With restrictions still in force in many places as we observe the Independence Day weekend, a practical travel idea is to visit the spots which figured in our stuggle for freedom. The Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite where this historic event unfolded will surely be teeming with day trippers, bikers, motorcycle riders, and visitors from the NCR Bubble Plus area and beyond.
But aside from this all-too-familiar landmark, you can also drive to other equally-significant locations to get a complete picture of our historic narrative.
Pit Stop 1: San Juan. In Metro Manila’s central portion is this small city known during the Spanish period as San Juan Del Monte. Its core and heritage zone is Pinaglabanan Shrine, where the Philippine Revolution’s first major battle broke out after Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan freedom fighters made the famous Cry of Balintawak a week earlier.
Scores of ill-prepared and ill-equipped Filipinos died during the bloody encounter on Aug. 30, 1896, but the defeat fanned the flames of a widespread uprising in the neighboring provinces.
The landscaped Shrine has a memorial monument to the fallen, a wall where the names of Katipuneros are inscribed, and two museums which chronicle the life of Bonifacio and the revolution, and movement. This sprawling open and green space is also a hub for local fitness, recreation and socio-civic activities.
San Juan also figured in another historic event in 1899 when the Filipino-American War broke out when a local soldier crossing the bridge was shot by a US Army rifleman manning a checkpoint. The city is also home to the historic churches of San Juan Bautista and the Santuario De Sto. Cristo, as well as ancestral homes which have survived the wars the country has gone through.
Pit Stop 2: Malolos, Bulacan. Another iconic spot is Barasoain Church, which formed part of the saga of the newly-born Philippine nation. Malolos Congress was convened here by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in September 1898 to ratify the Proclamation of Independence, frame a constitution, and to form a republic, the first of its kind in Asia.
The Malolos Constitution and the First Philippine Republic were eventually inaugurated on Jan. 23, 1899, a consummation of our libertarian struggles. These vital events are chronicled at an interactive museum in the adjoining convent.
The city also hosts the Kamestizuhan heritage district, whose ilustrado homes became the temporary offices of the Republic’s newly-organized Cabinet. Many of these are in still good shape and have become living museums, while others were repurposed as commercial establishments.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic diocese in Bulacan, became Aguinaldo’s presidential headquarters until the outbreak of the Filipino-American War.
Another prominent landmark is Casa Real Shrine, the colonial-era presidencia or municipal hall which later became the National Treasury and printing press of the revolutionary newspapers La Independencia and El Heraldo dela Revolucion.
Pit Stop 3: Angeles City. This urban center in Pampanga briefly became the capital of the First Philippine Republic when Aguinaldo moved his government here while evading the pursuing American forces. The city’s Pamintuan Mansion became another temporary headquarters, where the first anniversary celebration of Independence in 1899 was held, highlighted by the military parade of the Republic’s Army led by Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar and presided by the President himself.
Santo Rosario, the city’s old rich district, takes you back in time with its antiquarian structures, namely the Holy Rosary Church, Museo Ning Angeles, Bale Matua, and numerous ancestral houses turned into restaurants and shops. The more exciting aspect of the city’s heritage is its food, being part of country’s culinary capital with the famed sizzling sisig and a variety of Kapampangan, international and fusion cuisine.
Clark Freeport, the city’s twin territory and a former US air force base, is a business, tourism, and aviation enclave which has its own checkered history since it became an American cavalry camp in the early 1900s.
Pit Stop 4: Sta. Barbara (main photo). Down in the Visayas, the focus of the celebration is this quaint town in Iloilo where the Philippine flag was raised for the first time in the archipelago’s central part on Nov. 17, 1898.
Within the town square is the Santa Barbara Church and Convent, the Centennial Museum, a 100-foot flagpole, and the municipal plaza with the monument of revolutionary leader Gen. Martin Delgado. Adding spice to the story is the dramatic manner by which the flag was smuggled through a Spanish checkpoint, so it can be raised in front of the church.
After the historical encounter, golfers can hit the fairway at the 18-hole par 72 Iloilo Golf and Country Club, the oldest in Southeast Asia, which was established in 1907 by British engineers.
Pit Stop 5: Surigao City. Further down in Mindanao, triumphant freedom fighters hoisted the national tricolor at the Casa Real on Dec. 26, 1898 to end Spanish rule in the country’s southernmost island cluster. The first of its kind in Mindanao, the flag-raising gave the June 12 independence declaration a truly nationwide scope and character.
This underrated destination is known for its island adventures and mangrove forest, and is the jump-off point to Siargao Island and the Province of Dinagat Islands.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.