The Philippines is rich in history and culture in all kinds of places. As much as I like traveling to its scenic tourist spots, going to historical places always fascinates me because I would get to see all kinds of artifacts that were in that period, get to know the culture, and learn more about the places and the people that made a contribution in history. Filipinos built different landmarks to remember the sacrifices of national heroes and to exhibit the country’s heritage. The best lessons of the future might lie in the past, and exploring the stories and sites our history has to offer is a great way to learn and enjoy at the same time. Last Sunday, November 22, 2015, our class went to take a look at some of the historical places in Batangas. The places we visited are the Miguel Malvar Shrine in Santo Tomas, Apolinario Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, and Taal Basilica, Our Lady of Caysasay, Marcela Agoncillo Shrine and Leon Apacible Museum in Taal. Visiting these places stirred my nationalist pride and had given me tons of information and realizations about our past.
Our first stop was on the Malvar Shrine, right inside the Municipal Hall complex. Malvar was a man of valor, considered as the last Filipino General to surrender to the Americans during the Philippine-American War. He became a gobernadorcillo and led a reform movement and later, led an army with Emilio Aguinaldo. When Aguinaldo was captured, he led the revolution, but when the American tactics started harming the civilians and because of the diminishing support, he put an end to a long and difficult battle for Batangas.
I observed that he is a family-oriented person, which might or might not be a good trait, because the hardships of his family was what led him to surrender, according to his letter to Gen. Franklin Bell.
At present, Malvar’s monument is at the center of the compound, with him standing dignified holding a sword. We visited one end of the shrine which is the Malvar Museum filled with small glimpses of the past.
Inside the museum, there is also a Museum Café, which I first thought was just like a shop, but instead featured coffee beans and amazing paintings using that medium. Even though the museum is small and simple, but the life of the hero and the history of the country were clearly depicted. I was impressed by the patriotism and bravery showcased in the simple shrine dedicated to his character and role in the country’s fight for freedom.
Our next destination was the Mabini Shrine, which contains a museum, library and Mabini’s tomb. On the left side of the museum, there was a mock-up house of Mabini’s natal residence made up of nipa that just shows he came from a poor family. However, their social status did not hinder him from getting education. Despite all the odds and hardships he had to go through, he was able to continue his education and eventually, pass the bar exam.
The museum has seven galleries that featured his early life up to his legacy.
Before we get to go around the museum, we were first warmly welcomed to the museum and we watched a short animated video about Mabini. The video was interesting and was able to narrate and summarize his life story in a fun way. At our stay, I observed that we usually associate something or someone with a trait, condition, or opinion. When someone hears “Apolinario Mabini”, the words lumpo, crippled, and The Sublime Paralytic may come to mind. Unknown to many, besides being a lawyer, he is also an educator, political writer, chief adviser of Emilio Aguinaldo, and known as the Brains of the Philippine Revolution.
The museum holds a number of items of historical interest, and one of the items that caught my attention was the casket, which I learned was the coffin used to transfer his remains from Manila to Talaga, Tanauan.
In our brief stay there, I learned that although he may have had a difficult life, he was not only able to make it meaningful but glorious, because at the end, how far we go is not dictated by our physical strength. He may be paralytic, but his undying spirit was certainly not disabled.
I apologize for the next few tours that I was not able to take more pictures. My tablet’s battery had gone empty, but rest assured that I enjoyed my stay in each of the places.
Our next stop was at the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours, commonly known as the Taal Basilica. This picturesque historical monument is named after the patron saint of Taal, Saint Martin de Tours, whose fiesta is celebrated every November 11th. It was dubbed as the largest Catholic Church in Asia and when I saw it, it was really an astounding landmark. As we entered, there were many children that asked us to buy their candles, which is ironic because children were doing labor in front of a church. I just hoped that the authorities would do something against them, but I have learned through my years that it was something not to hope too much for. Unfortunately, our guide said that we cannot stay long inside because we might be late for our next destination. We were not allowed to examine the church’s interiors that I had learned has changed because of the restorations of the church. Still, I was thankful that I had visited one of the most go-to destinations of people from various places and see this magnificent church.
After lunch, we headed to Our Lady of Caysasay. It was a smaller church, a mere walking distance from the bigger and more famous Taal Basilica. It was a hot day, and descending a hundred steps down a three-meter wide stone stairwell, which I learned was called hagdan-hagdan, was a little tiring because of the heat. As we travel on foot, some children were also selling candles there. My friend asked a kid there about why the candles were made like that because we got curious why there was a wax human figure tied with it, but she also did not know. The church is home of a 17th century image of the Immaculate Concepcion. I observed that there were barely any decorations outside and if one does not have any idea about its rich history, one cannot be much thrilled to go there. When we were seated inside, the guide told us lots of information, stories, and also answered some questions. The place has this old look, but with some maintenance and restoration inside and outside the place, it would be much more appreciated by visitors.
We also travelled to the Marcela Agoncillo Shrine on foot. Even though this was where I felt so hot because of the temperature, this was so far the most I have enjoyed, maybe because of the guide that toured us around that had a clear voice, knew the facts and provided fun pop quizzes for the visitors. Marcela Agoncillo was known as the creator of the first Philippine flag. In our tour, I have learned that all of their daughters, blessed with intelligence and diligence, did not marry. It is unfortunate that no one had continued their line. I had also seen where the daughters’ room and was curious why it did have no bed. The guide said that back in the days, the eldest child should be the only one with a bed and the rest of the siblings should sleep on the floor, but because the family wants to practice equality, they decided that everyone should just sleep on the floor. I found it heartwarming and a proof of good values.
After that, we walked a few minutes and headed to the Apacible Museum. It also showcases the elegant furniture and fixtures from the family’s collection. Apacible was a Batangas judge turned Katipunero and his house was a meeting place of the resistance. He became Emilio Aguinaldo’s finance officer and was one of the delegates to the Malolos Congress. The house was spacious, well-kept and obviously well-to-do people lived here. Outside the house, people were selling mineral water and butterfly knives known as balisong. There were also women sewing and I lingered around them for a minute and asked some questions, and they were glad to answer some. We had free time left, so I went and sat on a balcony outside with my friends, just observing the people and feeling the ancestral house.
Our last stop is on Tagaytay, Cavite on the Mushroom Burger restaurant to order dinner, and then went back to Manila. I had a great time with my friends and block mates on the bus and on the trips to those places. Museums are proving just as much fun and entertainment as regular pastime activities. Batangas is full of historical places caring for the collection of artifacts and other objects of religious, cultural, artistic or historical importance which makes them available for public viewing. I have learned from my professor that a museum is the heart of a nation, so I hope that the government officials will do something to preserve it more and to do more things that would showcase our identity as Filipinos.
A museum’s existence can be anchored on the basic philosophy that the nation is kept unified by a deep sense of pride in its own identity, cultural heritage and nature patrimony and I believe that it must be developed and enhanced while imbibing the spirit of nationalism and strong commitment in the protection of its legacy.
Much can be learned in these places we had visited and I was glad to have the chance to go museum-hopping and have new insights on the people and places I know a little before.