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LAS PIÑAS Old town, new city
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Mary Anne Conde
Date: 2001-05-07

According to Cynthia Villar, wife

of former Speaker and now

senatorial bet Manny Villar, Las

Piñas has a lot to offer in terms

of tourism. She pointed out that

its strategic location, only 15

minutes from the airport, makes

it an ideal stop for tourists who

have few hours to spend on a

half-day trip.

“We have a the Bamboo Organ;

salt beds or the old way of

harvesting salt; the jeepney factories; and Plaza Quezon, where

parols were originally made,” she noted.

The city, which is one of the seven towns and cities in Metro

Manila, is bounded by the cities of Muntinlupa, Cavite, and

Parañaque. It is also one of the earliest settlement sites during the

Spanish era.

Old barrio, new city

In the 18th century, Las Piñas was a humble barrio of Parañaque.

However, life in this fishing village with 1,200 inhabitants changed

with the arrival of Fr. Diego Cera, a Spanish missionary, in 1797.

Under his guidance, roads and bridges were constructed, and

profitable industries such as dye-making, salt production, and

handicrafts were introduced. He was also responsible for the

construction of the St. Joseph Church and the famous Bamboo

Organ. Unfortunately, in 1832, Fr. Cera was forced to return to

Spain because of failing health.

In more recent times, the construction of the South Super Highway

and Coastal Road boosted the development of Las Piñas into a

major urban center. On February 12, 1997, it was formally

proclaimed a “city” under the Ramos Administration.

Today, Las Piñas has the distinction of being one of NCR’s

cleanest and greenest cities and was recently conferred the

presidential award for being the Best Performing LGU (local

government unit) in the fight against illegal drugs. And the

residents are privileged to have free health services and

hospitalization, free education from preschool to college (or

vocational through the city’s Manpower School or TESDA), and

even free burial.

Historical Corridor

Amidst the flurry of activity of a busy city is a quiet strip which

remembers a distant past. Visitors will be taken back into time, to

18th century Las Piñas where the roads (or sidewalks) are paved

with cobblestones and the streets are lined with red-brick

structures featuring a distinct Spanish influence. This is Diego

Cera street, which was renovated to look like it did some 200

years ago.

The program dubbed the “Historical Corridor Project,” is

spearheaded by the city’s two leaders, Rep. Manny Villar and City

Mayor Nene Aguilar. It covers the Old District of Baranggay

Manuyo, all the way to Daniel Fajardo, E. Aldana, Ilaya, Pulang

Lupa, and Zapote.

“We wanted to imitate what they have in Europe, where they

preserve their old cities,” said Mrs. Villar. A bill, which sought to

declare Diego Cera street as a historical place and therefore

entitled to support from the government, was passed in Congress.

It declared that houses or structures standing or being built along

the street should adhere to the 18th century motif.

Aside from the St. Joseph church, other structures on the street

having architectural design are the TESDA and New District

Hospital, which was renovated under Rep. Villar’s Countrywide

Development Fund.

Bamboo Organ

And of course, what’s a trip to Las Piñas without visiting the

famous Bamboo Organ. This centuries-old instrument housed in

the St. Joseph Church is a result of the ingenuity of Fr. Diego

Cera. The Spanish father saw that bamboo was readily available

and thought of using it to build an organ. He took hundreds of

bamboo poles and buried them in the sand for a year to it be

treated by salt water. This way preserved them at the same time

protected them from termites. Bamboo was very practical to use

because of its cylindrical shape.

Armando Salarza, the titular organist (and unofficial Bamboo

Organ historian), was the first scholar to be trained in Austria. He

said that there are 1,031 bamboo pipes and 129 metal trumpets

which were imported from Mexico. Today, the organ is about 80

percent original.

During a visit to the church he favored us with a few classical


Nature Church

If you want to visit another point of interest I suggest a visit to the

Mary Immaculate Church. Also known as the “Nature Church,” it

holds true to its name with its unique features: The church is an

open pavilion. The ceiling is just a very large salakot (a traditional

hat) held up by sturdy wooden posts and the church itself is

surrounded by lush greenery.

Instead of pews, there are polished tree stumps while the altar is

made of driftwood. Behind the altar is a wooden sculpture of the

Madonna and Child sitting amidst leafy greens and a wooden

image of Jesus Christ backed on a tree instead of a cross.

The design of the church was the idea of the Italian parish priest,

Fr. Rogliaridi Pierino.

[ St. Joseph Church Wiki ]

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