The Las Piñas Church and its Bamboo Organ
“He came to the Philippines to build organs, and when he arrived, there was neither metal, nor suitable wood, nor tanned leather, nor wire, nor pipes, nor keys, nor anything else with which organs were usually made; but with a genius worthy of an eighteenth century Edison, he rose to the occasion and built an organ of bamboo.” – George Miller, 1912
George Miller was referring to the builder of both the Parish Church of St Joseph in Las Piñas City and its historically famous 19th century Bamboo Organ – Fr. Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, a priest under the Augustinian Recollects.
A native of Spain, Fray Diego Cera served as parish priest in Las Piñas through many endeavors. Historians portray him as a gifted man – a natural scientist, chemist, architect, community leader, organist and organ builder.
The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is a nineteenth-century church organ made almost entirely from bamboo – only the trumpet stops are made from metal. It is known as the only pipe organ in the world whose pipes are made of bamboo. Most of its pipes, anyway – of the total number of 1,031 pipes, 902 are made of bamboo and the remaining pipes are made of metal.
Over the years, the church and the organ have undergone various restorations. A major total restoration was done in 1972 where a contract was awarded to Johannes Klais Orgelbau KG in Bonn, Germany and it was shipped there in 1973. The organ was brought back to the Philippines restored in 1975. While the restoration of the organ was taking place in Germany, a massive restoration project of the church and its surroundings was likewise undertaken at its hometown in Las Piñas.
On November 24, 2003, the National Museum of the Philippines officially declared the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ a ‘National Cultural Treasure.’
The Las Piñas Parish Church with its Bamboo Organ has always been among the popular excursion destinations in Metro-Manila for Filipinos and foreign visitors alike. It has become the scene of many concerts and the annual Bamboo Organ Music Festival held every February.