This is a follow-up report by Louine Hope Conserva of the Daily Guardian, late last week, in which she reported on allegations that there was some looting of historically significantly artifacts going on in the Memorial Chapel at the Cemetery in San Joaquin, Iloilo.
THE NATIONAL Museum has recommended the rehabilitation of a portion of the Camposanto or mortuary chapel in San Joaquin, Iloilo which was damaged due to the unauthorized digging of alleged treasure hunters.
Angel P. Bautista, acting assistant director of the National Museum (NM), and Ernesto Toribio Jr., head of NM’s treasure hunting section, made the recommendation after an ocular inspection of the chapel, Mar. 1, 2016.
The National Museum declared the Camposanto a national cultural treasure in 2003.
San Joaquin Mayor Eduardo Servidad said the rehabilitation will be funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
“The National Museum will be sending us a structural engineer for the design. There will also be other requirements to be complied by the National Museum. The local government unit can supply manpower,” Servidad said.
To recall, 10 persons were arrested Feb. 24 for digging a portion of the Camposanto purportedly in search for buried treasures. They were charged for violating the National Heritage Act of 2009. The town’s parish priest, Fr. Nelson Silvela, was also relieved of his pastoral duties for allegedly authorizing the excavation.
Servidad said there was no pronouncement from NM officials about the criminal case as they only recommended the rehabilitation. But the mayor quoted the officials as saying that the excavation was “illegal.” “If you are a miner, you need the approval of the National Museum when you are mining in an area declared as national cultural treasure,” he said.While waiting for the rehabilitation, Servidad said the town has tasked the police and barangay officials to secure the Camposanto. Aside from security reasons, no one is allowed near the chapel as it is now considered a public hazard because of the structural damage it suffered.
They will also leave the investigation into the incident to the police.