THE National Historical Commission of the Philippines designated the Saint Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas – the home of the bamboo organ – as a national treasure in simple rites on Friday, officials said on Saturday.
The NHCP chairwoman Maria Serena Diokno, Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar and Imelda Aguilar, wife of Mayor Vergel Aguilar unveiled the marker designating the church as a national treasure, nine years after the church was recognized as a “historic structure” in 1995.
Also present during the ceremony were NHCP deputy director for administration Carminda R. Arevalo; St. Joseph Parish priest Msgr. Mario Josefino F. Martinez; and Vicar General Msgr. Felipe Ocol of the Diocese of Parañaque, who represented Bishop Jesse Mercado.
Parish secretary Miles Bustamante said the bamboo organ inside the church is the only musical instrument of its kind in existence and it attracts organistrs from all over the world during its annual Bamboo Organ Music Festival.
St. Joseph Parish Church was established in 1795 by the Spaniard Fr. Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, a talented Augustinian Recollect friar who, like many other friars of his time, doubled as a naturalist, community leader, chemist, architect, organist and organ builder.
Cera was transferred to the then village of Las Piñas from Mabalacat, Pampanga when the Manila archbishop reassigned Las Piñas to the care of the Augustinians on November 5, 1795.
Originally made of bamboo, the stone church was completed in 1816 in the “Earthquake Baroque” style, after which Cera started building the organ that made him a legend in Las Piñas. A major thoroughfare in the city now bears Cera’s name.
Three earthquakes hit the area from July 18 to 20, 1880 which flattened several buildings and churches between Nueva Ecija to Cavite including the St. Joseph Church and the bamboo organ inside it.