What do you do if you plan to watch more than 50 marching bands on parade?
Well, you prepare for it. You come in your most comfortable walking shoes, you bring lots of water and you arm yourself with a good camera with large memory. It’s not every day that you get to see these bands come in their best costumes, in their unique choreographies and in their finest musical performances. And it’s not every day that you see them in your own hometown.
I grew up in a farm in a small town. That was the time when all places outside Manila were still provincial. When I was young, the only “live” performances that I was able to watch were the marching bands. I watched them during fiestas, during religious processions, during Santacruzan, and even during funeral processions.
But the town I grew up is no longer “small.” It is now a bustling city of over 600,000 people. This is now the city of Bacoor that has become one of the highly urbanized cities in the Philippines.
As a gateway to Metro Manila, its growth was inevitable. Since its founding on September 28, 1671, Bacoor has always played the role of the bridge between the capitol and the rest of the Southern Tagalog area.
In 1872, the execution of its parish priest, Father Mariano Gomez, together with Fathers Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, had a profound effect on Filipino revolutionary leaders to fight injustices committed against the people by the Spanish government.
In 1896, the town of Bacoor was one of the first towns in Cavite to rise up against Spain with the creation of a Katipunan chapter called “Gargano.”
In 1897, the Katipuneros battled Spanish reinforcements in Zapote River to prevent them from entering the province of Cavite. They blew up the Zapote Bridge with explosives, killing many Spanish soldiers crossing it.
In 1898, a month after the declaration of Philippine Independence in Kawit, the town of Bacoor was made the capital of the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo before it was transferred to Malolos, Bulacan. Malolos is also now a city.
Bacoor had already established its place in history. Every end of September, it celebrates it founding day. In 2012, it began recognizing the importance of keeping the heritage of the marching bands, which were already around when Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence in Kawit and when the victory of the Battle of Zapote was celebrated. The town’s two most popular marching bands were probably named after the historic events in the town’s history: Banda 96 for the 1896 Revolution and Banda Anak Zapote for the Battle of Zapote Bridge. To pay homage to the marching bands, Bacoor started the Musiko Festival where marching bands from all over the Philippines perform in a friendly competition.
How to get there
The city of Bacoor is very accessible. From Manila, it’s only less than 15 kilometers south. It is connected to the country’s capital via Cavitex. On weekends, driving thru this expressway from Manila to Bacoor takes less than 30 minutes.
From the southeast, the city can be accessed from SLEX via MCX. The exit to MCX is the Daanghari road that intersects with the national road in Molino. From the intersection, drive about a kilometer to the intersection that connects to Molino Boulevard. The new city center is located at the boulevard.
What to see, what to do
The city’s grandest festival is the Musiko Festival, held on the last weekend of September. This is the grand parade of marching bands from all over the Philippines. The city holds annual competition for drum drills and drum lines, and of course the prettiest band majorettes are sure to each lead a marching band.
Those interested in history can visit the ruins of the old Zapote Bridge that have been made into a park; the Bahay na Tisa or the Cuenca Mansion in Poblacion that was the home of the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo after Philippine Independence was declared in Kawit in 1898; and the Father Mariano Gomez Plaza in Poblacion in honor of the martyrdom of Father Gomez.
The San Miguel Archangel Church in Poblacion that was initially constructed from bamboo and nipa in 1669 is also worth a visit. The structure at present is made from adobe and tegula. It was built during the time of Father Mariano Gomez from 1824 to 1872.
A new city attraction is the two-hectare Bacoor Government Center where all government offices are located. The main attraction is the newly-completed City Hall in concrete, steel and glass that symbolizes Bacoor’s transition into a modern city. In front of the City Hall is a steel monument of a modern Filipino family designed and created by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo before he passed away in 2016. Castrillo also did another sculpture in 1997 for the centennial of the Battle of Zapote Bridge.
Where to stay, what to eat
People usually go to Bacoor on a day trip.
For dining experience, the city has many several signature restaurants. The Kainan sa Balsa in Banalo serves home-cooked Caviteno seafood dishes. But to get the freshest shellfish, the only place to go is the shellfish market in Sineguelasan. Here, mussels and oysters from the shellfish farms of Bacoor Bay are sold fresh every day.
Another market worth visiting is the Zapote Public Market, which has become the commercial center of the whole Cavite. This market is the best place to get fresh fruits and vegetable from the uplands.
There’s one refreshment that has become very popular in Bacoor–the Digman halo-halo. This halo-halo, which is available at Barangay Digman, is made up of 12 home-cooked sweets like ube, leche flan, macapuno and langka. It’s the perfect refreshment to end a day of watching more than 50 marching bands!