Saan na nga ba si Emilio Aguinaldo?
Whether it is reference to the first Philippine president or a missing Naga personality, the question had a chiling effect on us that our duo on Instagram, @thetravelingdada, decided to goo on an exploration to search for Emilio Aguinaldo. We had nothing to do one Sunday morning so we decided to pack our bags, head off to Baclaran, and board a bus to Kawit, Cavite - the last known location of Aguinaldo.
The town of Kawit in Cavite will forever be etched in Philippine history as the place where our nation's independence was declared in 1898. The town was a thriving community prior to the arrival of the Spaniards and was originally composed of Kawit, Cavite City, Noveleta, and Imus known as "Cavite El Viejo". It was in Cavite El Viejo where Spanish influences took its roots to later on spread through the corners of Cavite.
Less than two hours after our search party launched our operations, Asher and I found ourselves staring at the iconic white washed mansion of Kawit. The grand shrine was the first in our itinerary.
The Aguinaldo Shrine is probably one of, if not, the most popular mansions in the country. It is on the balcony of this mansion where Filipino freedom fighters proudly declared the country’s sovereignty by raising the Philippine flag led by the country’s first President, Emilio Aguinaldo. The mansion has become a symbol of freedom and Filipino nationalism.
The mansion is the birthplace of Emilio Aguinaldo. It was first completed in 1845 and has undergone a number of renovations, some of which had Aguinaldo as the architect. The 5-storey ancestral house is a maze of hidden passageways and secret doors for the security of the Katipunero’s highest leader. The mansion was probably the grandest during its time with a swimming pool and a bowling lane INSIDE the house.
We started our search on the first floor of the house where the first thing that caught my attention was the two-alley bowling lane. I mean, you rarely see a house with its own bowling lanes and an old house at that, right?
Anyway, the first floor of the house had been turned into a gallery of history where you get to see the life of Emilio Aguinaldo through historical records and memorabilia. An old chess board, an old car plate, clothes, and even eating utensils used by the former President are all displayed in the museum. It gives you a glimpse of how life was during his time.
The second floor of the house gives you a glimpse of Aguinaldo as a family man and the role that the house played in the fight for independence.
Located on the east side of the mansion are the three rooms of Aguinaldo’s daughters where they have displayed some of the daughter’s personal effects. At the end of the hallway is the “azotea” where the family took afternoon rests. This is also where the daughters received their suitors who would later become their husbands. It was also referred to as the “Galeria de los Pecadores” or Gallery of Sinners because the Filipino military used the covered balcony as a venue for their tactical meetings.
The main hall is the most interesting part of the house because the way it’s design spoke volumes of the house’s history and the country’s struggle for independence. The interior design had the touch of nationalism from the relief map of the Philippines to the seals of the revolution that outlined the provinces that are going against the oppressors. On display on the main hall are antique furniture used by our brave Katipuneros during their meetings.
The main hall is also adjacent to the historical balcony where the Philippine flag was raised as a sign of our sovereignty.
Interestingly, the main hall has a lot of secret doors for document safekeeping and passageways that lead one from one point to another in the house. With an influential person as resident in the house, these hidden doors make it easier for Aguinaldo to easily leave the house when his security is compromised.
Unfortunately the upper floors of the mansion and the tower is not accessible unless you enlist on a “guided” tour and I will leave it at that.
The mansion sits on a sprawling land with manicured lawns. War memorabilia are also on display within the compound. The huge “washing machine” structure is still standing today and is an interesting piece to discover. Did you know that it was a man’s job to do the laundry during Aguinaldo’s time?
In the midst of the sprawling garden is the tomb where the remains of the first Philippine President lie. The Aguinaldo Shrine is not only a symbol of independence but it is also a place where a leader was born and, eventually, where his remains were finally laid to rest.
As you step outside the Aguinaldo Shrine, you will be welcomed to a huge open park that is now known as the Aguinaldo Park. I remember when I was younger having seen the shrine and it sits along a major vein of Kawit’s road system. However, it is no longer the case with the creation of the park in 1998 in line with the Philippine Centennial Celebration.
The park is highlighted by a bronze statue of Emilio Aguinaldo mounted on a horse and ready for battle. A flagpole sits right behind the monument where the Philippine flag proudly flutters. The base of the flagpole bears the National Historical Commission’s memoriam to a man who lead the country to its freedom.
Old Kawit Town Hall
As we continued on with our search by walking along Kawit’s major road, we stumbled upon the Kawit Town Hall. The 2-storey pink building, situated along Tirona Highway, had its part in Philippine history. The site was where the original town hall once stood that Aguinaldo and Tirona seized in August 1896 that marked the beginning of the revolution in the province of Cavite.
The only memory of the fateful event is the National Historical Commission’s marker installed on its façade.
Heneral Dandido Tria Tirona Monument
A silent monument for a war hero stands beside the Kawit Church. Interestingly, the monument also bears the marker from the National Historical Commission honouring Heneral Dandido Tirona. Who is General Tirona?
General Tirona was one of the leaders who helped grow the ranks of the Katipunan in the province of Cavite. Aguinaldo and Tirona started the revolution in Cavite when they seized the Kawit Town Hall. He died a hero in the Battle of Binakayan.
Simbahan ng Kawit
The Simbahan ng Kawit was first established in 1624 and marked the entry of the Catholic faith in the province of Cavite. Also known as the St. Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit, the church is one of the oldest in the country and was declared as a historical structure of the National Historical Commission in 1990.
The church structural design, made of bricks, stone, and wood, is void of any extravagance. It is evokes simplicity and devotion. The only highlight of its façade is the enshrined statue of the St. Mary Magdalene placed on a niche on the third level of its exterior. The four-level church belfry on the right side of the church, with its dome shaped top, dominates the skyline of Kawit.
The church had a homey feel with the mix of brick and wood structures. The main highlight of the church is its three-tiered golden “retablo” adorned with images of saints and intricate wood carving designs. Interestingly, the church has 14 windows depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross.
General Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized in St. Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit.
Battle of Binakayan Monument
In November of 1896, valiant Katipuneros fought a significant battle against the Spaniards along the shores of Binakayan in Kawit. It was a significant battle for the revolutionaries because it was the first major win of Filipinos against the Spaniards under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo.
The Battle of Binakayan Monument along Governor’s Road is the silent reminder of this decisive battle between Filipinos and its Spanish oppressors that would eventually lead to the liberation of the country from the hands of Spanish rulers.
Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine
Tucked comfortably in a district in Kawit is another historical “bahay-na-bato” owned by another Aguinaldo – the General Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine.
The two-storey house is now a museum that has the personal effects of General Baldomero and his family on display. The general is the cousin of the General Emilio Aguinaldo. Similarly, Baldomero played a crucial role in the revolution as the head of the Kawit Chapter of the Katipunan. He also became the Secretary of War and Public Works of the First Philippine Republic.
The shrine is also the final resting place of the honoured general as his tomb lies at the garden area of the compound.
Food Stop: Hidden Tapsi
Hidden Taps is a popular food joint in Kawit. Located along Mascardo Street and some three blocks away from the Simbahan ng Kawit, this restaurant is “hidden” because you have to enter a small side street to get to the food joint and enjoy their famous tapsilog.
Food Stop: Betoy’s Burger and Milkshake
After all the walking under the sun, Betoy’s is a must-try treat. The café is located just right across the Kawit Town Hall. Their yummy milkshakes is highly recommended to quench your thirst.
Post Travel Notes
As we look forward to the celebration of Philippine Independence on June 12, Kawit will definitely be on the limelight again. It is a place worth visiting, with your kids, to get that sense of nationalism and pride as Filipinos. It will give you a glimpse on how our nation was born from the blood and courage of Filipinos who had gone before us. The freedom that we value so much now was earned from the sacrifices and bravery of Pinoys who ought it out until the end.
Although we never really saw Emilio Aguinaldo during the trip, tracing back his footsteps in his hometown gave us a glimpse of the life that he lived. From the house where he was born to the glorious fights that he led, he understood the dangerous life that he was living. He fought for and with Filipinos. He was a man who did not face fear and death head on for the fight for sovereignty but he was a man who also struggled to keep a young nation at its feet.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Getting There: From Baclaran in Pasay, you can take a bus headed for Cavite City or Noveleta via CAVITEX along Roxas Boulevard. You can ask the drier to drop you off at the Aguinaldo Shrine which is just along the highway. Trip is about 30-40 minutes.
Journals of the Traveling DaDa is the travel journal of the daddy and daughter tandem of Marc and Asher to document their trips with the objective to encourage Filipinos to travel and explore the Philippines. Please follow them on Instagram - @marc7del, @payatnalaskwatero, and @thetravelingdada and check out their travel visual stories.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.