In Pila, Laguna, a historical marker placed at the heart of the plaza has become a source of local pride. Engraved on it are the words “a town declared a historical landmark.”
The historic town of Pila is the fourth and the latest town declared as a national historical landmark. The other towns are Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Silay City in Negros Occidental, and Taal in Batangas.
But the pride of the people of Pila extends to the structures and history that surround the historical marker. This includes the well-preserved ancestral houses and public structures clustered around the plaza.
Rich in history, it was in this old town that the first Tagalog dictionary was printed. In the dictionary, Pila was depicted as a noble town. Perhaps it is because of the nobility of the people’s tradition here that the Spanish Crown granted Pila the title of La Noble Villa de Pila.
La Noble Villa de Pila
Even before the coming of the Spaniards, the town of Pila has already an established civilization. Impressed by its extensive territory and the nobility of its people in traditions and customs, the conquistadors conferred on the town with the special title, “La Noble Villa de Pila” in 1610.
During the Spanish colonial period, only a handful of cities and towns were granted the title of Villa. Among them were La Villa del Santisimo Nombre Jesus de Cebu in 1565, La Villa de Santiago de Libon in Albay (1573), La Villa Fernandina de Vigan in Ilocos (1574), La Villa Rica de Arevalo in Iloilo (1581), La Muy Noble Villa de Tayabas (1703), La Villa de Bacolor in Pampanga (1765) and La Villa de Lipa (Batangas, 1887).
These towns are considered as privileged subjects of the Crown. They were apparently exempted from forced labor of the general types.
Like a typical Spanish colonial town, the church and municipal hall are both located at the plaza. The municipal hall is painted in brick red facing the church dedicated to San Antonio de Padua.
The grand houses of the principalia or the elite are clustered around the church and municipal hall. These houses were able to stand natural calamities and wars.
It has been said that Pila was spared during World War II because American bombers failed to spot it as they were preparing for a bombing run to flush out Japanese soldiers. Towns near Pila, like Pagsanjan and Sta. Cruz, were reduced to rubble during the bombing run.
In May 17, 2000, 36 old houses and buildings around the 200-year old church were proclaimed a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute.
The First Tagalog Dictionary
The treasures of Pila are not limited to the ancestral houses, the 200-year old church and artifacts found in the local museum.
In the noble villa, the Franciscans established the second printing press in the Philippines in 1611. The first Tagalog dictionary was printed here in 1613 by Tomás Pinpín and Domingo Loag. The dictionary was 25 years older than the first book published in the United States.
The local pastor Fray Pedro de San Buenaventura compiled the dictionary to facilitate the evangelization of the Tagalog region.