(Janiuay cemetery’s grand stone staircase. Photo courtesy of Ayala Museum)
Inaugurated in 1884, Janiuay (pronounced as ha-nee-wai) cemetery was hailed as the most artistic cemetery in the Philippines! The town’s parish priest, Augustinian friar Fernando Llorente spearheaded the ambitious project. (Prior to this assignment, he was head of Dingle, a town where he also had a stone cemetery constructed.
The inauguration was such a grand affair, three full days of pomp and ceremony. No less than the Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Pedro Payo was guest of honor.
Situated on elevated ground, the cemetery has three grand staircases which dramatically lead to three arched entrance gates. Life-size stone statues used to line the entrance. A seven-foot cross of solid limestone was erected between the capilla and the main gate. 52 carabaos hauled the limestone block from the mountains of Dingle and then carved on site. Of course, the cemetery’s crowning glory was its octagonal capilla. (Eight is the number of the resurrection.) Like Dingle’s, Janiuay’s capilla had lancet-shaped doors and windows (Fray Llorente must have loved the Gothic style) as well as exquisite stone and wood carvings. Manila artisans worked on the interiors.
At present, the Janiuay cemetery is only a shadow of its former self. The once gleaming limestone blocks are badly weathered. The stone statues and the giant cross are long gone. Nevertheless, taking in the majestically elevated facade, climbing its steps and looking around the once richly ornamented capilla is a must-do experience for visitors.