The Heritage Town of Pila, Laguna
The entire month of May is not just a month of Festivals, It was also declared as National Heritage Month in accordance with Proclamation No. 439, s. 2003. For this year’s Heritage Month, I joined Laguna and Quezon Heritage and Pilgrimage tour along with tour participants, fellow bloggers and officers of Filipino Heritage Festival Inc. During our Laguna Heritage Tour, we visited the Historic Town of Pila in the Province of Laguna.
Travelers within the Philippines have a wealth of beautiful places to go. Pila, Laguna is a town that has had National Historical Landmark status since the year 2000, just the fourth town in the country to receive this declaration. The historic layout of the town has been preserved, a traditional Spanish style with central plaza and church, and it’s well worth a visit. Due to some kind of oversight, American bombers didn’t destroy Pila, despite hitting many towns in the area during WWII.
My visit left me with three distinct ‘must-see’ destinations for anyone who takes the time to see Pila.
Shrine of San Antonio de Padua
Amazingly, Pila is host to the very first Filipino church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. The church was named “San Antonio de Padua de Pila”, as a dedication on the 350th anniversary of St. Anthony’s death. Franciscan history is rich here.
Two years later after the town plaza and surrounding ancestral houses were declared as a National Historical Landmark, on July 9, 2002, the Diocese of San Pablo proclaimed the parish church of San Antonio de Padua de Pila as the Diocesan Shrine of St. Anthony.
There’s much more to know that I’ll divulge here, but know that the church itself is worth seeing, and learning about it’s past is exciting and interesting.
Pila Square and Museum
In the Spanish style, central Pila Square is a wide-open plaza and it’s a nice place to relax and hang out. Check out the 18th-century ornamental fountain in the center. And most importantly, gaze upon the incredible palaces the face onto the square, which typifies the Canarian architecture of the time. Sit on a terrace and enjoy a cup of coffee.
The museum is also worth the time, as it houses historical artifacts found right in Pila, including ceramic works that were most likely traded from the Chinese during the 12th-16th centuries. It’s a small museum that won’t take a lot of time to explore, but the wealth of the collection is evident.
The second printing press in the Philippines was established by Franciscans in 1613 and printed the Philippines’ oldest dictionary and the first book printed using the movable type, the Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala. The book is twenty-seven years older than the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States in 1640.
The National Historical Institute of the Philippines declared the town plaza and surrounding ancestral houses a National Historical Landmark on May 17, 2000. According to Philippine historian, Dr. Luciano Santiago, it is the only town in the Philippines that is formally recognized as a historical site by both the church and the state.
Alava Ancestral House
There are 28 well preserved and beautiful ancestral houses in Pila. Alava is as lovely on the inside as from outside. Located a few steps from the Pila Municipal Building, this ancestral house is really hard to miss. Incredible detailing is evident in the outer woodwork as well as the inner walls. After a walk through town, it’s nice to enjoy the coolness inside the high-ceilinged ancestral homes of the past.
Inside the house, a lot of medicine boxes, Doctors Bag, and lots of Doctor paraphernalia on display. It’s easy to tell that one of the owners of the house is a medical practitioner.
Before leaving the town of Pila, we headed to Casa Bonini Farm Resort for lunch. Casa Bonini is a family-owned farm resort owned by Alava Family – the same family that owns Alava Ancestral House located at Pila Square.
The farm resort was full of Mango Trees overlooking a beautiful rice field. For lunch, we had Grilled Pork, Lumpiang Ubod, Kare-Kare, and Ginataang Hipon sa Kamyas.
Take yourself (or go on a tour) on a Heritage walk in Pila to get an idea of the history this town has to offer. You’ll see the sites above as well as the streets and alleys that make this town a National Historical Landmark.
How to get to Pila Laguna
Ride a Sta Cruz bound bus from Cubao or Buendia. Tell the bus conductor / driver to drop you off at Pila town proper. Once you reach the town proper, you can start the heritage tour by visiting the Church, Museum then you can roam around town and take photos of the ancestral houses along the national road.
By private vehicle:
From Manila, drive through South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and take Calamba exit. Take the national road and pass by the towns of Los Banos, Bay, Victoria then Pila. To reach the town proper, just turn left from the highway.
The Heritage Pilgrimage Tour was organized by Filipino Heritage Festival Inc. For details and tour inquiries, please call 0918-6204782, 0949-9388141, (02) 788 2809, (02) 330 2215, and ask for Giselle, Tonie or Judith.