Misa de Gallo at Bamboo Organ

TravelBook visits the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas City to participate in dawn mass and partake of puto bumbong.

By Betty Tianco, KC Castillo
December 23, 2014

The first day of Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi is celebrated with much fanfare in churches throughout the country. TravelBook.ph's KC Castillo and Betty Tianco join the ceremonies at Las Pinas' Bamboo Organ Church to experience this Pinoy tradition.

Simbang Gabi, which literally translates to "mass at night," is a nine-day novena in preparation for Christmas day. While many devotees still believe that complete attendance on all days of the novena means that the devotee's wish will be granted, most people now attend for different reasons: to bond with family and friends, to honor tradition, to experience the festive atmosphere that surrounds the celebration of mass, and to enjoy the traditional Filipino delicacies--like puto bumbong and bibingka--that are available outside the church after mass.

For all these reasons, we made plans to celebrate the first Simbang Gabi of the season outside our own usual parishes. We wanted to hear mass at a church of special significance--preferably a provincial church fronted by a typical Spanish colonial plaza, giving us an authentic Pinoy Simbang Gabi experience. Time and distance made that original idea impractical, so instead we came up with a compromise: we would go to the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas (also known as the St. Joseph Parish), a church of historical and architectural significance located within Metro Manila.

The adobe church was built in the earthquake Baroque style at the end of the 18th century and holds the only working organ made with bamboo pipes. The organ itself was made a national cultural treasure in 2003. The church also has the distinction of being renovated by national artist architect Francisco "Bobby" Mañosa, who worked on the project with Ludwig Alvarez in the '70s.

It turned out to be an excellent choice--even though Las Piñas is technically part of Metro Manila, the city retains a small-town charm typically attributed to a sleepy barrio in the province. The gallery below attempts to portray this vibe--in more than just the physical look of the old church and the traditional nature of the novena, we found that Filipino culture is still alive here--it is a mindset and a way of life.

How to get there:

Bamboo Organ Church is located along Padre Diego Cera Avenue, Barangay Daniel Fajardo, Las Piñas City.

Via South Luzon Expressway, through Muntinlupa

Take the Alabang or Filinvest exits on the South Luzon Expressway and make your way to Alabang Zapote Road. Towards the end of Alabang Zapote Road, where there is a flyover to Coastal Road, turn right (underneath the flyover) to Quirino Avenue. Follow this road (which turns into Padre Diego Cera Avenue for the stretch with the church compound) until you see the church on your left.

Via Quirino Avenue, through Parañaque

From Roxas Boulevard, turn left onto MIA Road (the last intersection before the Manila-Cavite Expressway or Coastal Road). Turn right at the first intersection onto Quirino Road. Follow this road (which turns into Padre Diego Cera Avenue for the stretch with the church compound) until you see the church on your right.