…there’s no place like [an ancestral] home.
Still on a Virtual History Trail
I don’t know where the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was actually signed, but negotiations took three months (September-December 1897) with negotiator Pedro A. Paterno shuttling back and forth between Manila and San Miguel de Mayumo (Bulacan) near the caves of Biak-na-Bató where Aguinaldo’s forces awaited.
San Miguel has fabulous ancestral houses, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the best woods, spacious with high high ceilings.
In 1897, Emilio Aguinaldo stayed in the well preserved and maintained mansion of the Tecson family where a suite of bedroom furniture used by Emilio Aguinaldo is still in place, notably a four-poster bed that might have been the masterpiece of a platoon of carvers working for months. A Sempio family (relatives of Gen. Gregorio del Pilar) heirloom is the processional tableaux of the Last Supper. In between Good Friday processions, Christ and the 12 apostles sit around a grand dining table, all in pambahay attire. The treasure of another house (I forget which) was a jar containing soil scooped up from where Rizal fell dead.
The town’s largest, the magnificent three-story Sevilla house, was a fabulous beauty. The house had a magnificently carved staircase, floors and walls of balayong, molave, and narra, elaborate decorative flourishes, etc. etc. Unfortunately it was completely empty and parts were off limits, being held up only by inertia. It seemed that posts had been eaten up by termites and a misstep could send the whole place crashing down.
Its entire top floor used to be a ballroom where Bulacan’s elite gathered for the Samahang Selya Annual Ball. It is reportedly a “magdusa ka” type of house, built by a poor son-in-law who eventually became rich enough to build a house that outshone his mata-pobre of a suegro.
Back to our history trail. With signing of a peace pact, Aguinaldo and the revolutionary leadership left for exile in Hong Kong. They had barely settled down when Spain lost the Battle of Manila Bay. Aguinaldo quickly returned to Manila and on June 12, 1898 proclaimed Philippine independence.
The Emilio Aguinaldo shrine in Kawit is center to Independence Day celebrations, featuring a reenactment of the raising of the Filipino flag. The relatively small 1898 home was small. It was enlarged in later years, including a tower that kept rising in pace with a present mansion that has large and impressively furnished reception rooms. It has secret passages, a bowling alley, and an escape tunnel. The private family wing is fully furnished with family heirlooms but the structure is not the original modest Aguinaldo home of the 1890s. It was enlarged during the pre-war years, including a tower that kept pace with an ancient sampaloc tree, where supposedly a friendly tikbalang lived.
Baldomero Aguinaldo, cousin of President Emilio, was head of the Kawit Chapter of the Katipunan and president of the KKK Magdalo Council. He fought during the wars against Spain and the US and served at various times as secretary of the treasury, of war, and of public works during the short lived Biak-na-Bato and Malolos Republics.
The 1906 home of Baldomero Aguinaldo in Binakayan, a barrio of Kawit, was donated to the government by General Badomero’s grandson, former Prime Minister Cesar E.A. Virata. Partly ruined—the sala had collapsed—when I first saw it, the Intramuros Administration faithfully restored the home. The house is now a historical shrine maintained by the Kawit LGU as a library and museum. Painted in blue and white, it is a beautiful example of an early 20th-century well-to-do provincial home. The sala, dining room, two bedrooms, and kitchen are on the upper floor, looking as it was when the family was still in residence, with heirloom furniture and furnishings also donated by the family.
Philippine independence was recognized neither by the US nor Spain and the Aguinaldo government was ignored in the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish-American War. US troops occupied Manila and Malolos (Bulacan) became the Philippines’ capital. Malolos church became the presidential palace and Barasoain church, Congress’ session hall. Various large homes on or near the Malolos plaza were commandeered as ministry offices.
(to be continued)
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