After eight months, conservation work on the facade of the La Loma cemetery chapel is near completion. This is according to Escuela Taller, the technical vocational institution which trains out of school youths in construction work especially tailored for heritage site conservation.
The project started June 2021, coinciding with the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines. Among the accomplishments made by the Escuela Taller conservation team include the removal of destructive vegetation that has crept into the masonry stones for years, the removal of cement plaster that once covered the building, the rehabilitation and replacement of deteriorated and damaged masonry units, and the reinstatement of lost details.
The team also removed the hazards in the facade’s cupola, or small dome, including the preparation of wooden posts and the repair of the wooden dowel atop the right pilaster.
The La Loma chapel was used as a fort by Filipino fighters during the Philippine-American War and was later partly destroyed by a bomb.
Meanwhile the cemetery known as Cementerio General de la Loma was built as a response to the environmental and health concerns during the Spanish period. First, there was the 1863 Manila earthquake, and then there’s the overflow of other state-run cemeteries such as those in Paco and Sampaloc. There was also the need for more organized burials as response to the growing population of that time. After years of delay, the cemetery was completed in 1884 following the cholera outbreak of 1882.
The facade restoration employed a total of 16 graduates of Escuela Taller, trained masons and heritage conservation workers who had already gained experienced and has been exposed to conservation projects similar to the La Loma Chapel, like the Malate Church and the Paco Park ossuary, among others.
The project is a display of Escuela Taller's sustained experience in the craft of traditional masonry and the use of traditional materials such as adobe.
According to Escuela Taller, it will continue working with the Diocese of Kalookan for the conservation of the rest of the chapel, starting with the rehabilitation of the rest of the walls, both interior and exterior. The two entities have also begun working on a management plan to be implemented gradually, which should enable the Diocese to find ways and means to raise or source funding for the remaining parts of the conservation project.
The facade work will be done by end of March. According to Jeffrey Cobilla, architect and head of Escuela Taller’s conservation team, the completion of the chapel’s facade reaffirms the school’s work in advancing preventive conservation in the country as well as its mission to give employment to heritage workers, particularly the graduates of Escuela Taller who were former out of school youth.