First 2018 Field Trip: Las Piñas Bamboo Organ Museum
I wanted our family to visit the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ last December but it has been another busy Christmas season for us and we got sick with colds and cough. So, we’ve decided to postpone our field trip to this place for the New Year. Last Tuesday, we finally pushed through with our plan and we had a blast!
We had lunch first at Pancake House at SM City, Sucat. We learned that the church where the bamboo organ is found is just near this mall. You can get to the church in less than 30 minutes from the mall. From the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, it’s just 10 minutes drive. After a sumptuous and tasty lunch, we proceeded with our field trip. It was not the first time that my husband and I are coming to this church. But I have not been to the Bamboo Organ Museum or I don’t remember seeing the bamboo organ before. So, I was also excited. As for our kids, it was their first time to see the church where the world famous bamboo organ is.
Bamboo Organ Museum Tour
Our tour began by being introduced to our tour guide, Lovely, after we paid the entrance fee. Our two older boys were charged P50 each (same rate for students and senior citizens) while my husband and I paid P100 each. Our toddler who was 3 years old was able to enter for free.
We were first shown pictures and posters about the history of the church and the bamboo organ. Since my husband and I were really interested to learn about the bamboo organ and its history, we asked a lot of questions. Our tour guide, who was an OJT in the museum, got a bit flustered and asked some help from a male tour guide whenever we asked questions that she could not answer. Both of them were gracious and accommodating in patiently answering our questions. Lovely even volunteered to take some of our pictures so we could have family pictures during the tour.
Our little pianist, my eldest son, even tried playing some songs on the replica of the bamboo organ inside the museum. You can watch a portion of his video here. Our second child who already knows how to play 4 songs on the piano already tried it, too.
I was amazed at how sturdy the bamboo organ is. Imagine, it was built during the time of the Spanish occupation in the Philippines! That was already at least 200 hundred years ago! It is also the only bamboo organ in the world! It’s also one of the few oldest organs in the world. And it’s still functioning and being used in Masses in the St. Joseph Church in Las Piñas. Wow! No wonder it was declared a Philippine National Treasure. We were in awe!
This awesome musical instrument was made by the first parish priest in Las Piñas, Fr. Diego Cera, a Spanish missionary. It took him 8 years to build and finish the organ. Out of the 1,031 pipes, 902 are made of bamboo and 129 were metal. All these bamboo pipes were harvested by Fr. Diego Cera’s assistants who were most likely Filipinos residing in Las Piñas during his term as the parish priest. We also learned that the cut bamboo was buried first in the sand near the shore for a year before they were cut to become pipes. This made the bamboo sturdy so that they would withstand decay. Fr. Diego was so successful in doing that. Otherwise, we would not hear music from the bamboo organ anymore in this present age.
I discovered, through the tour and a book titled The Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas, which we bought after our tour, that Fr. Diego also built a piano which was given as a gift to the Queen of Spain a year after he arrived in Manila. The Governor-General at that time said that the piano was “so well constructed and had no equal whether in Spain nor in England,” as mentioned in the book. After making this magnificent piano, he started building the pipe organ of San Nicolas Church in Intramuros. He finished it after 5 years in 1798. The organ had 33 stops, one of which was made of bamboo. Then, he also built a pipe organ for the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. Sadly, all these other organs in Intramuros were already destroyed most likely during the wars.
Good thing that the Bamboo Organ in Las Piñas is still here. Actually, it was also damaged when the roof of the church was destroyed by a typhoon and earthquakes in 1863 and 1880. It was not used for a number of years. Then, it was restored in Germany before it was returned in 1975. Since then, the bamboo organ has been playing beautiful music in the St. Joseph Parish Church. Our family was treated to a few pieces by one of the church organists during our tour. We got to interview her a bit after she played some pieces for us.
Fr. Diego Cera must be a genius to have made such a lasting legacy! You can get to know more about Fr. Diego and the bamboo organ through the book I mentioned above. I have yet to finish the book. I only skimmed through it.
After our tour, we bought some souvenirs. We bought a magnet, a keychain and the book. They gave us postcards and brochures as we entered.
We also inquired about the Annual International Bamboo Organ Festival and the world-famous Las Piñas Boys Choir.
International Bamboo Organ Festival
The annual International Bamboo Organ Festival is now in its 43rd year this 2018. It was started after the restoration was finished to celebrate its return in 1975. This event is organized by the Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc. This year’s International Bamboo Organ Festival will be on February 22 to 28, 2018. You can read more about the details of the event here. Tickets can be bought at Ticketnet Online, Ticket World and SM Tickets. My family plans to watch at least one night in this weeklong festival. This festival features artists from different countries including our very own local talents.
I would suggest that students who are part of a choir attend this festival. It is one way to support our National Treasure, the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ.
Las Piñas Boys Choir
We’re also excited to watch the Las Piñas Boys Choir perform with the accompaniment of the Bamboo Organ. They usually sing every 1st Sunday of the month Masses in their parish at 9 AM. Thus, if you are planning a field trip to this church and museum, I suggest that you visit on the first Sunday of the month since they are open daily anyway. This choir was founded by a Belgian missionary named Fr. Leo Renier in 1969. He was also a former director at the St. Joseph Academy, the parochial school. This boys choir is the equivalent of the Vienna Boys Choir in Austria. The boys are between 9 to 16 years old and are students at the St. Joseph Academy. Students who have a potential and gift in music are chosen to be part of the choir and are given proper training. Some are even given scholarships. The Las Piñas Boys Choir has toured the country to perform in both intimate and prestigious events with big audiences including the annual Bamboo Organ Festival in their parish and most recently at the ASEAN. They have even won awards abroad including the World Champion award in the 5th World Choir Games in Austria and the Silver Medal in the Musica Sacra open category.
It would be nice to let my boys join this choir but they do not study at St. Joseph’s Academy. They are homeschooled. Anyway, my eldest became very interested in the pipe organ. He said that he’d like to learn how to use a pipe organ. One of the staff of the museum informed us that they conduct classes during summer. They even got my contact details so they could inform me once they are open for enrollment. He eagerly requested that we visit the Sanctuario de Ezekiel Moreno where there is a pipe organ.
St. Ezekiel Moreno
During our tour, we discovered and learned that a Saint was once a parish priest in Las Piñas. He was also a Spanish missionary who was a healer even while he was alive. His name is St. Ezekiel Moreno. That answers my question when we passed by a road where I saw a relatively new and big church with his name. I asked my husband who that Saint was. But we both didn’t know him. We were blessed to have learned about him during our tour at the museum. We even got to see and have our photos taken beside his relic. He was canonized by Saith Pope John Paul II.
Thus, after our visit to the Bamboo Organ Museum, we went straight to Sanctuario de Ezekiel Moreno. Sadly, their museum was already closed. But the church was open and we got to see the church’s pipe organ. My eldest son was very happy. He even wanted to go up to have a close look but the choir loft was closed.
It was an inspiring and awesome field trip! I was amazed at the genius of Fr. Diego Cera that the first book I’m reading this year is The Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas. My family will learn a lot from this book. I’m excited to share what I have read and will read from it to my children. To start with, I was delighted to discover that our new friend from our parish is the brother of the first Filipino who helped restore and assemble the Bamboo Organ in 1975, Marciano Jacela. When he died, his younger brother Francisco Jacela took over the maintenance.
I highly recommend this field trip to families and students who like history and music. I’m confident that they will enjoy it. For group tours, field trips or mini-concerts, you may call the BOFI Office at 8257190 or 8200795. There was a group of Israeli tourists who came to the museum after our family.