I came from a family of Katipuneros and Revolucionarios. My province, Cavite, is known to be the land of the brave, and my ancestors in the Bautista-side of the family were known to have fought battles against the colonizers.
As a Caviteno, I always take pride that Philippine Independence from Spain was declared in my province, in the historic town of Kawit, in June 12, 1898.
Growing up, I often hear stories from my grandfather that many of his relatives were part of the crowd when General Emilio Aguinaldo raised the Philippine flag for the first time in Kawit while the San Francisco de Malabon Marching Band played for the first time the “Himno Nacional Filipino” composed by Julian Felipe.
It is just fitting that the town of Kawit would bookend the Spanish Colonization in the Philippines. Kawit was a thriving settlement already when the Spaniards first landed in the Philippines. It got its name from the shape of the old settlement in the form of a hook or “kawit” that extends to Manila Bay. Kawit or “Cavite el Viejjo” was once a big town that included Cavite City or “Cavite la Punta,” Imus and Noveleta or “Tierra Alta.”
Kawit is considered as the oldest municipality in Cavite having been founded in 1587. For a long time, the place was called as “Cavite el Viejo” or Old Cavite. When Spanish marines came to “Cavite la Punta” or Cavite City, they do their shore leaves in “Cavite el Viejo,” which soon became the town’s red light district. In order to counter the ill reputation of the town, it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Jesuits during the administration of Manila Archbishop Miguel Garcia Serrano (1618-1629). It is said that the selection of Saint Mary Magdalene as the patron saint of Cavite el Viejo was made deliberately to remind parishioners never to return to its dark past.
Today, Kawit is a progressive town of 80,000 residents. It is now made even closer with the opening of Cavitex that extends all the way to Binakayan, Kawit. It is a pleasant place to visit, not only because of its many historical attractions, but it allows visitors to enjoy the slow pace of life in this once thriving place south of Manila.
How to get there
Kawit is only 25 kilometers south of Manila. Those with private vehicles can drive south via Cavitex, exit at Binakayan and then take the right road to reach Kawit town proper. Driving time is about 30 minutes.
Those taking public transport can take any bus in Plaza Lawton (Manila), Buendia (Makati) or Coastal Mall (Pasay City) going to Cavite City or Tanza as they pass through the town of Kawit.
But for those who wish to experience riding in the old wooden “baby” buses, they have to get on a jeepney from Baclaran to Zapote, and from Zapote, hop on these colorful “baby” buses to Kawit.
What to see, what to do
Kawit’s main attraction is the Aguinaldo Shrine. This is the house of General Emilio Aguinaldo that was first built in 1845 from wood and thatch, and reconstructed in 1849. The General was born on this house on March 22, 1869. On the balcony of the Aguinaldo house is where the Philippine Independence was declared in June 12, 1898. The house is now converted into a museum. Fronting the shrine is the Aguinaldo Park, which was created for the Centennial celebration of 1998. The bronze statue of the General on a horseback set on a marble pedestal dominates the park.
A short distance from the shrine is the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. The first church was built from wood in 1638. The construction of the present church started in 1737. The church was fully restored in 1990. In 1995, the music video “Tell the World of His Love” produced for the World Youth Day was shot in the interior of this church.
When General Emilio Aguinaldo was inducted into Katipunan, he chose the codename Magdalo after Maria Magdalena. Magdalo became the official name of the Katipunan chapter in Kawit. The first president of the Magdalo Council was Emilio’s cousin Baldomero. The Baldomero Aguinaldo House can still be visited in Binakayan.
The town of Kawit also celebrates the Maytinis Festival on the eve of Christmas every year. It is the dramatic retelling of search by Virgin Mary and Joseph for a place to give birth to Baby Jesus. The re-enactment takes place on the streets of Kawit with different floats depicting biblical scenes from Adam and Eve, to Virgin Mary and Joseph.
Where to stay, what to eat
Kawit can be visited as a day trip from Manila. But for those who wish stay overnight, there are several hotels and resorts that offer a relaxing holiday in Kawit.
The 36-hectare Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park not only offer a relaxing stay but visitors can also try fishing, mini-golf, bowling, beach volleyball, paintball and even have some quality time with the animals at the petting zoo.
The popular Josephine Resort has undergone a major facelift. Now called Water Camp Resort, it offers a 20-room inn and four family villas, and four interconnected swimming activity pools. It has retained the old Josephine Restaurant that still offers famous Caviteno cuisine like Mutya ng Cavite and Bulalong Kabitenyo.
For those looking for a business hotel, there’s the Kartini Hotel located at the Centennial Road.
Kawit is also famous for its seafood. Fresh “tahong” or mussels and “talaba” or oysters are sold 24/7 along the Centennial Road for those who wish to take them home. The Caviteno way of eating them is just to steam and add grated green mangoes with salt and chili.
But there’s one food that the people of Kawit will ask visitors to swear in secrecy: this is the “tapa” of Hidden Tapsihan. This tender and juicy beef strips served with fried rice and eggs are available only from this small eatery located at the back of Saint Mary Magdalene church. The locals claim that this is the best Tapsilog in the Philippines. As to where it is exactly located and how much each serving costs are still well-guarded secrets that no true-blooded Katipunero will reveal.