newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.