Trails of Freedom: Celebrate Philippine Independence At These Historic Sites
Before flying out to foreign lands, get to know our own historic sites and relive our revolutionary spirit! Here’s where to begin
Independence Day is arguably the most opportune time to visit or revisit the historic spots which figured in the country’s libertarian struggle which ended 333 years of Spanish rule, and consummated with the birth of first democratic republic in Asia.
With good road networks and nearby recreational and leisure sites, here are some of the must-see destinations where history and leisure come together.
The center of June 12 celebrations with the iconic Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit where independence was proclaimed, this province is a hallowed battleground between freedom fighters and Spanish colonizers. Noteworthy battlegrounds worth visiting are the Battle of Binakayan Site in Kawit, one of the most decisive victory of the Filipinos, and the Battle of Alapan Site in Imus where the newly-sewn national flag was first unfurled.
Retrace the last days of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio, starting from the Casa Hacienda de Tejeros in Rosario where the controversial Tejeros Convention was held in 1897, the Bonifacio Shrine in Indang where he was wounded and captured by Aguinaldo’s men, the Reyes house in Maragondon where he and his brother Procopio were sentenced to death, and the nearby Assumption of Our Lady Church where the siblings were imprisoned before their execution at Mt. Buntis.
An equally historic spot is Barasoain Church, where the Malolos Congress framed the first Philippine Constitution and inaugurated the Republic four months later. These glorious events are chronicled at the Church’s convent’s light and sound museum. At the heart of Malolos is the Kamestizuhan district where Spanish-era ancestral homes, many of which became temporary offices of the newly-formed government.
The province also takes pride of the revolutionary republics of Kakarong in Pandi and Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel, both established in 1897. The latter was founded at a secluded forest and cave which served as the headquarters of Gen. Aguinaldo’s forces. San Miguel town proper is a heritage village with many of the preserved mansions which bore witness to the Biak-na-Bato Republic and the signing of the peace pact with the Spaniards.
Other less heralded sites are the Marcelo del Pilar Shrine in Bulakan and the San Rafael Church which was the site of a bloody battle where hundreds of Filipinos were killed.
This colonial-era township includes the mansions-turned-museums of patriots and ilustrados Marcela and Felipe Agoncillo, Leon Apacible, Gliceria Marella Villavicencio, and Gregorio Agoncillo, who supported the revolution.
In the heart of the town is the massive Basilica of San Martin de Tours, Galleria Taal or the Ilagan-Barrion Ancestral House, Villa Tortuga where guests can dress up in period costumes, and rows of ancestral homes of Filipino nationalists. At the fringes is the Our Lady of Caysasay Church, and the adjacent spring wells which are believed to be miraculous.
Sta. Barbara, Iloilo
This quiet southern town is a mute witness of the intriguing story of how the Philippine flag was smuggled through Spanish checkpoints and raised for the first time outside Luzon in November 1898. Within the public plaza is the Santa Barbara Church, the Centennial Museum, a 100-foot flagpole symbolizing the country’s 100 years of freedom, and the monument of local revolutionary leader Gen. Martin Delgado.
In the latter part of 1898, locals wrestled control of the island province when thousands of freedom fighters equipped with fake rifles and cannons encircled Spanish forces at the Bacolod Cathedral and forced them to surrender. This feat is immortalized at the Balay ni Tan Juan in Bago City, the residence of Gen. Juan Araneta who led the historic event.
Travel back in time in Silay City, the province’s heritage village, which has a number of well-preserved ancestral houses of the Negrense elite who helped the libertarian cause.
Long before it came splashing as a Pacific surfing haven, this town’s parish church was the last stronghold of Spanish soldiers who were besieged by the Filipinos and only surrendered after almost a year in 1899. An American expeditionary force tried to rescue the Spaniards, but was waylaid and its personnel either killed or captured. This earned Baler the distinction of being the only place to defeat both military superpowers at that time.
Walk through Museo de Baler and the town’s heritage lane for an overview of the town’s checkered history, which immortalizes these two important military victories. The area is also an open museum on the life and times of former Commonwealth president Manuel Quezon and his wife, Doña Aurora Aragon, whom the province was named after.
Photos by Bernard Supetran.