Cavite’s road to freedom (& food)

In the ‘80s, when you see a young man in Plaza Lawton wearing low-waist Levi’s 501, white Hanes t-shirt and a red bandana, you would easily recognize him as a Caviteño. 

It was the era of blue seals and PX goods. They had a certain swagger indicative of a Caviteño, from a proud breed conscious of their province’s role in the Philippine Revolution.

Naturally, when my travel buddy, Joseph, a true blue Caviteño, and I organized a tour, our first stop was the Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum. 

As a student on a field trip, I remember the bowling alley inside the Aguinaldo Mansion but as an adult, I came to realize its historical significance. This was where our independence from Spain was declared on June 12, 1898. The first president of the Philippine Republic, Emilio Aguinaldo, was born in this house in 1869.

Aguinaldo Shrine

This house was constructed in 1845 and renovated in the 1920s. It was donated to the Filipino people in 1963, the year before Aguinaldo’s death. 

Aguinaldo Shrine

The first floor shows Cavite’s role in the Philippine Revolution. Also on the ground floor is the opening of a tunnel which leads to the Kawit Church. This tunnel, in turns out, is not “chismis” as confirmed by a knowledgeable guide. On the second floor is the living space with antique furniture and more secret passages and hiding places for documents and weapons. Both floors have trained guides who will answer your questions.

Baldomero Aguinaldo Museum

After our visit, the guides urged us to visit the Baldomero Aguinaldo Museum. Although seldom visited, the museum was well maintained. A short audio-visual presentation was shown before we went around the two floors of the house. Baldomero is the first cousin of Emilio and the grandfather of former prime minister Cesar Virata. With a law degree, he was assigned to several government positions including Minister of National Defense. 

Baldomero, together with Emilio and the brothers Candido and Daniel Tirona, established the Katipunan’s Magdalo Council. As a revolutionary general, he fought in several battles including the Battle of Alapan.

Battle of Alapan

After a 15-minute drive from the Imus town proper, we reached the Battle of Alapan Monument. The Battle of Alapan on May 28, 1898 was the first military victory of Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards. It was here where the Philippine flag was first raised. I had goosebumps imagining I was the one raising the Philippine flag in victory. In honor of this battle, Flag Day is celebrated on May 28. A 104-foot flagpole is set atop three large rocks where the Philippine flag is permanently hoisted and illuminated at night in accordance with the Flag and Heraldic Code. This site was declared by the National Historical Institute as a National Historical Landmark.

Kawit Church and Imus Cathedral

Aside from the historical sites, we also visited Kawit Church and the Imus Cathedral which were also part of history. Kawit Church, also known as St. Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit, was under the Jesuits until they were suppressed. 

A Manila Archbishop ordered the dedication of the Kawit Church to St. Mary Magdalene after the town turned into a red-light district due to the presence of Spanish Marines. It was in this church where Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized. 

An underground tunnel was built to connect the Aguinaldo house and the Kawit Church. Aguinaldo also got his inspiration from this church when he named his Katipunan council “Magdalo.” 

The other church is the Imus Cathedral, also known as the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of the Our Lady of the Pillar. It is the seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Imus which has jurisdiction over the entire Cavite. This church, which started as a chapel-of-ease (a church other than the parish church for parishioners who find it inconvenient to go to the parish church), was under the Recollects until it became secular in 1897. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, former Bishop of Imus and Archbishop of Manila, traces his paternal roots in Imus.

Pandayan of Bolos

A unique side trip in Kawit was a short visit to a pandayan. This can be reached through a narrow alley with a small “Pandayan” signage. It is believed that this pandayan produced bolos for the Katipunan. There are only a few remaining pandayans in Cavite. When we were there, the panday (blacksmith) was not around who, we were told, is old and sickly. The process of making the bolos was manual and the end product showed rough edges thereby appealing to its genuineness. 

I wasn’t prepared to buy a bolo with a “kaluban” (scabbard) so I settled for a “kambit” (small knife). I will definitely come back for the bolo with the hope that the pandayans do not vanish.

Cavite’s Delicious Goodies

What I was prepared to buy were Cavite’s delicious goodies. First in the list is bibingkoy, a rice cake filled with monggo beans cooked pugon-style. What differentiates it from the Batangas variety is the ginataan-like sauce made with coconut cream, jackfruit and sago. Cavite also has its own version of tamales with its mixture of peanuts, pork, chicken, garbanzos and hard-boiled eggs. We also bought salakot bread from Dizon’s Bakery which has been in existence since the 1930s. This is best paired with quesillo (kesong puti). There were other goodies such as Samala Rice Cakes but they were unavailable.

Food Galore

Since the tour was dubbed “Cavite Heritage and Food Tour,” for some participants, the highlight of the tour were the meals. Breakfast was at “Hidden Tapsihan.” It’s hidden in a narrow alley that only bikers know.

We had lunch at “Cantina de Tita A” in Cavite City. This is a private dining place which has been featured by television hosts and famous vloggers. 

It is such a special place that I would go to Cavite City just to eat at this place. Food preparation is based on “terno-terno” which means perfect pairing and “tono-tono” which means in tune. On our latest visit, we were served kare-kare paired with adobo seca with “kilawin sa papaya sa lapay” as a side dish. On our first visit, we had bacalaobopis chavacanoginataang tulingan. The common dish for both visits was pancit pusit which uses adobong pusit as base. It uses either green mangoes or kamias for its sour taste. What makes this dining experience memorable is the Chavacano hospitality of the hosts. It feels like dining with a long-lost aunt or uncle. This is home cooking at its best!

As if this was not enough, we had dinner at Big Ben’s Kitchen famous for its Imus longganisa which uses the freshest ingredients without any preservatives, additives or nitrates. On our way back to Manila, we indulged in a dessert Bacoor is known for – Digman halo-halo.

Thus, we end Cavite’s Road to Freedom and Food on a culinary note. Halo-haloterno-ternotono-tono, Cavite is a merry mixture of history, heritage, and food. All roads lead to Cavite!

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JP Ordoña (Manilakad) leads Manilakad Walks in Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo and more. In between, he writes, climbs, dives and more. Let him guide you to several walking destinations in Manila. Manilakad (JP Ordoña) can be reached on Facebook Messenger or through text at 0916-3597888.