A Pipe Organ, A Raft, And The Bamboo Ethic

As a child (like I would guess, a lot of other Filipino children), I learned that the 50 feet tall bamboo plant was not a tree but was actually a kind of grass.  A kind of grass with which we could identify because it, unlike the typical rigid branches of a hard-bark tree that are likely to break under punishing weather, bends with the wind.  The pliant bamboo, in fact, easily bounces back from even the harshest treatment by our tropical storms.

The Bamboo Organ of Las Pinas City (Southern Manila) is said to be the only Bamboo Organ in the world, 902  of its 1,031 pipes having been purposely made from the local material which grew abundantly and provided a peculiarly charming way to adapt this European instrument to the Philippine climate and culture.  It took parishioners, under the auspices of the Spanish priest Fr. Diego Ciera, 8 years (1816-1824)  to finish building the organ.  It is still played daily now, after more than a century of typhoons and earthquakes, not to mention that little thing called World War II.

so in love with this sweet little door—so atypical of the usual grand entrances of major churches

I find myself entranced by this really tiny (built specifically for the small parish of Las Pinas), and mesmerizingly quaint church which could have been a fitting background scene for the secret wedding of lovers in classic romantic tragedies in the tradition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Incidentally, the Bamboo Organ Foundation, Inc.  offers a personalized historical tour of the church and the adjoining Antillan House Museum for Php50 (just a little over US$1) per head.  Call them.  Do it.

Of course, bamboo,  undoubtedly possessed of both a cultural  as well as an economic, significance in this country, has a multitude of more mundane uses.  It is typically used for handicrafts, furniture, house construction, fish cages, and— by far my super favorite use of bamboo— as material for the kawayang balsa (bamboo raft).

I am a hopeless sucker for floating kawayang balsa lunches.

So our little family of course, is a captive market for this Kainan sa BalsaLocated along Evangelista Street, Banalo, Bacoor, Cavite, this little restaurant is nothing fancy at all (not for the urbanite snob), and offers an array of freshly grilled seafood and really FIERCE skewered pork barbecue!

Lake view.Tasty classic barbecue.  Seriously El Cheap-o.  Like we spend an average of about Php600 (around US$14) here for a lunch good for 5! (well, granted that my 6-year old Lover eats like a picky grasshopper, but still.)

  I was just at one of these one-on-one PTA meetings at the Pre-school and was dutifully told about the respective temperaments of my 2 children who both go there.  They are similar in many things, but wildly different in many others.  Yet, I have known most of these features of them since my own childhood.  A lot of me— probably including at least a bit of the worst of it— is in them.  Which to me is a tad disquieting.

But, I do know for a fact that a lot of what makes them who they are cannot change, and attempts to do so would be foolhardy, if not downright wrong. Then there’s the rest of the world to deal with.  I hope they take from the humble bamboo all that resilience and strength, and be themselves masters of the art of bending with the wind.

What about you?

In your part of the world, do you have something from nature that symbolizes a collective value that has been shaped by history?

I would love to hear about it!  Do share!

Thanks for stopping by!

See you again 😉



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  1. An organ from bamboo. How interesting. I have learned something new and your closing question leaves me with something to think about.


  2. What a fascinating and beautiful instrument. Bamboo, who would have thought. I would if its sound is any different than its more traditional brethren.


    • Hello! They say it has a unique sound, different from the traditional ones. I haven’t had the chance to go and listen to it being played, as the church has it played early in the mornings, but I am planning to check it out soon. Will update on this. Thank you for dropping by and hope to hear from you again! I will now have a look-see of your blog! 🙂


  3. “…masters of the art of bending with the wind.” — beautiful!


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