The Philippine flag flying on poles mounted to street light post along major roads is now a common sight. This is to remind the people that in the coming weeks, Filipinos will be celebrating its independence from the 300 plus years of Spanish rule on June 12.
As a kick off for this important occasion, Traveler on Foot recounts his experience during a visit at the Aguinaldo Mansion in Cavite, the place where the monumental event that changed the course of our history as a nation took place some 110 years ago.
The Mansion turned National Shrine
Along the Camino Real, the royal highway connecting the Spanish naval headquarters in Cavite with the Philippine capital at Intramuros, Manila, stands the ancestral home of Emilio Aguinaldo. It was fashioned in 1849 as a usual two storey bahay-na-bato with thatch roofing, and sliding windows of capiz-shell panes.
This is in this house where Emilio Aguinaldo was born on 22nd of March 1869. It is in this same house 29 years later from the center of the living room window, Philippine Independence was proclaimed at about four o’clock in the afternoon on June 12, 1898. Elderly Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista read out the document before a jubilant crowd, with 29-year-old General Emilio Aguinaldo, revolutionary head of the government at his side.
During the American occupation, Aguinaldo reworked the house continuously. He incorporated symbols of the revolutionary period as architectural ornaments so that the Philippine Revolution would never be forgotten.
He also added a watchtower and carabao carried “Independence Balcony” that had become well-known features of the mansion. A family wing of bedroom for his children was also added.
The watchtower was said to be the favorite viewing spot of Aguinaldo. From its window, the skyline of Manila can be seen on a clear day. Below the tower a clapboard bedroom called the tower suite was the General’s favorite retreat during his later years.
On June 12, 1963, Aguinaldo donated the house to the Philippine Government, entrusting that it “to perpetuate the spirit of the Revolution of 1896… to conserve and vivify the nationalism that moved our country to rise in arms.” In the following year, the mansion was declared as a National Shrine.
The Revelation of Aguinaldo’s Inventive Mind
The ground floor known in old houses as the zaguan is where the bowling alley and air raid shelter are located. They are now joined by permanent exhibits and relics relating to Aguinaldo’s military and political exploits.
The house is a revelation of its owner’s inventive mind. Around the house are several concealed secret passages, exits and storage areas such as wooden dining table top in the kitchen that conceals a passage way to the air raid shelter built below the ground.
Some pieces of furniture were designed by the Aguinaldo himself. These unique furniture ranges from a simple armchair with leg rest to secret compartments intended for hiding documents or weapons.
The second floor living quarters is dedicated to the memory of the first Philippine President, Emilio Aguinaldo and his love affair with the country. Seen on the polished wooden parquet floors and hardwood pillars, and ornamented ceiling are recurring patterns of nationalistic symbols.
The General’s Final Resting Place
General Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy died on February 6, 1964, at the age of 94. He lived long enough to see his country attain the independence with a government based on democratic principles. His tomb lies on the grounds of his historic home facing the river.
The Aguinado Mansion presents a glimpse into the architectural interest of Aguinaldo, his dedication to the veterans of the revolution, and his commitment as a democratic leader and a Filipino.
Information source: Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, Visions of the Possible