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Time to visit Las Piñas Bamboo Organ: Probably the oldest and biggest in the world

Probably the biggest and oldest musical instrument of its kind, the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is a unique and remarkable device that has captured the attention of music enthusiasts and history buffs around the world. Considered as a Philippine National Treasure, the bamboo organ can be found in its home inside the St. Joseph Church in Las Piñas City in Metro Manila. The organ is renowned for its beautiful sound and unique construction, which uses bamboo as its primary material.


History of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the early 19th century. The organ was built by Las Piñas residents led by the Spanish missionary Fr. Diego Cera, who arrived in the Philippines in 1795. Fr. Cera was a member of the Franciscan Order and was assigned to the St. Joseph Parish in Las Piñas, where he was tasked with the construction of a new church.

The sound of the bamboo and its availability as the main material for the organ's construction during those times were said to have motivated Fr. Cera, who was well-known for his musical ability and enthusiasm in the creation of musical instruments. On the other hand, the German Jesuit priest Fr. Ignacio Villanueva, who constructed a pipe organ in Manila in the 18th century, reportedly taught him how to construct pipe organs.

The bamboo used for the construction of the organ was harvested from the nearby Las Piñas and Zapote forests. The bamboo was carefully selected based on its thickness and sound quality. Fr. Cera used a special technique to treat the bamboo, which involved soaking it in saltwater and drying it in the sun for several months. This process helped to preserve the bamboo and improve its durability.

Construction of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

The construction of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ began in 1816 and was completed in 1824. The organ consists of 1,031 bamboo pipes, ranging in length from 8 inches to 16 feet, and is controlled by a keyboard with 13 ranks and 14 stops. The organ is housed in a wooden case with ornate carvings and decorations, which were crafted by local artisans.

Given the limited resources and technology available at the time, the creation of the Las Pias Bamboo Organ was a remarkable accomplishment.  The inventiveness and imagination of Fr. Cera, along with the craftsmanship of the Filipino artisans, led to the creation of a musical instrument that was not only unique but also beautiful and functional.


(Photos by Jumalynne V. Doctolero/PIA-NCR)

*Special thanks to the Offices of Las Piñas Mayor Imelda "Mel" Aguilar and Vice Mayor April Aguilar, and the Public Information Office

Short history of the Bamboo Organ

1816 - Cutting of the bamboo and selection of wood

1821 - Completion of the Bamboo Organ, except for the reed stops

1824 - Addition of the 122 horizontal reed pipes

1880 - Bamboo Organ and Church severely damaged by three earthquakes. The Bamboo Organ is disassembled and the pipes are placed in the old sacristy

1882 - A typhoon blows up the roof, the chest of the Bamboo Organ suffers additional damages

1888 - The church is rebuilt. However, the Bamboo Organ remains unplayable for the next decades

1911 - The Bamboo Organ is rediscovered by tourists

1917 - Only two stops of the Bamboo Organ are repaired

1932 - An electric motor is installed to supply the wind

1943 - Partial repairs are made; 1961 - Additional partial repairs are made

1972 - Award of the contract for the restoration of the Bamboo Organ to Johannes Klais Orgelbau KG in Bonn, Germany

1973 - (June 29) The complete Bamboo Organ is shipped to Bonn Germany

1975 - (Feb 17) The restored Bamboo Organ is played again for the first time at the Klais factory in Bonn, Germany

1975 - (March 13) The complete Bamboo Organ is flown back to the Philippines via Sabena Airlines

1975 - (May 9) Inaugural concert of the Bamboo Organ by Wolfgang Oehms, an organist of the Trier Cathedral, Germany

(Source: Las Piñas Bamboo Organ Museum)

The Sound of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

The soft, mellow tone of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ's distinctive and alluring sound is reminiscent of the sounds of nature. The adaptability of the organ allows it to play a variety of musical genres, including classical, religious, and folk music. It has been utilized in numerous concerts and events through the years.

The organ's unique sound is due to its bamboo pipes, which produce a warmer and softer tone than traditional metal pipes. The bamboo pipes also have a natural vibrato that gives the organ its distinctive sound. The sound of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is further enhanced by the acoustics of the St. Joseph Church, which was designed to amplify and enhance the organ's sound.

The Significance of the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is more than just a musical instrument. It is a cultural and historical landmark of the Philippines and an important symbol of the country's rich cultural heritage. The organ has survived earthquakes, typhoons, and wars, and has become a symbol of resilience and perseverance.

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is also a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the Filipino people. It is a remarkable and unique musical instrument that embodies the ingenuity, creativity, and cultural heritage of the Filipino people.

On the other hand, the construction of the organ, using bamboo as the primary material, is a testament to the resourcefulness and adaptability of early Las Piñas residents, who have long been known for their ability to make the most out of limited resources.


How to get to the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is located inside the Saint Joseph Parish at 1742 Quirino Avenue, Las Piñas City.

From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), there are several ways to get to the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ from the, depending on your preference and budget. Here are some of the most common options:

Taxi or Ride-hailing Service - This is the most convenient and quickest way to get to the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ from NAIA. You can either hail a taxi, for a metered fare, or book a ride-hailing service such as Grab or Angkas. The ride will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

Private Car Rental - If you prefer to have your own car and driver, you can rent a car from one of the many car rental agencies located at the airport. This option is more expensive than taking a taxi or ride-hailing service, but it offers more flexibility and convenience.

Public Transportation - For a more budget-friendly option, you can take public transportation from NAIA to Las Piñas. From the airport, take the airport shuttle bus or jeepney to Baclaran or Pasay. From there, take a bus or jeepney to Las Piñas. Once you reach Las Piñas, you can take a tricycle or taxi to the St. Joseph Church where the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is located.

From LRT Line 1: Take the Light Rail Transit Line 1, from Roosevelt Station to Baclaran Station, and get off at the Baclaran Station. From there ride a bus (Moonwalk or SM Southmall) or jeepney going to Alabang-Zapote (Please note NOT to ride the jeepney with the "via COASTAL" signage and to choose “via QUIRINO” instead).

From Alabang: Ride the traditional or modern jeep with the signboard Las Piñas bayan or Baclaran via Kabihasnan and alight in front of the St. Joseph Cathedral.

To commute by bus from Alabang, ride the PITX bus beside Starmall Alabang and ask the conductor to drop you off before Zapote flyover. From Zapote, ride the jeepneys heading to Las Piñas bayan or Baclaran via Kabihasnan/San Dionisio.

From España or Quezon Avenue: Take a jeep going to Lawton. Alight at the Philippine Post Office. From there take a UV Express to Alabang-Zapote.

It is also important to note that traffic conditions in Metro Manila can be unpredictable, and it is best to plan your trip accordingly, especially if you have a specific time schedule. It is also recommended to travel during off-peak hours to avoid heavy traffic congestion.

Other sites to visit

Adjacent the Saint Joseph Parish is a museum dedicated to the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ. Here visitors can learn more about the history and challenges of having and maintaining the Philippine National Treasure. There is also a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs and memorabilia of the one-of-a-kind musical instrument.

Just a few steps away from the museum is the Caritas’ Segunda Mana, where visitors can shop quality second-hand items and clothing at a very cheap price. Plus, you can ask for a more reasonable discount from the very friendly and accommodating store cashier. (PIA-NCR)

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Jerome Carlo Paunan

Editor

National Capital Region

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