Mar 12, 2019

The cemetery in Balaoan, La Union where the Siete Martires, the seven martyrs who stood against the abuses of the Spaniards during the 1896 Philippine Revolution, were executed was demolished last year despite being a presumed important cultural property. Today, a cockpit arena stands on the site.

Before it was razed, the cemetery was one of the two remaining heritage cemetery structures in La Union. It was built on a circular site in 1877 by then town convent Fr. Casimiro Melgosa. Its design gives hints of the Baroque, an architectural style mostly applied to churches in the region.

No one exactly knew why it was razed in 2018. The only known fact then was that the cemetery was sinking—a crater-like depression was found continually subsiding at its center since the 1900s. This caused the abandonment of the site.

Although not noticeable at first glance, this vegetation-filled, crater-like depression at the center of the 1877-dated…

Posted by Sementeryo: Heritage Cemeteries of the Philippines on Saturday, January 2, 2016

Could this be the remains of a bridge?Between the road and the abandoned 1877 cemetery of Balaoan, La Union is this…

Posted by Sementeryo: Heritage Cemeteries of the Philippines on Saturday, January 2, 2016

Heritage advocates and cultural agencies were appalled when it was confirmed recently that the cemetery bit the dust and a privately owned cockpit arena now occupies the land. “The desecrated cemetery has been untouched for years, evident that it has always been a public property,” Emilie Obaldo, a descendant of one of the seven martyrs, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“If this issue is a violation of any existing Philippine law protecting historical structures, then whoever demolished Balaoan’s public cemetery should be held accountable,” she added.

While the cemetery wasn’t officially declared as a heritage site, clarifies National Museum Director Jeremy Barns, the demolition violates the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 or the Republic Act 10066.

RA 10066 states that any structure that is at least 50 years old is not allowed to be demolished unless cleared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

This is not the first time a presumed important cultural property was demolished without due process or clearance from the NHCP.

Last February, the Angela Apartments, one of the last pre-war Art Deco buildings in the highly urbanized Manila, was torn down to “make way for a high-rise commercial development.” While the other presumed important cultural property that hit just hit the news last week was saved from demolition, this still doesn’t assure us that government officials are giving enough significance to protect the country’s architectural treasures.


Photos used courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Get more stories like this by subscribing to our weekly newsletter here.

Read more:

The government blatantly lacks cultural heritage literacy. Here’s why

Construction of Binondo-Intramuros bridge threatens heritage sites in Manila

Who has the power to claim historical cultural property?

Read more by Amierielle Anne Bulan:

Kalinga school to include traditional weaving in SHS Home Economics curriculum

Why it’s important to view art to understand than to critique

This century-old “bahay na bato” in Iloilo now houses 13 galleries

TAGS: Balaoan cemetery church cultural culture heritage important property La Union National Museum NHCP presumed important cultural property