A grandiose white mansion dominates the hurried town of Kawit in Cavite province. Aguinaldo Shrine, the ancestral house of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the 1st Philippine Republic, was declared as a National Shrine.
As written by Richard Handfield Titherington in his book “A History of Spanish-American War of 1898”, on May 1898, when Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines from Hong Kong, he established a dictatorial government. On June 12 that same year, the Independence of the Philippines from Spain was proclaimed by Emilio Aguinaldo at the window of his residence. At the same event, the Philippine flag was spread out and the Philippine National Hymn was played.
Fronting the Aguinaldo Shrine is Liwasang Aguinaldo, a park constructed in 1998 for the Philippine Centennial celebration. A bronze figure of General Emilio Aguinaldo riding a horse proudly stands in front of the ancestral house while his remains lie in a tomb found at the back of Aguinaldo Shrine.
The ground floor of Aguinaldo Shrine was transformed into a museum. Exhibits include kris and knives given by a datu to Aguinaldo, samurai sword from Emperor Hirohito of Japan, guns and other memorabilia of Emilio Aguinaldo and dioramas showing the Battle of Binakayan. The Philippine flag sewn by Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Hermosa de Natividad in Hong Kong is also exhibited here. Astonishingly, a bomb shelter with an underground tunnel leading to the church is found at the ground level.
The second floor is crowded with antique furniture, photos and paintings of Emilio Aguinaldo and his family. The ancestral house is also decorated with symbols of the revolution. Marvel at the ceiling adorned with reliefs, one of them is the sun wood relief with 8 primary rays representing the first 8 provinces (Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, Batangas, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Manila)placed under Martial Law by Governor Blanco on August 30, 1896. These provinces also joined the 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards. Interestingly, Aguinaldo named their balcony where the revolutionaries plotted military strategies as the Balcony of Sinners. Also, don’t miss the souvenirs and foods manufactured in Cavite for sale here.
Another must-see in Kawit is the General Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine located in Barangay Binakayan. This modest and well-kept ancestral residence was the second National Shrine recognized in Kawit. General Baldormero Aguinaldo is the cousin of Emilio Aguinaldo and the president of Magdalo Council.
The Battle of Binakayan Monument which is the site of the successful combat of the Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards in November 1896 is also found in Kawit. The monument of General Candido Tirona, the first Captain Municipal in the country, also stands in Barangay Binakayan.
A few meters away from Aguinaldo Shrine is the imposing old church of St.Mary Magdalene, one of the oldest church in the Philippines. This is where Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized; his birth certificate is kept inside a glass cabinet inside the church. St.Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit is also well-known as the film location of the 1995 World Youth Day music video, “Tell the World of His Love”.
How to get there:
From Lawton, there are buses bound for Cavite City. Just ask the driver to drop you off at Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit. From Alabang, look for a van bound to SM Bacoor. In front of SM Bacoor, hail a mini-bus bound to Naic. Tell the driver you’ll get off at Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit.
Aguinaldo Shrine is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 8 AM to 4PM. There is no entrance fee but donations for the museum's maintenance are welcome.
Gael Hilotin is the author of The Pinay Solo Backpacker.