Las Piñas Bamboo Organ

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The bamboo organ in Las Piñas City

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ, in the Parish Church of St Joseph in Las Piñas City, Philippines, is a nineteenth-century church organ made almost entirely from bamboo: only the trumpet stops are made from metal.

The organ, the church and the surrounding buildings have been restored to their 19th century state by Architect Francisco "Bobby" Mañosa and associate Ludwig Alvarez, making a trip to the site a popular excursion for Filipinos and foreign visitors alike.

The builder of both the church and its organ was Fr. Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, a priest under the Augustinian Recollects. A native of Spain, he served as parish priest in Las Piñas through many endeavors. Historians portray him as a gifted man-natural scientist, chemist, architect, community leader, organist and organ builder.

Having previously built organs in Manila area with some organ stops made of bamboo he chose bamboo for most of this organ, and only the trumpet stops are made of metal. The choice of bamboo was probably both practical and aesthetic - bamboo was abundant and used for hundreds of items, both a practical and an artistic nature.

Fr. Cera began work on the organ in 1816, while the church was still under construction, and the organ was completed in 1824. During Fr. Cera's lifetime, disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons damaged both church and organ and Fr. Cera himself was the organ's first "restorer." Down through the years, natural disasters continued to take their toll; the organ was unplayable for years. Somewhat unexpectedly reassembled early in the 20th century, partial restoration took place from time to time up through World War II.

In recent years, several concerted attempts were made to save the instrument. In 1972, a contract for total restoration was awarded to Johannes Klais Orgelbau KG in Bonn, Germany, and it was shipped there in 1973. While the restoration of the organ was taking place in Germany, a massive project was completed at the church. With the help of the community of Las Piñas and many others in the Manila area, the church grounds were restored to its original state.

The restored organ returned home in March 1975, to a joyous welcome by the people of the Philippines. The joint restoration of church and the organ was a triumph of local and international cooperation. Since them the scene of many concerts and festivals, the Bamboo Organ is described by many international organ masters as one of the finest old organs in the world. Its construction of bamboo is noted as being one of the major factors that gives it a truly unique and lively sound.

At present, the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ is being maintained by Diego Cera Organbuilders, Inc.

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