These words by the Dalai Lama should be taken to heart: “Once a year, go someplace, you’ve never been before.” This simple quote can get you up to exploring new surroundings. It is a pleasure to discover your own country, with its many provinces that are full of culture, and so is learning about your own history with pride. Appreciation of one’s history and culture creates lasting memories that will enrich your life.
Think of traveling as a field trip with an educational tour and enjoyable treat for grownups—and bring your kids with you, too, to start them young. We walk down memory lane and are in the moment when we visit historical places in Cavite, which is a mere two hours’ drive from Metro Manila. You don’t even have to cross the country’s sealanes to get here.
Cavite is a place where people can walk through history. It is an exquisite treasure, this historic locale of the Philippine Revolution. It is the birthplace of Philippine Independence. If that isn’t enough reason to go there, I don’t know what is.
The Tagalog word “Cavite” was derived from the word “kawit” or hook. If you look at the old Spanish maps of the Philippines, the province of Cavite is a hook-shaped outrcropping of land. Located in the Calabarzon region, it is the second smallest province on the Southern shores of Manila Bay on Luzon island, the head of the archipelago known as the Philippines.
We will explore the historical sites and landmarks in the Province of Cavite—a leisure farm, one of the oldest churches the province, the place where the original halo-halo was created, and a national shrine.
VILLAGE SIPAG URBAN FARM SCHOOL
Our first stop is Villar Sipag Urban Farm School in Barangay San Nicholas-1 in the town of Bacoor. This school was inaugurated on Sept. 15, 2015 as part of a vast project envisioned and developed by Senator Cynthia Aguilar Villar.
The farm school has ample space for is co-ed student body of all ages. This is where they engage in hands-on activities as they learn to plant and care for fruiting and vegetable-bearing trees and plants that are considered high-value crops.
The Harbest Agribusiness conducts the training at the Villar Sipag Urban Farm School, and Harbest is a partner of the SM Foundation in its “Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan” farmers’ training program.
ST. MICHAEL, THE ARCHANGEL PARISH CHURCH
Our next stop is the St. Michael, the Archangel Parish Church in Bacoor City, which was established in 1669.
This church was originally built with bamboos, straw and nipa leaves. Thousands of duck egg whites were mixed with mortar to bond enormous adobe bricks together for its walls. Renovations of the church’s structure have since been crafted with adobe and tegula.
The St. Michael Parish church is known as the oldest church in Cavite. The parish church was created as a separate parish from Kawit, Cavite’s diocese on January 18, 1792.
The Original Digman Halo Halo and Homemade Siopao
Walk a few meters from St. Michael and you will discover the history of the sangdosenang sarap (a dozen delights) of the Original Digman Halo Halo and Homemade Siapao. It is located at 82 Rumilo St., Digman City of Bacoor, Cavite. Foodies, this is your stop.
Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert and its name translated directly as “mix-mix” or “mix together.” It has several ingredients: Sweet beans, seasonal fruit, evaporated milk and shaved ice. Halo-halo is the dessert of choice during the hot summer days.
The humble beginnings of this dessert so beloved by our country go back to the 1930s or World War II—the founder’s grandchildren now handing the business cannot recall exactly when. The original Digman halo-halo inventor, Raymunda Ugalde-Toledo put together the 12 ingredients to create the halo-halo we know and love. Her family prepares all of the ingredients for this cool dessert, churning them out non-stop, including the labor-intensive halayang ube (purple yam jam) and minatamis na langka (jackfruit in simple syrup).
According to her grandchildren, Aling Raymunda was so meticulous about providing only the best quality ingredients for her halo-halo. This historical original Digman halo halo came to fame in the 1970s and was sold then for 50 centavos.
After many years, the grandchildren, Donita Gozales-Manumbas, Edilberto “Kuya Boy” Gonzales and his wife Minda, run the halo-halo business. They have even have a patent for the dessert.
You will see Kuya Boy creating the tiny portions of the 12 ingredients for the halo-halo: red and green gulaman (gelatin), minatamis na saging na saba (saba plantain cooked in simple syrup), white beans cooked in sweet syrup, halayang ube, sweet cooked garbanzos (chickpeas), langka, red mung beans, macapuno (sweet coconut preserves), sago (tapioca), nata de coco (coconut gel), kaong (palm tree fruit), pinipig (rice crisps), leche flan (milk flan), evaporated milk and ice cream put together in a tall ice cream soda glass.
He creates halo-halo daily as both an art form and a science. The regular halo-halo costs P75, without the ice cream. The special halo-halo is priced at P85 and comes with a scoop of ice cream. This is the perfect dessert for a thirsty wanderer seeking relief from a hot day touring Cavite, and it is so good.
Some customers say they’ve been going to the Original Digman Halo Halo and Homemade Siopao for decades, probably since in their high school days. They are now middle aged or senior citizens, and this level of customer retention for mom and pop businesses like the Gonzales family’s is rare. Kuya Boy humbly says “matagal na ang Original Digman Halo Halo. Maraming salamat sa pagdayo at pagtangkilik sa aming special halo-halo (the Original Digman Halo Halo has been around for a long time. Thank you very, very much for coming to us time and again for our special halo-halo).”
EMILIO AGUINALDO SHRINE
The historical landmark to visit when in Cavite is the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, the house where our history as a sovereign nation was built. This mansion in Kawit, Cavite was declared a national shrine in June 1964, and it is the house of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. This national shrine is the site of the historic Proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898 and the first constitutional republic in Asia. It was at one of the picture windows of this house that Aguinaldo first bore aloft the Philippine flag that now flies free in sovereign skies.
Whether you love or hate Aguinaldo, you cannot deny the pivotal role he, and his home, played in the revolution our people waged to win freedom from the colonial rule of Spain. That proud moment is enshrined in this house and every Filipino should pay this shrine a visit at least once in their lives.
Admission into the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine is free. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please take note that photography for personal use is welcome. However, if you’re snapping shots for commercial purposes, you must inform the museum management via (046) 484 7643 or by sending an email to email@example.com before you start snapping that camera in the shrine and on its grounds.
The mansion was built in 1845, from wood and thatch. This structure was built with secret passages worthy of a murder mystery novel, and it boasts of hidden compartments and camouflaged shelves. Even with all the comfort and sanctity a Filipino home of this stature boasted of at the turn of the 20th century, the mansion still bears the hallmarks of the revolutionary fervor that pervaded the times. It was reconstructed and renovated in 1849, and again in the early 1920s.
Cavite became one of the bloodiest sites of the war for independence from Spanish colonial rule. When the revolution against Spain broke out on Aug. 28, 1896, Aguinaldo conducted daring raids on Spanish headquarters and its garrison in the province. His daring as a soldier and cunning as a military tactician led to the liberation of Cavite from beneath the Spanish boot.
Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy was born on March 22, 1869. He was first and foremost a soldier. He was at the frontlines of many battles, and he was the commanding general of the revolution, leading it to what would have been a successful conclusion had Spain not sold the Philippines to the United States, along with Cuba and Puerto Rico, under the Treaty of Paris. He contributed blood and heroic effort to the birth of the First Philippine Republic.
Aguinaldo is often called the first, and youngest at 29, President of the Philippines. Immediately after driving the Spaniards out with the Katipunan, Aguinaldo had to turn right around and go to war against the United States in pursuit of Filipino sovereignty. He didn’t win this battle, unfortunately. From February to November of 1899, Aguinaldo mounted ill-fated attempts to fight a conventional war against the better-trained and-equipped Americans.
So he and the Filipinos shifted to guerrilla warfare from November of 1899 until Aguinaldo was captured in 1901. The uprisings continued into early 1902, but, by then most of the organized Filipino resistance had fizzled out. US President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed a general amnesty and declared the conflict over on July 4, 1902, despite minor insurrections against American rule still took place in the years after that declaration.
When the Philippines finally attained independence under a commonwealth government, Aguinaldo ran for president against his former Katipunan lieutenant, Manuel L. Quezon, who beat him in the presidential race. Aguinaldo was accused of having had Katipunan Supremo and founder Andres Bonifacio and Bonifacio’s brother, Procopio, murdered. He was also accused of having ordered the murder of the Katipunan’s best tactician, Gen. Antonio Luna, killed in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. Letters written in Aguinaldo’s hand, in which he said he’d had the Bonifacio brothers executed, were recently sold to a private collector in Manila.
Aguinaldo died of coronary thrombosis at the age of 94 on Feb. 6, 1964.
A year before Aguinaldo passed away, he’d donated his house and part of the grounds to the Philippine Government. This was last grand act of the man who played a crucial, if flawed, role in birth of the Republic of the Philippines.
According to the Site of the Proclamation of the Philippine Independence found at the gates of the shrine: “Through the reading of the Acta de la Proclamacion de la Independencia del Pueblo Filipino by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista. During this occasion, the Philippine flag made in Hongkong by Dona Marcela Marino de Agoncillo was officially unfurled as the band of San Francisco de Malabon proudly played the Marcha Nacional Filipina (now the Philippine National Anthem) composed by Julian Felipe.”
Caviteños celebrate their Foundation Day on March 10. They also celebrate Aguinaldo’s on March 22, a commemoration of the birth of the First President of the Republic. June 12, Philippine Independence Day, is a big thing in Kawit: There is a re-enactment of the proclamation of Philippine Independence at the Aguinaldo mansion, and the waving of the flag.
Caviteños are justifiably proud of their heritage and, despite this immense pride, they are warm, friendly people who have the patience and skills to share the many things of historic and cultural value that Cavite has to offer. They, and their home province, are a constant reminder of our country’s troubled and glorious past, sharing the stories of their ancestors’ noble cause. This is a place where the spirit of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 is alive and presented with the indefatigable Philippine smile.