Heritage Town of Pila, Laguna
The Spanish colonial may have shed dark clouds over the Philippines during the Age of Exploration but on the bright side, they also contributed to Philippine development by influencing the Filipinos in tradition, religion, politics, and architecture. In the Metro Manila where development is a constant revolution, the struggle for conserving heritage is a losing battle. However, in the outskirts of the busy city, the influence is still intact, preserving the last remaining gems of the country. Down south in Laguna is a small town where the golden days still seem to reign. Let me take you for walk around the heritage town of Pila.
From Los Banos, I took a jeepney bound for Sta. Cruz, the provincial capital, which passes by the town proper and I got off at the plaza. The town’s layout traces back to typical Spanish standard model where a plaza or an open ground is situated at the middle, and around it is the church, municipal center, prime establishments, and residential homes of prominent families. Everything is in a grid.
San Antonio de Padua de Pila
View of the plaza from the balcony of the Municipal Center.
My first stop was, as always and of course, the town church, San Antonio de Padua de Pila Parish Church. If you go around the country, there are many churches named after San Antonio de Padua, but Pila built the first Antonine Church in the country back in 1578, and according to Bayang Pinagpala, it’s the first one in Asia as well. With its church bell standing as the third oldest in the country, the town treasure found itself in the brink of danger and was submerged in Laguna de Bay to hide it from the invading British.
Pila Museum’s signage made from a slice of a large tree.
Original artifacts displayed in the Pila Museum.
Prop prepared for the Pailah Festival parade (maybe).
From the Church, I walked into the Pila Museum where several original artifacts were displayed. Ceramic plates and vases recovered in town signify trade with foreigners even before the Spanish arrived in the Philippine archipelago. Also found in the museum is the first Tagalog-Spanish dictionary published by Tomas Pinpin and Domingo Laog using the second printing press in the country. According to a museum personnel, these archaeological treasures are genuine and not replicas.
Walking around the town plaza takes you back in time with restored centuries-Old Ancestral Houses tracing back to Spanish colonial days. Pila’s old house has a distinct Filipino-Spanish architecture with intricate designs in it (actually, I don’t know how to describe architecture designs). The houses looked similar to those seen in Philippine films located in provinces wherein there is a visitor in the house, the resident looks out its capiz windows, and runs down the stairs to welcome the guest (it’s a recurring image in my mind when I see houses like these).
Old house in Pila which stood on a corner across the Pila Municipal Center.
White house beside Pila Delights.
Pila’s main road.
Directly facing the church across the wide open ground is the Pila Municipal Center. The first time I went there, the brick red painting of its walls would be the first one to capture your eye. Eventually, according to locals, it was re-painted back to its original earthly colors.
Spearheaded by the a local resident, Cora Relova, who is a direct descendant of the town’s founder, she built the Pila Historical Foundation, Inc. to preserve the town heritage and the beautify the municipality. The struggle for the town preservation was a battle which encountered setbacks and defeat but ended with triumph. Little by little, the foundation achieved its goal and continues to practice what the patriot started.
Pila Municipal Center in its earthly colors.
Click to see the old brick red facade of the town hall.
Church viewed from the Municipal Center’s balcony
Pila is known as a placid town at the heart of Laguna but during my visit it seemed to be quite busy. Under the midday sun, people were busy pitching tents, concessionaires were building their booths, and banners were raised – the town’s unlikely business got me curious.
Through my investigative questioning, I found out that everyone was preparing for the Pailah Festival, named after the town’s ancient name. The celebration is a praise for abundance and fruitful harvest amidst past calamities the town encountered. The festival is coined after the ancient name of the town, Pailah. On its second year, the Pailah Festival 2012 celebrates the theme, “Kasaysayan Linangin, Kalikasan Pagyamanin, Gintong Bunga’y Aanihin”. I also met some theatre and dance students of Liceo de Pila preparing their presentation for the coming event.
A modern display of the old Filipino tradition of Bayanihan.
Dedicated to the town’s celebration, Liceo de Pila’s students practice under the scorching heat.
Students on a dry run for their presentation the next day.
Carrying props for their performance.
Setting up banners.
After a tiring walk around the town plaza and mingling with locals, I decided to rest under a tree shade and sat on the plaza’s grass grounds. As the afternoon approaches and as the sun goes down, many residents, the young and old, came out and simply hung out at the town plaza, and relax in the afternoon.
Pila is a small quiet town which has huge amounts of treasure that its residents are definitely proud of. The historical and cultural heritage of the town was capsuled from the modern day development and restored by many generations of the proud locals. Towns like these are scattered all over the archipelago and are in need of help for preservation. Together, let’s keep them intact and one day show and tell the history and significance to later sons and daughters of the country.
Students of Liceo de Pila
Strolling in their bikes around the town plaza
Woman seems to look for something while a child sat on a tree branch.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:
1. The town of Pila is accessible from several parts of Laguna like Los Banos, Calamba and Sta. Cruz. If you’re coming from Manila, buses to Sta. Cruz, Laguna like DLTB and Green Star passes by town. Just to give you a rough estimate:
P150.00 – approximate bus fare from Manila
P18.00 – jeep fare from Los Banos
2. The best way to see town would be on foot. The Town Plaza is small and around it are the old houses. However, you might want to walk around later in the afternoon or early in the morning to avoid the heat.
3. Pila Museum do not have an entrance fee, but your donation would definitely help.
4. Grab a bite at Pila delights which is across the Church, or knock yourself out with lots of viand to choose from in small eateries beside the Pila Museum.
5. You might also want to see other Laguna destinations.
6. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.
7. Enjoy and have a safe trip.