Travel restrictions have given us limited options for travel. Although we have seen pocket destinations opening its doors, the added cost is one of the considerations that travelers need to consider when deciding where to go. It is not a surprise that popular destinations are those that are close to the metro because of the ease in restrictions, making it more economical for our traveling feet.
With nothing to do on February 14, I hauled myself out of bed to take a quick day trip to one of my travel goals this year, Pila, Laguna! Established in 1578 by Don Felizardo Rivera, the town is home to well-preserved heritage houses dating back from the Spanish and American occupation. The town gives you that old town vibe that gives you that feel of its colorful history. In fact, Pila is the only town in the Philippines that is recognized by the state and the church for its historical value. Tara, libot na tayo!
Simbahan ng Pila
The San Antonio de Padua Parish Church, more commonly called Pila Church, is the first Antonine parish church in the country and in Asia. Founded in 1578, the church was originally built in Pagalangan (now Victoria) and was home to the second printing press in the country. The church was later transferred in 1800 to its present location because flooding was a major concern in the old site.
The present-day church was completed in 1849 and followed the baroque style of architecture. The three-level facade of the church is highlighted by an image of St. Anthony at the top-most, choir-loft windows on the second level, and the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary adjacent to the church doors. The Franciscan Seal is installed on the church’s arched doorway.
Standing adjacent to the church on the left is the octagonal bell tower of the church. The original bells of the church, the third oldest in the country, is on display at the front of the church. The bells were spared from the British when the townsfolk submerged it in Laguna de Bay. The convent sits adjacent to the right of the church which is now home of the Liceo de Pila.
The simple church interior’s centerpiece is its two-tiered retablo. An image of St. Anthony is the main highlight of the altar in honor of the saint. The church was elevated as a national shrine in 2019.
Pila Town Center
Pila is one of the few Philippine towns that has kept their Spanish-period town structure system where the plaza is at the center of the town. The sprawling park at the heart of Pila is a beauty to see and enjoy. It is a favorite spot of locals where they enjoy a lazy afternoon.
Heritage structures surround the sprawling plaza. The church, the church convent, and the municipal hall also form part of the town center. The Pila Museum is also located within the town center. Heritage houses also line the streets around the perimeter of the plaza. An old Spanish well is also located in one of the corners of the plaza.
Pila Municipal Hall
The Pila Municipal Hall is one of the heritage structures that form part of this historical town. It was built in 1931 and followed the American-period architecture. It has a small
balcony that overlooks the town plaza.
The Municipal Hall is one of the well-preserved structures within the historical district of Pila. It also serves as the center of governance of the town.
Iglesia Filipina Indepiendente Church
Located along Mabini Street is another church heritage structure - the Iglesia Filipina Indepiendente Church. The church is a local Filipinized version of the Catholic church. The structure was built in 1932 and was also dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua.
The church facade is very simple with a small belfry on its left flank. The emblem of the church is located atop its entrance. The church interior is simple highlighted by a simple altar.
Pila Ancestral Houses
The main attraction of the town of Pila are the well-preserved ancestral houses that dates back to the Spanish and American period. A portion of the town, Sta. Clara Norte, has been declared a National Historical Landmark in 2000 and has since been known as the Pila Historic Town Center. The church and the municipal hall is part of the declared historical area.
You can start your town exploration around the town plaza where you would already see a number of heritage homes that line along the streets of Rizal, Rivera, and Burzagom Streets. The Agra/Villarica Heritage House was very impressive with its bahay-na-bato design and its azotea that faces the town center. I was also impressed with the Agra-Alava heritage house on the corner of Rivera and Burzagom streets because of its beautiful staircase leading to its doors. Some of these houses were re-purposed for business with the first floor being converted into commercial spaces with minimal impact on the architecture of the house.
Pila’s heritage houses are spread out throughout Sta. Clara Norte. Take the time to walk around the town and discover the many heritage houses in Pila. The Madrigal House, built in the 1920’s, is one of the well-preserved houses a block away from the plaza. Some of the houses have shown its age like the Fuentes-Santiago house and the Angel Natividad House. Another beautifully kept house is the Clinica Napil house along Rizal Street.
Walking the streets is both nostalgic and romantic. Pila oozes with history and gives one that old town vibe during early times. I completely enjoyed going around town enjoy the beauty of the past. I was in my element the whole time that I was wandering around, wishing I could live in Pila in one of its old houses.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Walking the streets of Pila was a travel goal achieved this year. The old soul in me enjoyed the nostalgic vibe of the town. It brought me back in time and had me imagining the bucolic Laguna town life in its early years. It was great to see that the LGU and the locals have worked together to keep the pristine beauty of Pila and keeping its heritage alive for everyone to wander and experience.
The news on a more relaxed travel requirements got a warm reception from travelers like me. As an advocate of local travel, this is a good start towards moving forward and doing our part in helping revive the country’s tourism sector. This is a great time to explore the Philippines, whether it means going around your hometown or checking out the more popular Philippine destinations. Always remember to be a responsible traveler by following new normal protocols and by abiding to travel requirements of the local destination you are heading to. So, buckle up because we are now rolling.
Pila, Laguna Youtube video blog: #ByahengOffTheGrid Pila, Laguna
Getting there: You can take a Sta. Cruz, Laguna bus at PITX in Paranaque and you can ask the driver to drop you off at Pila. You can take a tricycle to the town center from the national highway. Walking is the best way to explore the town. If you are heading back to Manila, you can take a tricycle and ask to be brought to the bus stop along the highway where you can take a bus back to Manila.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.