A Glimpse Of The Revolution In Kawit, Cavite
Emilio Aguinaldo had fallen in love with a 15-year old lass.
So many tidbits and this is what lingered in my head. The first president of the Philippine republic loved a girl in when he was in his 50s and married to his second wife, Maria Agoncillo. This kind of information doesn’t get written in textbooks or taught in school, but it’s these little glimpses to a personal life that draws interest to a person, especially if the person in question is a prominent figure in history. This, among others I wouldn’t have known had I not accepted the invitation of Fundacion Santiago for a heritage tour in the province that gave birth to the Philippine revolution, Kawit, Cavite.
I was among the 7 bloggers who responded to the invitation of JR Lomugdang, Head of Business Planning and Customer Relations of Travelbook.ph when he posted about this trip. On the day itself, we met Karina “Kara” Garilao, program director of Fundación Santiago. Fundación Santiago is a PCNC certified non-profit organization that aims to promote national identity and development through historical awareness and national development. One of their programs is the Community Based Heritage Tourism (CBHT), a comprehensive method that gears toward poverty alleviation while promoting the cultural, historical, and environmental wealth of a specific locality. Presently, they are operating in Ilocos Sur, Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon, Palawan, and Bohol. This Kawit Cavite heritage tour is one of the projects under CBHT.
Saint Mary Magdalene Church
Our first stop is the church that is said to be the favorite of Aguinaldo, the Saint Mary Magdalene Church. Built in 1624 with light materials, such as wood and nipa palm, it is the second oldest church in Kawit. Its former name is Our Lady of Loreto but was later on changed to Mary Magdalene because back in the day, there was a port in front of this church that is home to some inappropriate establishments. I asked our tour guide, Lehn, what kinds of inappropriate establishments was she referring—though I had some ideas—but she said they were not specified in the history books.
In 1639, the church’s structure was turned to stone, adobe, and lario (sand, shells, and mud). It underwent another renovation in 1990 to make it earthquake-proof. On a personal note, I was mighty impressed with the simplicity and the beauty of this church. I was particularly taken by the wooden ceiling, I’ve never seen anything like it in an old church. I liked that they were able to infuse some modern structure to make the church stronger without going overboard with the design to maintain the old feel.
The father of Emilio Aguinaldo is buried inside this church, a privilege given to people who have greatly contributed to the town.
The feast of Mary Magdalene is celebrated every 22nd of July.
If there is one character I would forever associate with the late actor, Fernando Poe Jr. it’s Flavio or more popularly known as Panday. Flavio’s character is a panday or a blacksmith, a person who forges metal objects from wrought iron or steel. In Kawit, there are real-life pandays and you can find them in the house of Hermiana Santulan, an 84-year old woman who was able to send her 9 kids to school through this business.
There was a live demonstration of blacksmithing care of one of the pandays, Mang Waldy. First, he burned coals to create fire to soften the steel. With the help of another panday, they hammered, bent, and cut the steel to shape it into a tool. It was fascinating to watch though it was a bit uncomfortable because of the heat that was coming from the furnace.
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Sadly, the blacksmithing is a dying industry in Kawit. On how long this industry would be sustained in the years to come, I cannot tell for sure. But I am hoping that there is a way to keep it alive for the benefit of the future generation.
Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine
Some of the residents have opened their old houses to tourists, and of these is the Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine. Baldomero, a cousin of Emilio Aguinaldo, was one of the prominent figures who joined the revolution. The house reminded me a lot of the old houses that I visited at Las Casas Filipinas.
[That Little Vigan Called, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar]
It houses interesting relics from the past, such as the ancient pressing irons, old school refrigerator called ice box, cooking stove which rings can be detached to lessen or increase the heat, among others. This house was built in 1906 with molave and narra. The ground floor was used as a storage room for farm produce and as chicken pens. Interestingly, we found the graves of Baldomero and his family in their backyard.
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It was fascinating to see the things that people used back in the day. The pressing iron, for example, had to be heated not by electricity but by fire. My grandfather used one of those when I was really young and I still remember being greatly fascinated by it. That iron was so heavy I couldn’t lift it by myself. Now, you don’t have to burn coal just to press clothes, you just take out a flat iron, which by the way is no longer barbell-heavy, plug it in, then it’s good to go. It’s amazing how times have changed.
The Aguinaldo Shrine is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Kawit, Cavite. Not only is it the ancestral house of Emilio Aguinaldo, it was also the setting of the declaration of the Philippine Independence from the Spanish colonizers. That famous raising and waving of flag depicted on history books happened on the balcony of this house.
It’s a sprawling 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2) mansion that was designed by Aguinaldo himself. One part of the house was turned into a museum that showcases memorabilia of Aguinaldo including his military medals, uniforms, weapons, gifts from the different foreign dignitaries and heads of states, portraits, and dioramas depicting events from the revolution.
The most interesting thing that I saw in the museum is the bomb shelter. It was originally a short well with an underground tunnel that leads to the church. Later on, it was turned into a shelter by the civilians seeking refuge from the war.
Our tour continued in the main house which has some interesting features, such as secret rooms and doors, and secret compartments where they used to hide weapons. It even has its own hospital where they tended to the wounded.
The bedrooms that the family used are still intact. Each one of the Aguinaldo children has their own bedrooms. Out of the three girls, the biggest one belonged to Emilio’s favorite daughter, Carmen.
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Not everyone could check out the nook and cranny of this house so we were the privileged ones, thanks to Fundacion Santiago. We were able to check the rooms even those that are off-limits to the public like Aguinaldo’s library.
Inside Aguinaldo’s room is a furniture that looks like an ordinary closet. The guide explained that it was in fact, a secret place of Aguinaldo. If he didn’t want to be disturbed by anyone, he would just enter this closet. Inside this closet is a peephole where he could check the people who are coming in his room.
The house reaches up to the 7th floor where you can find the attic. The attic offers an outstanding bird-eye view of Kawit. The guide said that this is where the snipers stayed hidden during the war. My curiosity took me as far as climbing up the attic, a decision I almost regretted when I started feeling faint. Nevertheless, I’m glad I made the climb lest I wouldn’t have seen the beautiful view from the top.
By touring the house, you will realize just how affluent the Aguinaldos are during that era. They have a pantry where they store their food, the bathrooms have bidets even bathtubs, the bedrooms are big and spacious, their cooking stove and the ice box are bigger than those that we’ve seen at the Baldomero’s, they have a swimming pool, a grand hall, and a big laundry area.
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And just like Baldomero, Emilio Aguinaldo is buried in his own backyard.
Indeed, the Aguinaldo Shrine does not only offer a glimpse of a significant chapter in the Philippine history, but also a look into the life of the most influential family in Cavite during that period.
And the most favorite part of everyone, eating time. Our tour guides led us to Hidden Tapsihan, a restaurant that can be found at the end of an alley, hence the name. There, we were served with their specialties such as, basag-ulo (a kind of lumpia that is so hard the say it could break your head), tapsilog, and Aguinaldo’s favorite, sinampalukang manok.
My most favorite part of this tour is our trip to the irasan saltern or salt farm. The view of the salt field reflecting the sky was mesmerizing. Maybe it is not as grandiose as the famous Salar de Uyuni or the salt flats in Bolivia, but it was still a sight to behold. We had fun taking photos, many of them are what you would call Instagram-worthy. Even my friends who saw my photo taken in the saltern were astonished. Who would have thought that somewhere in Cavite we have our own salt flats?
We met with some of the irasan farmers. They explained that the quality of the salt depends on the wind. If the wind comes from the east, the salt would be white and good but if the wind comes from the west the quality wouldn’t be as pleasing. Unfortunately, just as the pandayan industry, salt farming is slowly fading.
In the recent election, I heard some people saying that past is past and that at some point in time we should all move on. I agree with this statement to some extent, but I would advocate against forgetting. Moving on is not synonymous to forgetting. Forgetting the past is a disrespect to our origins, a betrayal to our national identity, and a sign of ingratitude to those who have fought hard to claim our freedom. Remembering and learning our past do not mean that we cannot move on, it means we are grateful for its lessons and that we are acknowledging our humble beginnings as a nation. It also means that we want to have an in-depth understanding of who we are as Filipino people.
One of the best ways to do this is through participating in heritage tours. And you too can experience this tour by contacting Fundacion Santiago.
Thanks for sharing nice pictures of Philippines and there local people. I like it.
You captured the true essence of the local people in these photos. They’re lovely!
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This is the first time I see photos of these houses and church in Cavite maybe because I’m from Laguna and I isolate myself only to the historical side of our place. hihi joke Anyways, great shots! Add up to the beauty of the places.
Great post and the pics you got are incredible also!
Absolutely fascinating. I loved the old church with the wooden ceiling. It never ceases to amaze me how each and every church is built with it’s own personality and every one is slightly different in some way. I’m so used to seeing churches made of marble and stone inside, the wooden ceiling was stunning. I also loved the blacksmithing. Great post, awesome trip b the looks of it.
agree with your thoughts on your conclusion. i hope I will visit Philippines one day!
Such a brilliant fascinating post which has opened me up to a place I hadn’t previously heard of. It is certainly true not to forget what happened in history and to learn from these things.
You have incredible information about Kawit, Cavite, I’ve never even heard of this area before. It has so many interesting reasons to visit. I love the story about the 84 year old Hermiana Santulan who found a way to send all her children to school. Then the bomb shelter from WWII brings reality to the history of the area. I learned quite a bit today about this area.
I really enjoyed reading this. You’re a great writer! That salt farm sounds so cool. Lovely pictures too, thanks for sharing!
Happy travels 🙂
This is one of the most fascinating posts I have ever read, you’ve captured so much of the history and essence of the Philippines. I’ve found plenty of bloggers who talk about the gorgeous beaches, diving, food and much more. I think it’s important for travellers to be informed of the realities like the salt farmers and historically, the revolution. The bomb shelter is so surreal.. excellent post.
I agree with you that forgetting the past is disrespectful. It is always important to remember so we don’t repeat mistakes. How lucky you were to get to see the inside of this historic place. I think l would have fainted also climbing up to see where the snipers were staked out :-). The food looks awesome 🙂
Awesome post, great captures and an amazing trip back in history! I look forward to experiencing more historical tours during my lifetime 😀
Wow!! There are a lot of beautiful historical places in Kawit, Cavite. I think it’s been almost a year since I went there. Maybe I could pay a visit next month!! What I love on some of your chosen places?? Aguinaldo Shrine!!! The best!!
Ganyan ang maganda eh. Yung travel na kasama ang historical sites. If there is one thing lacking in the Philippines, it is the appreciation of its history and the sacrifices of those who came before us. The lack of nationalism is a hindrance to growth. Walang pride. So it is good to see and read posts like yours.
I just fell in love with Cavite! Who would have thought that the place offers so much interesting stuff from the past?! I certainly agree with you on your conclusion too. I also want to take note of the mansion owned by late Pres. Aguinaldo. The concept of the mansion is brilliant from the structure down to the purpose, it is indeed practical and wise. I hope we can really preserve the ones left in Cavite for future generation.
Such a beautiful place! Love all your photos 😀 I’d love to go here soon and learn a bit more about our Philippine History 😀
I must make my way again to Cavite. I missed out a lot.
This was very detailed and informative. As an American, it is interesting for me to read about your revolution because our revolution is so important to our history as well. So Aguinaldo for you I guess is like George Washington for us. I would love to go to the Philippines and learn more about the history. And I love your pictures of the salt farms.
I feel like a loser for not knowing there are blacksmiths in Cavite haha looks like you had a fun day. I think this is a sign for me to book a tour in this historical city.
Interesting points from the history which never taught in school. It’s always fascinating to hear ‘love stories’ of the infamous people from the past. They said that history is written by the winners and I would love to know more about the victors’ stories then.
What an interesting adventure. I think it’s so important to learn about the past and our history, it’s how learn. The structures look amazing and beautiful. The blacksmithing I found really interesting and creative.
A very interesting tour and even more a very interesting project! I totally agree with you about moving on not being the same as forgetting: I believe we can only move on if we know our past, recognise it part of our identity and learn what it teaches us. We all have complex identities and I think this is what makes the world so interesting
Thanks Jerny! I was just about to ask you guys about the photos hahaha… I appreciate the feedback. Oo nga eh, nakakaloka talaga yung Aguinaldo-Amparo love affair, but it was really interesting to know diba.
Owsum article, Marge! And photos as well! They look lovely! I agree with your final statement. We should not forget what has happened in the past because it’s what bring us of today.
Ung pag-ibig ng mga heroes natin and former Presidents, intriguing talaga. Hehehe, akalain mo tong si Emilio, nainlove sa 15 years old eh katanda-tanda na nya. Ang landi, nagmumurang -kamatis pa sya hahahha!