Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Visit to the Bamboo Organ

We're publishing "Huni sa Loob ng Kawayan," by Don Gonzalez, the winning story of our 2009 Romeo Forbes Children's Story Writing Competition in February 2010. It was inspired by the famed Bamboo Organ in Las Pinas, the only one of its kind in the world.

So we paid a visit to St. Joseph's Parish Church, which houses the Bamboo Organ and took along our artist for the book - Juanito Torres - to give him a feel for the place, which he can then hopefully use to give the book a more authentic ambience.

The bamboo organ is the only pipe organ in the world whose pipes are made of bamboo. The first parish priest of Las Pinas, Fr. Diego Cera, was the genius behind adapting the European instrument to the Philippine setting.

It took him eight years to finish the organ (from 1816-1824). It fell victim to a typhoon and an earthquake in the 1880s, which rendered the organ unplayable for decades.

In 1972, the organ - which was kept in an old sacristy - was shipped to Bonn, Germany to be restored. It was returned home three years later in 1975. While it was being restored, the church and the grounds were also returned to its original state. The renovation of the church was carried out by Architects Bobby Manosa and Ludwig Alvarez.

We even got to hear the organ for ourselves courtesy of the Bamboo Organ Foundation which gave us a free special concert.

These images really do not capture the whole experience. Believe it or not, the organ has pipes (pajaritos) that mimic the sound of chirping birds, giving the soaring notes of Mozart and Pachelbel a truly unique and special dimension.

If you haven't been there - really, it is worth the short trip. And come in February if you can - that's when they have a weeklong Bamboo Organ Festival, and that's when we hope to launch our children's book.

It's going to be special.

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