Heritage Sites

Possibly One of Asia's Most Beautiful Cemeteries: The Camposanto de San Joaquin


Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | Jan 29, 2015
Possibly One of Asia's Most Beautiful Cemeteries: The Camposanto de San Joaquin

The historical town of San Joaquin, Iloilo, around 53-59 kilometers away from Iloilo City, is one of the oldest in Panay Island. The town boasts of two Spanish-era architectural gems: the church and its cemetery.

The San Joaquin Church along with the San Joaquin Cemetery is known as one of the province's major tourist attractions since it plays a great role in literature and history. 

One, because it is one of the places believed to be possible settings for the “Barter of Panay” myth/legend. The “Barter of Panay” is classified as myth or legend because there are no written accounts or proof to solidify the claim. According to the story, Bornean Datus traded gifts and offerings to the Aetas so the former can settle in the lowlands.

The San Joaquin Cemetery

The San Joaquin Cemetery is located along the main highway in the town of San Joaquin, Southern Iloilo. It is known for its Camposanto or mortuary chapel and is popular for its intricate baroque architecture made of white coral and fossil stones with oriental (probably Chinese) influences.

This ancient Roman Catholic cemetery is perhaps the best preserved in the entire Iloilo Province. The cemetery is enclosed by stone walls and wrought-iron grills. The Camposanto also sits on a hill overlooking the sea.

The entrance gate of San Joaquin Cemetery.

The Entrance Gate

On this gateway with an arch, you’ll find statues:

  • 1 figure of Jesus Christ with His arms outstretched
  • 2 columns with a figure of angel guards each
The entrance arch of the cemetery.

The entrance arch of the cemetery is also adorned with a cherub and skulls.

Inside the San Joaquin Cemetery you'll find several statues and carvings.

There are several other carvings and statues found on the walls of the cemetery. They are decorated with floral and leaf-patterned stone carvings.

The Steps

There are 20-stone steps before reaching the chapel. According to local folklore, the staircase was made by the women of San Joaquin for their required contribution from the Spanish authorities.

The Camposanto at the center of the cemetery.

The Mortuary Chapel / Camposanto

Standing at the center is the Baroque-style mortuary chapel. This is the centerpiece of the cemetery.

The window of the mortuary chapel adorned with stone carvings.

The walls are built of red bricks and coral stones, while the dome roof is made with galvanized iron sheets.

Inside the Camposanto

Decorated with classic motifs, you’ll also find a small replica sculpture of the “La Pieta.”

The domed-roof inside.


A sculpted skull in one of the pillars inside the chapel.


What the window looks like inside the chapel.

How to Get There

From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo (estimated cost of Php3,000++, round trip, one hour). The Iloilo Airport is 30 minutes (approximately 19 km) away from Iloilo City.

From Iloilo City, you can take a jeepney bound for San Joaquin or a bus going to Antique. Fare is around Php50-60. If you opt to ride a jeepney, go to the Terminal Market near Robinsons Place Mall or ride a San Joaquin jeepney from Molo. Tell the driver to be dropped at the “old cemetery” or “patyo”.


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