San Jose de Las Piñas - The Gentle Father of Las Piñas CIty

San Jose de Las Piñas

In the busy and historic city of Las Piñas, located at the Southern part of Metro Manila, the city took pride of its historic Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph where the famous Bamboo Organ can still be seen and heard. Apart from the historic Church and the Bamboo Organ, the people of Las Piñas took pride on their devotion to San Jose de Las Piñas - the Titular patron saint of the parish - that became part of the fabric of life and culture of the city for centuries.

San Jose de Las Piñas at his own chapel
The Image

The unique venerated image of San Jose de Las Piñas, more popularly known to his devotees as "Tata Hosep" is a de tallado image of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus that is venerated in his own chapel in the Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph in Las Piñas City. 

The carving of this image shows that this might have come from the early years of santo carving with elongated faces for both Father and Son which is one of the common features of folk carving which adds charm to the image. The image presents St. Joseph standing yet leaning towards the right to the direction of the Child Jesus which is also standing besides him and holding his hand looking at him. Tata Hosep holds a staff with a sheaf of lilies and has a silver hat that is usually placed at his back (he wore this hat on some occassions) and usually wears a paragua (umbrella like halo) on his head while the Niño Jesus sports His diagnotic Tres Potencias and brings a toolbox. Although a de tallado image, he is also vested with real clothes made from different materials and done with an array of designs, most commonly the palikpik on his shoulders.


The devotion to San Jose de Las Piñas began on November 5, 1795, the Archbishop of Manila assigned Las Piñas, then a small town of farmers and fishermen, to the Order of the Augustinian Recollects to establish a new church. Fray Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, OAR, a native of Spain, traveled from Mabalacat, Pampanga province and arrived on the town on the day after Christmas of 1795. Soon after, he started building the church made from adobe stones in the Earthquake Baroque architectural style. He was a natural scientist, chemist, architect, community leader, as well as organist and organ builder. He also built the organs for the Manila Cathedral and San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Intrmuros, Manila. In 1816, when the stone church was almost complete, he started building the organ made of bamboo and completed the instrument in 1824. Fray Diego Cera served as the parish priest of Las Piñas till May 15, 1832, when he could no longer perform his duties due to severe illness. He died on June 24, 1832, in Manila.

The Bamboo Organ

The famed Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas City
The fame Bamboo Organ in St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas City, Philippines, is a 19th-century church organ with unique organ pipes with 902 pipes are made of bamboo. The choice of bamboo was probably both practical and aesthetic - bamboo was abundant and used for hundreds of items of both a practical and an artistic nature. It was completed after 6 years of work in 1824 by Father Diego Cera. The unqiue piece was later restored in Germany in 1972 and shortly after its return, the annual International Bamboo Organ Festival, a music festival of classical music, was started to celebrate the music of the reborn instrument and its unique sound.

The organ was declared a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines in 2003. The St. Joseph Parish Church, with the famous organ and the church museum at the old convent house, is a popular tourist destination for Filipinos and foreign visitors alike in Las Piñas.

A Parish Priest and a saint

One of the parish priest that was assigned in the Las Piñas Church is the famed St. Ezekiel Moreno. In 1876, he was assigned to St. Joseph's Parish in Las Piñas and worked zealously for the development of the lives of the people in the area. It is also beleived that he also helped on fostering further the devotion to St. Jospeh to the people. The town suffered many major calamities during his pastorship, yet the people did not lose hope because of his example. 

Tata Hosep during his participation at the
2019 Intramuros Grand Marian Procession
The origin of the devotion

The centuries old image of San Jose de Las Piñas is considered to be the oldest venerated image in the city. The devotion started even before the time when Las Piñas Church was canonically established as a parish and was separated from Parañaque in 1795.

According  to town tradition, in the mid-1600's, an image was seen floating along te shores of Parañaque. The fisher folks were trying to bring it to dry land but the load seemed too heavy for them to bear. Fortunately, the fishermen from Las Piñas were the ones who were able to carry it to dry land. They took this as a sign that the image wanted to be with them. As consolation, they handed over two dozen of eggs to the people of Parañaque as part of the long standing tradition of exchanging religious items with small amounts of money or goods. From that time, he became the city's long standing "Santo Patron" and the devotion to "Tata Hosep", as he is fondly called by his devotees, grew and developed over the centuries.

Church Recognition

In line with the 225th founding anniversary of the historic parish, it was elevated to the status of a Diocesan Shrine on November 5, 2020. On that same day, it was formally announced the granting the honor of Episcopal Coronation of the image of San Jose de Las Piñas - a first in the Philippines. The coronation rites is yet to be set as of this writing.

The devotion at present

The devotion to Tata Hosep continued to floruish up to this day and it is considered as the oldest existing devotion in Las Piñas City. Numerous testimonies of healing and other miracles have been heard and duly recorded including accounts of his visitations to invite people to celebrate his town fiesta which is held every First Sunday of May (the Traditional Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph in the old Liturgical Calendar), apart from his liturgical Solemnity every March 19. Tuesday devotions in his honor is also proven to be popular in the city where devotees would visit his chapel and offer novenas and masses in his honor.  

Apart from the festivities in honor of Tata Hosep, the people also have a beautiful "Sayaw ng Saboy" dance tradition that is performed by young girls during the Salubong rites during the wee hours in the morning and will last the whole morning. This tradition, along with the Bamboo Organ Festival added much color to the modern yet discreet facade of Las Piñas City where they haven't forgotten their beautiful traditions and keeping it alive in the generations to come.

The devotion to San Jose de Las Piñas became an important part in the daily life, history and culture of Las Piñas and the city's history will be forever be linked to their beloved Tata Hosep. Just like how he is fondly called "Tata Hosep", he indeed became an important father figure in Las Piñas City as he guided the city in its progress, tragedy and triumph as the city's patron and intercessor. 


"Simbahan ng Las Piñas". National Registry of Historic Sites and Structures of the Philippines. Retrieved on November 2, 2020.

"Historical Markers: Metropolitan Manila", National Historical Institute. 1993.

Lazcano, Rafael, "Episcopologio Agustiniano". Agustiniana, Guadarrama, Madrid, Spain, 2014

"Tata Hosep ng Las Piñas", Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Joseph, Las Piñas City, 2020.


Nadal, John - Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, Las Piñas City

Villeta, Jonnel - Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, Las Piñas City


Bernardo, Fritz, Rinaldi, MD

Daquioag, Michael of Buen Viaje PH

Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph Facebook page

Malabanan, James Benedict

Special thanks to Mr. John Nadal and Mr. Jonnel Villeta of the Parish and Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, Las Piñas City for providing documents and information on the history of San Jose de Las Piñas and to Mr. Michael Daquiaog and Dr. Fritz Bernardo, MD for the photographs of San Jose de Las Piñas. 




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