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Heritage Tour to Kawit

April 23, 2016

Exactly a week ago [April 16, Saturday], I got up early at 4 am to get ready to join a cultural tour in Kawit, Cavite. With my niece, Eirene Bautista and her family – Dick, Bernie and Tonette — we headed to Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, the assembly point. We arrived early enough to take our breakfast at a restaurant called “Hidden Tapsihan.” The first trike man we hailed to take us to the place did not know where it is located. Presumably, only tricycle men from that part of Kawit would know because it is literally hidden. Off the main road it is located at Tomas Mascardo Street. I actually do not know remember how we got there.

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Dick and Oye Bautista Family

OYEAnyway, the tour started at Aguinaldo Park where the two jeepneys provided by the sponsoring group were parked. One of our guides, Ms. Lean “Lei” Aldea introduced the place where copies of the “Acta de la Proclamacion de Independencia del Pueblo Filipino” [Act of Proclamation of the Independence of the Filipino People] in Spanish, English and Filipino versions are etched on high dark-colored, or black? marble walls. But how I wish they could easily be read! Needs polishing I guess! Gen. Aguinaldo’s statue on a horseback is installed at the middle of the large park. [See his house and statue behind]

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There were nearly 30 participants – mostly local and two Australian tourists

From there, we were led to Kawit Church whose patroness is Mary Magdalene. It is also thus called as the Mary Magdalene Church. General Aguinaldo and his men frequented and prayed there before going to the battle against the Spaniards. First built in wood material in 1638, its first cornerstone was installed in 1737. Aguinaldo’s nomme-de-guerre “Magdalo” was derived from it, thus, Magdalo from Magdalene.

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The April 16 Tour Batch in front of the Church retablo. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized here in 1869.

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It was my first time to enter the Mary Magdalene Church. At home, I browsed on my photos published in “Paghihimagsik nang 1896-1897” [Medina, 1998]. I only saw shots of the church exterior [p.334]. Because the book was published nearly two decades ago, I have forgotten that I had actually been there to take photos for the book. Joining the tour was therefore quite worth it as this time I managed to see its interior. [I shall have a separate photo blog on the Kawit Church later]

Just outside the church and near what used to be the Kawit tribunal is the statue of Candido “Sukat-Na” Tirona [1862-1896], one of Aguinaldo’s men. Like Aguinaldo, and most of our brave revolutionary heroes, he was also a Mason. Noticeably, in the photo that I shot for the same book above mentioned, a coco tree used to stand behind him [p265].

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Sa jeepney on the way to our destination with tour guide Lei

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Reverse Shot with tour guide Lehn

Next stop was an interesting segment of the tour – the “Pandayan” or the blacksmith’s shop. On the verge of “extinction,” it is one of the only three remaining shops in Kawit. Located in Panday Street, it is owned by Mrs. Germinia Santulan. [Watch the video below]

During the revolution, bolos and knives were the main weapons of our heroes. Rifles and guns were for them quite rare. Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan leader has always been portrayed carrying a bolo, unlike Aguinaldo who is always shown either wielding or carrying a saber. It was the symbol of his triumph against the Spaniards as he got it from the Spanish General Ernesto de Aguirre who fled when the Spaniards were defeated during the Battle of Imus.

Bolo making was demonstrated by Tatay Walden “Waldy” Cabigona with the help of his assistant Noel Catuba. Unfortunately, according to Panday Waldy, the youth are not interested in it anymore. It has now become one of our rare and dying industries.

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House of Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo

Baldomero Aguinaldo Museum in Binakayan was next in the tour itinerary. I was happy to meet again Ms. Rose Misolas, its curator. She used to be the accommodating curator of Mabini Shrine-PUP at the time I was collecting materials for my documentaries on Mabini sometime in 2014.

Baldomero “Mabangis” Aguinaldo  was ex-Prime Minister Cesar Virata’s lolo. A cousin of Emilio Aguinaldo, he was the President of the Magdalo faction of Katipunan. In 1899, he became the Vice-President of the First Philippine Republic. The architectural style of his house typically belongs to the American period. An aparador or cabinet even carries designs inspired by the American flag. It is definitely not as grand as General Aguinaldo’s but the furnitures and “appliances” like the ref they had, the piano for entertainment, the separate toilet and bathroom — are reflective of their social status at the time. “Angat sa buhay” sabi nga. [See below what my camera captured]

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Close up of the Antique collection at Baldomero Aguinaldo Museum

On the way back to the last in the list of places to explore — the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, we passed by in front of the Battle of Binakayan‘s depiction in sculpture by Amado Castrillo, brother of more renowned Filipino sculptor Eduardo. It is located opposite the Covelandia Resort.

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Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’ House in terms of size, area, type of architecture, and the quality and choice of furniture are reflective of the stature and high social status and taste of the General and the First President of the First Philippine Republic. Since many printed materials and photographs are available about the house of Aguinaldo, I would rather concentrate here on what could be seen inside the “tore” [tower]. And especially so because it is not always accessible to the public when busloads of visitors come. Hence, we were in fact, lucky and privileged to have been allowed to go up there. We went in batches of up to six people only.

So, here’s a glimpse on what visitors will see in the rooms up there…There were seven levels in all, and several steep plight of stairs to climb.

An interesting part was the triangular shaped room – an attic – where wounded revolutionaries were hidden to be treated. [See below]

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Tower View

On the other hand, here is what to see from one of the tower levels… Top angle view of the Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s tomb located behind the Shrine.

I gave up after reaching the 6th level. I did not dare climb up the ladder to reach the uppermost part, the sniper’s post, they say, on the 7th level of the tower. Ay naku! Thank you na lang! Nakakalula!

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The Australian tourist and his friend

Though I had been to all the toured places [except the Pandayan] being the field photographer of my brother, Dr. Isagani Medina for his books “Cavite Before the Revolution” and “Paghihimagsik nang 1896-1897”, the tour when we signed up to join it was really then something to look forward to for two reasons: firstly, I did not know the itinerary of places to visit simply because I did not bother reading the details on the poster when shared to me by my niece. Secondly, I have a plan to work on an AVP on Aguinaldo’s House — a long time desire that keeps on haunting me for reason[s] I do not know why, so better do it to appease my heart. In short, I wanted to refresh my mind on some of the house details in preparation for my shot list.

Overall, we had great fun, and the objective of the organizers to inform and for people to be appreciative of the past I think were met. We are truly appreciative and grateful for having met friendly, excited, and knowledgeable tour guides. Introducing: The Magnificent Four!!!

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Most unexpectedly, we were invited for lunch in the joint birthday celebrations of Gina Ayran and Lei Aldea, one of the tour guides. Gina is the ever-awesome Aguinaldo Shrine overseer na hindi na Others to me and my brother, Gani.

Libre na tour, libre pa merienda and lunch, what a day! The culminating day of the project according to them. The fun ended with a group photo of the privileged lot like us [hehehe] with the members of the sponsoring groups Cavite El Viejo Heritage Tourism Association [CVHTA] and the NHCP Aguinaldo Shrine.

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With high hopes that through efforts like this, interest in cultural heritage, and nationalism rekindle in the hearts of many Filipinos!!!

Again, thanks to the sponsors:  CVHTA, NHCP, Fundacion Santiago and the Municipality of Kawit. [Photo credits: Mirana and Mon Llave]

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