Fr. Diego Cera, the organ builder

diego-cera

Center of the Festival is the Bamboo Organ and its builder, the Augustinian Recollect Fr. Diego Cera (1762-1832) who was the first parish priest of Las Piñas. He was born in Graus (Huesca, Spain) on July 26, 1762, and arrived in Manila on July 5, 1992  via Mexico.

bamboo-oldHe was an experienced organ builder. That he was recognized as such is the fact that the same year of his arrival, he was building a keyboard instrument which the Governor General deigned fitted to be sent as a present to the Queen of Spain. Furthermore, between 1794 and 1798, before being assigned to any parish, he built an organ for the church of San Nicolas, the mother church of his order. One row of pipes was made of bamboo.

san-agustinHe was a welcome expert very much in need in Intramuros for the maintenance, repair or construction of  the organs in the many churches of Intramuros. While already residing in the newly erected parish of Las Piñas (some 12 km south of manila) since 1796, he was contacted by the Manila Cathedral (1802-06) and the church of San Agustin (1810-13)  in Intramuros to build a new organ.  An earthquake in 1863 destroyed the organ be built for the Cathedral.  San Agustin however survived even the destruction of Intramuros at the end of WW II.

In 1768, the Recollects had replaced the Jesuits in Bohol. Also on this island, Fr.Diego Cera left his traces. In 1824, he finished an organ for the church of Baclayon, which was probably built in Las Piñas. Understandably, he had trained some people in his parish to execute his plans, and the work these apprentices delivered was of the highest quality, as stated by Hans Gerd Klais, when he removed the leather covering the windchest of the Bamboo Organ during its restoration between 1973 and 1975.

It was the same year that he completed the Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas, which he had started in 1816, exactly 200 years ago,  with cutting the bamboos for the instrument. It is possible that he used bamboo because it was cheaper than metal: the parish could not afford a pipe organ anyhow. But it was also the curiosity of the scientist which was driving him.

After his death, several “look-alike’s” were constructed, following the basic design of the instruments built by the master-organ builder.  We credit these instruments to the “School of Diego Cera”. They are the following:

  • St.Michael Archangel, Argao (Cebu)
  • San Nicolas Tolentino, Dimiao (Bohol)
  • Holy Trinity, Loay (Bohol)
  • St.Peter the Apostle, Loboc (Bohol)
  • Our Lady of Light, Loon (Bohol)

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Dimiao                                                                                          Loon

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Argao                                                 Loboc                                                  Loay

After the earthquake of October 2013, the organs of Loboc, Loay and Baclayon have been dismantled and temporarily stored , to be reinstalled after the repair of church structures have been finished.

The organ of Loon, which was buried under the debris of the totally destroyed church, has been recovered, and will find its place back in a newly constructed/restored church.

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