Aguinaldo Shrine: Cradle of National Liberty

Wouldn’t it be nice if we can take a step back into time and revel in the glorious days of the Philippines? That time when every Filipino is filled with so much love for his country that he would risk everything, even his own life, for this thing called independence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we can transport back to that day and bear witness when the Philippines was declared an independent republic?

Whoever said this was an impossible feat without resorting to a time-traveling machine has never been outside his cocoon of a city. For an hour’s drive away from Manila lies the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite — the cradle of Philippine Independence.


Located 35 kilometers southwest of Manila, this national shrine serves as the ancestral home of Emilio Aguinaldo, who was proclaimed as the first ever president of the first Republic of the Philippines. The Aguinaldo Shrine holds a special place in the consciousness of every Filipino as this is where our country was proclaimed independent from the clutches of Spain on the twelfth of June 1898. Home to many of our country’s historical firsts, records say this is where the Philippine flag was first waved (though some may say and argue that our flag was first raised during a battle in May 1898), the proclamation of Philippine independence was first read (though it was replaced by a more official declaration signed in Malolos, Bulacan), and the Philippine National Anthem was first played and communally sung.


For history buffs and fanatics out there, it is indeed surreal to be at the place one only used to read in books. At the ground floor of the mansion, numerous bric-a-bracs of Pres. Aguinaldo are housed. One of the highlights in this museum is Pres. Aguinaldo’s 1924 Limousine, restored to its original shape and function by the Philippine Motor Association and Vintage Car Club of the Philippines.


Located on the second floor are President Aguinaldo’s bedroom, the kitchen and dining area, a grand hall, a conference room and an azotea. Another flight of stairs lead to the mezzanine library, and another up to the Ambassador Room, which was once occupied by the President’s son-in-law, the late Ambassador Melencio. Further up is another of the President’s bedroom, the one where he stayed during his last days. Here, one has the most magnificent view of the Cavite shoreline and Manila Bay. The last flight of narrower stairs leads to the topmost part of the house, the tower, believed to be the late President’s favorite spot.


But more than just a historical refuge, the Aguinaldo mansion is also an architectural wonder.


Priceless interiors adorn the entire house, from four poster beds made of Philippine hardwood to other imported furniture from all over Europe and Asia. Surprisingly, some of the items here not only serve as decor, but holds other purpose as well. Several chairs and tables here have secret compartments; one is likely to think these may have served a great deal of importance in our history as these conceal important documents from the notorious conquistadores.


Apart from the hidden compartments in the furniture, the house itself holds several secret passages scattered throughout. One such passage opens up from President Aguinaldo’s second floor bedroom leading to the main stairs landing, concealed by a series of bookshelves. Another passage leads to the air raid shelter below the ground floor, hidden by a thick piece of wood which served as their kitchen dining table.


These improvisations of the Filipino homes during this revolutionary period were clear proofs that us Filipinos really mean business when it comes to our rallying for independence.


One of the main highlights of the entire shrine is the grand hall, which has been a silent witness to discussions and ploys, so to speak, of our revolutionary forefathers. At the end of this room is the historical window (which was later adjuncted with a balcony by Pres. Aguinaldo for aesthetic purposes), where the independence of the Philippines was first made known to the world. The ceiling of this room was not left untouched; the famous Inang Pilipinas was painted here to symbolize the bravery of the Filipinos in fighting for their freedom.


The whole site was made a national shrine a year after President Emilio Aguinaldo died in 1963, whose tomb could be seen behind the mansion.


The Aguinaldo Shrine is open daily (except Mondays) from 8 am to 12 noon and from 1 pm to 5 pm. Note however that guests are required to remove their hats as a sign of respect.


Also worth mentioning is that every twelfth of June, a grand celebration is being held at the Aguinaldo Shrine grounds, often with a re-enactment of that day our country was made independent.


And as mentioned, one needs not to use a time-traveling machine to get there. There are Saulog and Saint Anthony aircon buses that leave every few minutes from the Lawton bus terminal up to Kawit. Or you may also opt to take one of the colorful ordinary buses running from Baclaran to Cavite City. Otherwise, you can choose to travel by water if you prefer a traffic-free ride, on-board a Marilag Transport Systems boat that ply the CCP Complex – Cavite Harbour route. Boats leave every 15 minutes from 6 am to 6 pm, weekdays. Saturdays have hourly services from 7 am to 5 pm, while Sundays only has two ferries at 9:15 am and 5 pm.

It does make wonders to take a step back, look into your roots and appreciate the marvelous things that have been here in our country all along. For our country — and every Filipino for that matter — would not be what it is today had it not been for the heroes of our past.