In the story of modern Las Piñas, one man (and to an extent, family) has managed to put the city on the map and help it progress to what it is today. I’m talking about Manuel Villar, the real estate developer who became member of the House of Representatives and the Senate and a one-time candidate for the Philippine presidency in 2010. He has then gone back to his property development business Vista Land (at least at this time of writing) while wife Cynthia is in the Senate and son Mark is the House of Representatives. (two other children, Paolo and Camille, remain in the business side)
Villar has been known for his tagline “Sipag at Tiyaga” (Hardwork and Perseverance) and his advocacy for entrepreneurship as he himself is an entrepreneur who managed to make it big in real estate. Thus, it is no wonder that in Las Piñas, his tagline and advocacy rings out loud, especially if one gets to visit the Villar SIPAG complex in Barangay Pulanglupa.
Located along the C-5 Extension Road, (yes, that same C-5 Extension that embroiled Villar in controversy) Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) was inaugurated in 2013 by Manny and Cynthia Villar to be a showcase of their story and advocacies. Here, one can learn about the humble beginnings of Manny Villar as he rose to where he is today. Perhaps the most notable of these would be the truck Villar used to transport gravel and sand, his first business before venturing into real estate.
As interesting as the items of the past that can be seen here, it is also interesting to see the products of some of the present endeavors of the Villar Foundation in promoting livelihood and entrepreneurship. These are not just your regular products but products made of unlikely materials such as chairs made from plastic waste, hollow blocks made from cement and plastic, lanterns made from coconut husks, and baskets made from water lilies.
Villar SIPAG has also managed to become the center of activity in Las Piñas where various city functions have been held due to its wide open space and less congestive atmosphere.
For more information of the foundation and its work, you can check out the Villar SIPAG website at www.villarsipag.org.
Apart from the Villar SIPAG center, also located in the complex is a massive Catholic church, the Santuario de San Ezekiel Moreno which is a shrine dedicated to Ezekiel Moreno, a Spanish priest who once served as parish priest of Las Piñas from 1876 to 1879.
During Moreno’s tenure as parish priest, the town suffered a number of calamities, yet his example made him well-loved by the people of Las Piñas. He was also instrumental in spearheading efforts to rehabilitate Molino Dam located between Las Piñas and Bacoor in Cavite into what it is today. Even today, among the city’s Catholic faithful, Ezekiel Moreno is still held in high regard.
The construction of the Santuario de San Ezekiel Moreno is a product of that devotion, as well as the efforts of the Villars to have such a church built, thus its presence in the Villar SIPAG complex. The church, completed in 2014, was designed by architect Claude Edwin Andrews along with Joey Amistoso in a Spanish Baroque inspired architecture with modern elements fused in.
There is also a columbarium as well as a museum dedicated to Ezekiel Moreno, where one can learn not only of his life but also the history of Las Piñas itself. One can also find a relic of a saint which is a piece of his bone.
It’s been said that church-building is a new facet of the Villar’s construction business, the Santuario de San Ezekiel Moreno being the 4th the group has built. From the looks of the church, it looks quite good.
For more information, you can check out the website of the church at www.santuariodesanezekiel.ph.
Acknowledgements as well to the Manila Bulletin