It may be just another road for some Las Piñas residents, but the stretch called Diego Cera Avenue is the “city’s soul,” said Rep. Mark Villar.
“This is the original Las Piñas,” he told the Inquirer. “Some people tend to overlook the cultural aspect of the city but I really feel this is its soul.”
Villar was referring to the “historical corridor,” an attempt to recreate the Spanish era by restoring several key structures in the city and requiring all buildings and houses in the area to adopt a Castilian look.
With the approval of a law and accompanying ordinances 15 years ago, the corridor slowly came to be to remind residents of the city’s rich history, according to the neophyte lawmaker.
Today, only the welcome arches that mark one’s entry into Las Piñas are lacking in the corridor, said Villar who said the structures would be put up this year.
“But we have the existing arch at the Las Piñas-Parañaque boundary. It’s just that the arch was not built according to the specifications indicated in the master plan,” he explained.
The law creating the historical corridor was initiated by his father, Sen. Manny Villar, in 1995 when he was still a congressman. The corridor was conceptualized by noted architect and National Artist Francisco Mañosa.
Under Republic Act 8003, several sites on Diego Cera Avenue (formerly Quirino Avenue) were declared tourist spots: The Las Piñas Church and Bamboo Organ, the Fray Diego Cera and Zapote Bridges, Gabaldon Hall in front of Las Piñas Elementary School, the old district hospital and the Asinan area where salt is made.
Of all the attractions, the most famous is the Las Piñas church constructed in the 18th century, and is more popularly known as the house of the bamboo organ. Built by the Augustinian Recollect Fray Diego Cera and declared a national treasure in 2004, the bamboo organ was restored in 1975. Since then, the city has hosted the annual International Bamboo Organ Festival, the longest running music festival in the country.
Next are the Diego Cera and Zapote Bridges which still feature the arch design, with restorers reinforcing the structure with cement. The Zapote Bridge, however, is used only by pedestrians because it can no longer support the weight of vehicles.
Reminiscent of the early years of the American occupation, Las Piñas Elementary School’s Gabaldon Hall is one of the survivors of the city’s rapid development.
It features high ceilings and windows made of “capiz” shells. The design was named after a former Nueva Ecija congressman, Isauro Gabaldon, who introduced a law in 1907 that appropriated funds for the construction of school buildings nationwide.
Villar said the local government was set on making sure the historical corridor maintained its Old World feel through constant monitoring.
“It is a continuing process, improvements should not stop,” he added, referring to restoration work in the area. “The monitoring should never stop, in terms of the structures … to make sure these are consistent with what we are preserving.”
While some structures along the corridor have yet to adopt the Spanish-style architecture, residents cannot just renovate their houses because of the local government’s design restrictions. Most commercial establishments in the area, however, as well as housing developments, strictly follow the prescribed look.
“Developers are coming in, as well as commercial establishments. It’s nice to see that,” Villar said. With Don Joseph Dejaresco