When one hears Cavite, one thinks of heroes. Truly, the mark that the Cavite province had left during the Spanish era revolution is enough to last several lifetimes. Among all the well-known Spanish-period Caviteños, and perhaps one of the most-well known revolutionaries in the Philippines, is the country’s first president – Emilio Aguinaldo.
Emilio Aguinaldo lived to a grand old age of ninety-four, merely a couple of months short of reaching ninety-five. In 1962, two years before he died, he donated his home to the Philippine government. That home is what we know today as the Aguinaldo Shrine.
Located in Kawit, Cavite, the Aguinaldo Shrine is one of the Philippines’ national shrines. It was from a window in this house that the declaration of the Philippine Independence was read. On that same day, June 12 1898, and in that same window, the Philippine flag was first formally waved while the national anthem was being played. It’s a common misconception that the independence was announced on the more recently added balcony at the top façade of the house.
The Aguinaldo shrine holds many secret passages which were actively used during the time of the revolution. However, it wasn’t always like that. Emilio Aguinaldo’s ancestral home came from humble beginnings – the structure built on 1845 was made of thatch and wood. It was reconstructed twice, once on 1849 and another on 1920. The first president was born there, May 22, 1869.
The most visible part of the structure is the triangular section with a tower topped by a spire. The climb to the highest floor constitutes climbing a whopping five flights of stairs plus a ladder. Aguinaldo was said to have a predilection for this tower at the top. The ground floor which used to be un-walled according to the architectural preferences during that time now houses a museum.
Aguinaldo’s bedroom, the grand hall, the conference hall, the kitchen and the dining area and a veranda are all located at the second floor of the house. There is also a bas relief map of the Philippines on the ceiling of the dining room with Cavite being painted red. The third floor has a library featuring a balcony overlooking the grand hall. There is also a corridor on this floor which gives access to the mansion’s eastern wing where the Aguinaldo daughters and their families lived.
The fourth floor is the Ambassador’s Room which was once used by the General’s son-in-law, Ambassador Jose Melencio, as a study. On the fifth floor is Aguinaldo’s other bedroom. It was said that this was where he spent his last years. It has a brass bed and a huge desk. The tiled terrace on this floor provides a view of Manila Bay as well as Cavite’s shores.
It only takes less than two hours to get from Manila to the historic province of Cavite. So if ever you get the urge to take a trip across time, you might want to try one of the most importance places in this country’s history; Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite.