The town of Pila is site for some well-preserved houses dating back to the Spanish period as well as the old Saint Anthony of Padua Parish Church, the first Antonine church in the Philippines.
Don Felizardo Rivera, who donated his lands to the church and municipal government, is the recognized founder of Pila. He is the ancestor of prominent families in Pila surnamed Rivera, Relova, Agra and Álava.
Pagsanjan and adjacent towns along the shores of Laguna de Bay are considered by archaeologists as one of the oldest settlements in the Philippines. The community is one of three such concentrations of population known archaeologically to have been in place before A.D. 1000. Archaeologists recovered in Pinagbayanan potteries and artifacts that indicate considerable settlement in the area during the Late Tang Dynasty (900 A.D.). Archaeologists also recovered ancient horse bones ending the debate on whether the Spaniards brought them or not. The scientists were able to uncover Philippines’ oldest crematorium in the same area. It is worthwhile to note that the oldest Philippine document, the 900 A.D. Laguna Copperplate Inscription, mentioned Pila twice.
The Franciscans arrived in 1578 to evangelize the people of Pila and soon afterwards built a church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, the first Antonine house of worship in the Philippines. Due to the nobleness and mildness of the character of its inhabitants, the Spanish leadership honored the town with an exceptional title La Noble Villa de Pila, one of five villas named by the Spaniards in the 16th and 17th century in the Philippines. During this period, the demesne of Pila includes Victoria, Laguna, and Jala-Jala, Rizal.
Church of Pila, built in 1849.
The Franciscans established in Pila the second printing press in the Philippines and printed in 1613, Philippines’ oldest dictionary and the first book printed using the movable type, the Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala. The book was written and compiled by Fray Pedro de San Buenaventura and printed by Tomas Pinpin, the Prince of Filipino printers. The book is twenty seven years older than the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States in 1640.
At the beginning of the 19th century the town was transferred from Pagalangan to the present site of Santa Clara because of perennial flooding.
The National Historical Institute of the Philippines declared the town plaza and surrounding ancestral houses a National Historical Landmark on May 17, 2000. Two years later, on July 9, 2002, the Diocese of San Pablo proclaimed the parish church of San Antonio de Padua de Pila as the Diocesan Shrine of St. Anthony. According to Philippine historian, Dr. Luciano Santiago, it is the only town in the Philippines that is formally recognized as a historical site by both the church and the state.