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Drive Thru History

Drive Thru History

Bernard Supetran

With August almost over, many heave a sigh of relief for the passing of the so-called “ghost month” and the advent of the “ber” months. But before it totally slips away, today, August 29 is a regular holiday to mark the often-ignored National Heroes Day which pays tribute to the freedom fighters of the 1896 Philippine Revolution.

A 1931 government decree, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo later re-assigned the last Monday of the month for the observance to spur the so-called “holiday economics” due to travel. And if you’re planning a leisure road trip, it makes patriotic sense to include historic sites which are the very reasons for this long weekend.

It’s time to Drive Thru History once more in the style of YouTube sensation Dave Stotts in these spots where heroes were made.

Pit Stop 1: San Juan. This compact city at the geographic center of Metro Manila is the Ground Zero of the Revolution where the first battle between the Andres Bonifacio-led “Katipons” (not Katipuneros) battled Spanish troops on Aug. 30, 1896.

Often glossed over beside the city hall is the Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine, whose centerpiece is a brass sculpture of the late eminent artist Eduardo Castrillo and a memorial wall where the names of Katipunan members are inscribed.

The sprawling tree-lined park is now a tourist attraction and a popular fitness ground because of its landscaped greeneries. On its side are the Museo El Deposito which features the Spanish-era waterworks system which the Filipinos tried to cut during the battle, and the Museo ng Katipunan which chronicles the evolution of the secret movement.

A few hundred meters away is the old site of the El Polvorin gunpowder depot which is the target of the attack on that fateful day, and the churches of St. John the Baptist and San Juan del Monte which figured in various historic events.

The lopsided battle resulted in hundreds of casualties on the Filipino side, but ignited the flames for a nationwide uprising which ended foreign rule 2 years later.


Pit Stop 2: Laguna. This southern neighbor used to be the default hideaway for urbanites in the 1980s because of its hot and cold spring resorts and the trek to Mt. Makiling.

This lakeshore province is also home to Rizal Shrine in Calamba City, a must-visit for educational field trips of elementary students, particularly for public schools. It is sad to note though, that a good number of adults haven’t set foot yet on the birthplace of the national hero and arguably, the hero’s hero.

Now a government-run museum, it is the reconstructed family house which was left to decay for decades, and somehow gives us an idea how the original home may have looked like.

The old población takes you on a time warp, very much unlike the city’s urbanized look. There’s the St. John Church where Rizal was baptized, the “Kalan Banga” or giant clay jar at the public plaza where Calamba is said to have gotten its name, American-era ancestral homes which have survived the ravages of time, and the Laguna Lake boardwalk where the young Pepe literally got his feet wet frolicking on the lakeshore.  

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Equally interesting is Los Banos, home of mystic Mt. Makiling which is sought-after by naturalists and mountaineers for its rich biodiversity. Other interesting spots in the province are Pila, a heritage town which is a favorite for movie and TV shoots for its Old World charm, and the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery which became a hideout of Filipino rebels.

A lesser-known historic spot is Magdalena Church whose convent still bears Emilio Jacinto’s bloodstains when he was seriously wounded in a clash nearby. 

Pit Stop 3: Cebu. One ofthe details downplayed on guided tours of this southern city is its vital place in the Revolution. Just a few hundred meters away from the famed Taboan dried goods market is Tres de Abril St. where the uprising broke out in Cebu province on April 3, 1898.

The Cebuano fighters led by Gen. Leon Kilat laid siege to the iconic Fort San Pedro for 3 days, encouraging similar uprisings in the other towns. Despite their initial success, they were driven out when sea-borne Spanish troop reinforcements arrived.

Kilat retreated southward to Carcar where he was killed by his men who connived with the colonizers. The ilustrado house where he was assassinated still stands and its lower floor is teeming with commercial shops. Now a component city, Carcar is luring tourists because of its well-preserved 19th-century stone houses, churches, and other historic structures.

Today, visiting Fort San Pedro has become more exciting to visit with the presence of La Liga Cebu historical reenactors who roam around the fortress in their period regalia and rendering pep talks on the Revolution’s forgotten chapter.