Santa Maria Magdalena Church in Kawit

The town of Kawit in Cavite comes alive with nationalistic fervor as Filipinos celebrate that shining moment when General Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

Kawit in 1898 was a fishing and farming town near the coast of Manila Bay. It was known as Cavite el Viejo to distinguish it from Cavite el Puerto or the present-day Cavite City. Structures at the time were plain and simple as compared with the imposing church where General Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized in 1869.

From the Emilio Aguinaldo House we walked to Kawit Church whose bell tower we saw from the mirador. The bell tower is topped by a wind vane that has a letter o for oeste instead of w for west. This indicates that the church dates back to the Spanish colonial period.

The Jesuits first administered the mission of Kawit in 1624. First built in wood in 1638, it was placed under the patronage of Santa Maria Magdalena. The present church building is dated 1737. In 1786, the church was transferred to the secular clergy and then to the Recollects in 1894.

The bombardment of Kawit from the Spanish fort in Cavite sustained major damage to the church. Extensive restoration was implemented 1990 following the traditional look and feel of Spanish baroque churches.

The interior is consistent with the exterior. There are three baroque retablos which are dated to the 18th century. Occupying a place of honor on main altar is the richly attired image of the patroness of Kawit -Santa Maria Magdalena.

Maria Magdalena is often mistake for Maria the sister of Martha who lived in Bethany. Bible scholars supposed that Mary was the sinner who lived in the village of Magdala but asked the Lord for forgiveness. She was called Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene, the first person who saw Christ after He rose from the dead.

On one side of the church, encased in a glass cabinet we found a relic of Mary Magdalene. The third class relic is a piece of linen believed to have been used for or touched a first class relic which is a tibia of the saint.

When Emilio Aguinaldo was inducted into the Katipunan, he chose the codename Magdalo after Mary Magdalene. Magdalo was the also the name given to the Katipunan chapter exclusive for Kawit. The first president of the Magdalo Council was Emilio’s cousin whose house in Barangay Binakayan was also converted into a national shrine – the Baldomero Aguinaldo House.

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  1. ​Relics are objects related to Saints. There are three categories of relics
    1st Class Items directly associated with the events of Christ’s life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, a limb, etc.). Traditionally, a martyr’s relics are often more prized than the relics of other saints. Also, some saints relics are known for their extraordinary incorruptibility and so would have high regard. It is important to note that parts of the saint that were significant to that saint’s life are more prized relics. For instance, King St. Stephen of Hungary’s right forearm is especially important because of his status as a ruler. A famous theologian’s head may be his most important relic.
    2nd Class item that the saint wore (a sock, a shirt, a glove, etc.) Also included is an item that the saint owned or frequently used, for example, a crucifix, book etc. Again, an item more important in the saint’s life is thus a more important relic.
    3rd Class Anything which has touched a first or second class relic of a saint.In order to prevent abuses, Catholic Church law (Canon Law) forbids the sale of Relics (Can. 1190 §1). Catholics venerate relics in the same way as they venerate images, statues, and saints. This is often confused for idol worship, but veneration is actually the act of giving respect, rather than the act of worshipping which is forbidden. By canon law there must be a relic in the altar stone of any altar in a Catholic Church upon which Mass is to be offered.


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