If there’s one thing that is unique about Las Piñas, it is the Bamboo Organ, which is considered a Philippine National Treasure. On November 24, 2003, it was given this recognition by the National Museum of the Philippines since “it is the only 19th century Bamboo Organ in the Philippines that has survived and is still functioning.” This unique musical instrument is composed of 1,031 pipes, and 902 of which are made out of bamboo while the rest are metal.
A dose of history
The man behind this masterpiece was a Spanish missionary called Fray Diego Cera Dela Virgen Del Carmel, who was in fact, the first parish priest in Las Piñas during the Spanish era. He came from the town of Graus (Huesca, Spain), but he settled in this part of the Philippines from 1795 to 1830.
Fr. Diego Cera started with the construction of the bamboo organ in 1816 and it was finished eight years after in 1824. It has gone through a lot since then.
During the 1880s, there was a typhoon and earthquake that damaged the roof of the church, which left the bamboo organ open to nature’s elements. The rainwater and stones got inside the organ case, which destroyed the instrument and made it unplayable for years. After that, the pipes were stored in the old sacristy and were forgotten about until around 1917 when a tourist rediscovered its beauty.
It was only in 1972 when the bamboo organ restoration project began. Johannes Klais Orgelbau was the one who was awarded the contract, and he had the organ shipped all the way to Bonn, Germany in 1973. After about a couple of years, the bamboo organ returned to its homeland in 1975.
The St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas houses the Bamboo Organ, and it is about ten kilometers south of the heart of Metro Manila. Built between 1797 and 1819, the church has an “earthquake” Baroque architectural style and is mainly made out of adobe stones. It had to undergo renovation with the assistance of the local community and the neighboring area, in order to restore the structure and the grounds to its original state. Architects Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa and Ludwig Alvarez effectively spearheaded the renovation from 1971 to 1975.
Located within the grounds of the church is the Antillan House, which serves as the point of entry to the Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc, its souvenir shop, the museum, and the Parish Adoration Chapel. This place used to be an old Spanish convent, and is now being used as a passage to the Bamboo Organ as well.
The Festival and the Foundation
Ever since the bamboo organ’s rigorous restoration, the people celebrate this work of art through the International Bamboo Organ Festival every February. The Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc. organizes this annual musical and cultural event, in cooperation with the people of Las Piñas. The festival’s aim is to pursue and develop the rich cultural tradition of Las Piñas, and a number of established foreign and local artists have participated in this event. It attracts a lot of local and foreign tourists, as well as all kinds of music aficionados.
The Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc. is a non-stock and non-profit group that endeavors to preserve and maintain the Bamboo Organ. Aside from organizing the yearly festival, it is also involved in the educational, spiritual and social enrichment of the people in the city. The foundation has also sent scholars to Austria who have managed to make a name for themselves in their chosen fields. There’s Armando Salarza who specialized in organ performance and church music, Gerado Fajardo who concentrated on choir conducting, as well as Cealwyn Tagle and Edgar Montiano (+) who focused on organ building.
The foundation also operates a souvenir shop and manages a museum in the Padre Diego Cera Hall where one can find significant artifacts of the bamboo organ and the church. The group also offers a membership program where one can avail of the following benefits:
- Gala concert tickets for two (2) persons.
- Membership acknowledgment in the souvenir program of the International Bamboo Organ Festival.
- Complimentary Bamboo Organ tour passes for you and your guests.
- Free mass intentions every Tuesday at 6pm.
- Complimentary subscription to the Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc. newsletter.
- Free CD recording from the latest festival.
For inquiries, contact the Foundation Secretariat at (02) 825-7190 or (02) 820-0795, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tour package rate is Php50 per person, and it is best to visit while the bamboo organ is being played during 8am-12noon and 2-6pm daily. For reservations, please contact the Foundation Secretariat at (02) 825-7190 or (02) 820-0795
The Bamboo Organ Foundation, Inc.
P. Diego Cera Avenue, Brgy. Daniel Fajardo, Las Piñas City, Philippines 1744