Pila News and Features

Dengue Allert in Pila

Dengue season keeps DOH busy with campaign

INQ7.net - Philippines
... In Laguna, provincial health director Dr. Alfaneo Lagos revealed that most of the 568 ... s 28 towns, with the three reported deaths coming from Pila, Mabitac and ...

Marian Exhibit

Purely Personal : 700 young people are walking for Mary
INQ7 Interactive, Inc. - Philippines... Luz Uzabal). The Shrine of St. Anthony de Padua in Pila, Laguna, is holding an exhibit of Marian images until Oct. 31. Every Tuesday ...

Pila: A book and a plaza

By Bea Zobel Jr.
ALL4ART, Lifestyle, Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 20, 2004

One of the loveliest town squares I have ever seen is that of Pila, Laguna.

Unfortunately, when you mention the town’s name, most people are at a loss to locate the place.  Some vaguely think of long lines or even of athletic supplies (Ok, so that’s spelled with an F!)

I can assure you that the trip to Laguna is worth it.  Pila is a beautiful town.

Standing in the middle of the plaza, one sees houses from the early American era and even Spanish period clustered around a grassy mall.  Going there early in the morning when it is still all rosy and dewy, one truly feels transported to another era.

On one end of the plaza is the municipal hall (built before World War II) with its NeoClassical architecture.  At the other end is the huge brown mass of the church, which, together with the old school house, is a precious example of Spanish colonial heritage.

The latter building now holds Pila Museum.  Exhibits include pottery found in Pila during archaeological excavations led by the Locsin couple, National Artist for Architecture Leandro and his wife Cecile.

This same building was the venue for displays on the town’s traditional resources created by the local youth as a result of a workshop on heritage organized by the Met Museum.

Of course, one of the joys of visiting this town is the chance of being invited inside one of the stately houses.  In one particular home, I remember seeing gracious pink interiors and a colored glass window that even featured a nipa hut.

In the quieter section of the plaza is a modest and yet pretty dwelling.  This is the home of the Relova family.  One of the daughters of the house is my friend, Cora Relova.

I have written about her and how she treated us to the most delicious lunch which includes dulong, pako salad, bibingkang hipon.  Ay!  I can never forget that gastronomic delight!

Lovely compound

But part of the pleasure of the meal was the setting of Cora’s lovely compound just outside of Pila.  Our hostess entertained us in a open-sided pavilion set off from its surroundings only by screens.

Cora works with famous designer Budji Layug, so something of his unique style is evident in the house.  Along with very contemporary Budji-style pieces, one sees touches of the past.  I loved the way bunches of dried pandan or anahaw were hung from the eaves to form a kind of curtain.

Cora is known to many people as Pila’s heritage advocate.  Together with Monina Rivera of the Pila Historical Society, she has been mobilizing her neighbors to protect the vestiges of their town’s proud past.  Cora had lived for many years abroad and, having come home just a few years ago, she found herself drawn to heritage advocacy.

When she first arrived, the town plaza was not as beautiful as it is today.  It was messy and burdened with concrete structures.  Cora managed to convince everyone to remove what was superfluous.  Working quietly but with determination, she and her friends were able to get the National Historical Institute to declare the area around the town's center as historical zone.

She has not looked back since.  Almost every year she has to fight threats to undermine the integrity of the plaza.  She is truly a valiant woman deserving of our praise.

During our lunch with Cora, I recall here bringing out a big yellow book.  This turned out to be a reissued edition of an old Spanish-Tagalog dictionary compiled by a priest, Fr. Pedro San Buenaventura.  The original book was printed way back in 1613.

Apparently, as scholars like Ricky Jose have explained to me, there were never really enough Spanish people to teach the native Filipinos the language of the colonial masters.  So it was agreed that it would be better for the priests to learn the local tongues instead, hence the need for the dictionaries.

They also relied on the help of young children who grew up naturally speaking Spanish and a Philippine language.

What I found remarkable was that the book was actually produced in the town of Pila itself.  In fact, it is one of the first works in the Philippines printed with movable type.

The text on the cover even refers to the town as “…la noble villa de Pila..”  It is this impressive phrase that has always inspired Cora.  She loves to recite the words as we walk around the town.  It is an ancient title that gives substance to her labors.

Looking for the book

Little did I know that I would soon be enmeshed in this same dictionary.  A few months later, while in Madrid, I casually asked a good friend, who was back in the Philippines, if he wanted anything from the general neighborhood of the Iberian peninsula.  The answer was one that I would soon live to regret:  He wanted a copy of the reissue of the San Buenaventura dictionary.  Thought I was taken somewhat aback, I told myself, what could be so difficult about finding an old book?  Yes, my innocence was actually quite charming.

The first place I checked was our local parish church.  Of course, they thought I was some kind of nut case.  I would later learn to my embarrassment that San Buenaventura was Franciscan while our parish was run by Augustinians.

So I went to the biggest bookstore in Madrid.  Again my sanity was questioned.  What year did you say? 1613?  Couldn’t I interest you in something a bit more current?

So that was it.  I turned to an expert in lost causes, my aunt Rerre Basagoiti.  If there was anyone who could find this book, she could.  She began calling – of course – the Franciscan mother house in Madrid.  Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Unfortunately, the woman she got hold of probably just had an unproductive manicure.  She wasn’t in a helpful mood.  She airily dismissed my aunt by telling here to call Villa de Aranzazu in Guipuzcoa in Northern Spain.

I would have given up at that point simply because the names I was going to be working with had far too many letter Zs!  But not my aunt.

A wonderful man by the name of Padre Arregui of Villa Aranzazu said he could only help by giving the number of a lady named Miriam, who lived in San Sebastian.  I do not understand this part of the story.  Perhaps Miriam was one of the founders of www.amazon.com.

At any rate she told my aunt (I had already fled by that time and my aunt was on her own!) that she was looking for was the Archivo de los Indias, which had just been transferred to Calle Narciso Serra 21 back in – yes – Madrid!

When my aunt finally made it to the Archivo, she was met by Father Pedro who, it turns out, had just come back from doing research in – can you believe it – San Antonio in Makati!  He then bought out a copy of my dictionary – at long last!

So was it worth it?

In the introductory essay of the new edition, there is mention of how the scholar William Henry Scott explains the value of the many wonderful words in the dictionary.  He explains that we can pick up from the various terms the complexity of technologies already in use by the ancient Filipinos even before they were exposed to Spanish culture.

Scott discusses the expertise of our ancestors in such fields as agriculture, metalwork, weaving, architecture and the like as evidenced by their wide vocabulary.

Somehow it is so comforting, when you open the pages, to see familiar words like bakal, bahay and even baboy.  It is nice to know that 400 years ago, our grandparents spoke the same language.

Thinking back on Pila and its plaza and the issues that Cora and her friends must constantly address, one begins to understand that heritage is many things.  It involves buildings, and artworks, weaving, food, books and plazas.

But it is also the work we do, the words we use, the feelings we express and yes, the ideas we cherish.

Email beatrist@filipinaslibrary.org.ph or address letter to Filipinas Heritage Library, Makati Ave., Ayala Triangle, Makati City.

The restoration of Pila

By Elizabeth S. Timbol
Metro, May 2002
Page 34-36

Driving down the South Superhighway, the signs lead to many popular provincial destinations.  Turn into one of the side roads slightly off the beaten track, and you will find yourself in one little town that has more to it than meets the eye.

Pila, in the heart of Laguna, has been the center of restoration effort spearheaded by families that trace their roots to the town.  The project was inspired by the declaration of the Pila town center – bordered by Gen. Luna St. in the North, M.H. del Pilar in the East, Mabini in the South, and Bonifacio Street in the west – as a National Historical Landmark by the Nationa Historical Institute (NHI) in May 2000.  Included in the declaration are the Pila Elementary School or escuela pia and some of the houses surrounding the area.  One of the town’s unique features is the use of the Spanish colonial town planning system, which has been maintained to this day.  “Every time the Spaniards put up a town, they had pattern, a standard called the Recopilacion de las leyes de las Indies, prescribed as early as the 1600s,” says Cora Relova, president of the Pila (Laguna) Historical Society Foundation.  “Everything is in a grid.  The town is built around the church, which is the center.  It was called bajo de la campana, or under the bell.  You should be able to hear the bells for the mass, the orasyon.  Right in front is a square where town activities take place.  Before the Spaniards came, the settlements were scattered, and this pulled it together.  The municipal hall is also within the grid.”

Relova’s family house is located right in the Plaza itself, so she could see for herself what needed to be done.  After spending 14 years living abroad, and seeing the beautiful parks and clean town square in New England, she thought to herself, “Wow, how nice this would be for Pila.”  So when she came back to the Philippines in 1993, she decided to take a sabbatical and pursue her vision for Pila.  “I grew up here.  It was our ancestral town.  When I came home, the plaza was horrible, so dirty.  Not that people wanted to make it look derelict, but it was more a lack of vision.  The mayor, who was my cousin, just wasn’t into beautification.  He was focused on running things.  There were stalls there, and people were urinating.  There was a water tank that had been converted into a garbage dump.”  Thus, the efforts to clean up the Plaza had to come from within.

To Pila’s benefit, the beautification effort got started in 1994.  Relova and a number of equally dedicated resident families formed the Pila (Laguna) Historical Society Foundation Inc. for that sole purpose.  “The people who are restoring the place are not doing so because it was declared a historical site.  It was really just ‘to beautify the town plaza of Pila as the center of the town’s activities,” she says.  Relova admits that it took a while for some of the town folk to warm up to the idea of fixing up for aesthetic reasons.  “You cannot force people to fix their house because there is no money coming from anywhere.  But they understand that it’s historical landmark, so they have to.  Being in a square, if you see your neighbor’s house na maganda, tapos ikaw pangit – but it’s not pagandahan,” she adds.

After a few false starts, the group decided to incorporate as an NGO to broaden their scope “to preserve the town’s heritage, cultural, and environmental landmarks.”  Relova was elected president, and the foundation began to ask for pledges to finance their projects.  The declaration by the NHI just added fuel to the already burning flame.

With all signals go, the foundation embarked on their first project, which was to rehabilitate and relocate the Pila Museum, but not without encountering some roadblocks.  “We thought it was going to be easy.  We forgot there was the Sangguniang Bayan, who was against all our steps.  After over a year, we were able to achieve our goal and remove the building and the water tank.  Even the basketball court was removed.  Slowly were were able to develop,” says Relova with pride.  Over the course of four years, there was some support from various sectors.  Not all promises were kept, though.  “They wanted to make Pila the pilot project for the Laguna Lake Development Authority, then the Department of Tourism.  So we met, then it was approved, but the funding never came,” she adds.

As the saying goes, “Slowly but surely wins the race.”  That is the philosophy that Relova and the rest of the members of the foundation live by when working on projects for Pila.  “Now our project is the beautification of the Town Plaza.  May magbibigay diyan, P1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 500, so I have money, we can do it.  Any little thing really helps.  It’s portion by portion, inch by inch,” she says.  “We are in the Philippines where we have no laws on preservation, restoration.  I don’t want to depend on government.”  Luckily for the group, the awareness of the program has grown and the support group is growing.  “I have a lot of help from John Silva, a consultant for the National Museum, and Ino Manalo, the director of the Metropolitan Museum,” she adds.  The National Museum has been instrumental in the identification and authentication of the artifacts found all over the town.  These pieces are on display at the new Pila Museum, which is open to the public.

For Cora Relova and other members of the Foundation, the restoration of Pila to it’s resplendent glory is “a labor of love.  There is no material gain.  The gain is verging on spiritual.  Gumaganda ang bayan.  On Sundays, children come to play at the Plaza.  It’s really personal satisfaction.”  For Relova herself, the project holds an even greater personal significance.  “Pila was a hacienda town founded by my great grandfather, Don Felizardo de Rivera.  I’m a direct descendant.  This is my life mission.  It’s like honoring what my ancestors did.”

Writings of St. Anthony of Padua

"Love wholly and not partially. God does not have parts but is present totally everywhere. God does not want only a part of you….Give all of yourself and God will give you all of himself."

Pila water ideal for growing ornamental fish


PILA, Laguna, Sept 26 Asia Pulse - The Philippines is aiming to supply 20 per cent of total ornamental fish which Asia exports to foreign markets.

This is through the revenue and employment-generating Ornamental Fish Development Project of the Department of Agriculture (DA) attached agency the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Under the project called 'Isdang Kikay' launched here on Sunday, government and private stakeholders will share resources, facilities and technologies in growing export-quality ornamental fish from pure parent stocks.

The Bioresearch, DA-BFAR, government financing institution Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation (Quedancor) are teaming up for the project's first venture in Pila town where water was found to be ideal for growing such fish.

Pila Article on Wikipedia

Pila, Laguna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Diocesan Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua, Pila, Laguna; Pila Museum, Pila, Laguna... Pila Museum, Pila, Laguna; University Of The Philippines -- LOS BAÑOS ...

Pila News: September 28, 2005

Ornamental fish development project launched in Laguna
Philippine Information Agency – Philippines

PILA, Laguna (28 September) -- The Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resouces - Region IV-A (DA-BFAR-IV-A) in partnership with Bio ...

Pila Features Across the Web

A blog from a member of the Heritage Conservation Society regarding the recent Pila Day celebration poster problem.

Pilgrims flock to St. Anthony Shrine in Pila (Inquirer article by Josephine Darang)

Pila Gunita Pebrero 8, 2002 article by Ipat G. Luna

PILA,LAGUNA'S HERITAGE HOUSES by Ruby Gonzalez of Malaya

AN AGRI-ECO TOUR OF LAGUNA by Arlene Diaz Foz of Bulletin

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