Eight prominent Philippine sites and their present state |
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Eight prominent Philippine sites and their present state

by Jillian CariolaPublished: June 9, 2017Updated: June 9, 2017

Even a single visit to these famous tourist sites should give you a picture of their significance in our country’s rich history.

To say that the Philippines has a rich history would be an understatement; after all, it includes 333 years rebelling against Spanish rule, wars with other foreign forces, and almost a decade of Martial Law under a dictator. After centuries of battling oppression, many locations relevant to these events still remain alive and well, replete with historical significance that invite tourists to pay a visit at least once in their lifetime. While some have either undergone massive change or been repurposed, there is no denying the important role they played during our ancestors’ fight for freedom. Here are a few of these sites and how they are holding up today.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Barasoain Church Malolos Bulacan
Barasoain Church. Photo via Depositphotos

Barasoain Church
Malolos, Bulacan

Then: Constructed in 1888, the Baroque-style Barasoain Church is the site of the First Philippine Republic, and has earned the title “Cradle of Democracy in the East.” The town of Barasoain was named after the Spanish municipality Barásoain, which missionaries saw to be similar to Malolos. During the Filipino revolution, Spanish authorities declared the church a “baras ng suwail” or “dungeon of the defiant” as it was a known meeting place for anti-colonial ilustrados. In 1898, Barasoain Church was the site of the First Philippine Congress, where the Malolos Constitution was drafted.

Now: Barasoain Church, which remains a pilgrimage site to Catholic devotees, has continued to play a significant part in the country’s culture in more recent history. It was declared a National Shrine in 1973 by President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree No. 260, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines is managing a museum created at the church’s old convent. The church has also been depicted in monetary bills over the years, the most current being the Php200 bill.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Biak na Bato San Miguel Bulacan
Biak-na-Bato National Park. Photo by Ramon FVelasquez via Wikimedia Commons

San Miguel, Bulacan

Then: During the latter part of the Philippine revolution, Emilio Aguinaldo and his men proceeded to Biak-na-Bato, a wilderness area in Bulacan, where the group planned the establishment of a Philippine Republic. From his mountain hideout in a split boulder, he signed the provisional constitution for the Biak-Na-Bato Republic, which ended in just one month after Aguinaldo and Spanish Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera signed a peace treaty that involved the exile of Aguinaldo and his associates to Hong Kong.

Now: In 1937, President Manuel L. Quezon honored the Republic by declaring a 2,117-hectare area in the Biak-na-Bato area a national park consisting of a network of caves, one of which was Aguinaldo’s hideout and is therefore named after him. The park’s boundaries were impacted during the Marcos regime when the then-president issued orders regarding mineral prospecting in the area. His successor, President Corazon Aquino, then issued Proclamation No. 401 to redefine the boundaries of Biak-Na-Bato National Park, designating 952 hectares as mineral reservation, 938 hectares as a watershed reservation, and 480 hectares as a forest reserve. In 2011, a battle to prevent the desecration of the area was won when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cancelled the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) granted to the only mining company in the area, Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. (RMDC).


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Mount Samat Pilar Bataan
Mount Samat. Photo by IJVelas via Wikimedia Commons

Mount Samat
Pilar, Bataan

Then: Mount Samat was the site of the last stronghold of Filipino and U.S. soldiers during a vicious battle against the Japanese Imperial Army before thousands of starving and sick fighters finally surrendered to the Japanese, who forced them to travel on foot from Bataan to Tarlac, an event known as the Bataan Death March.

Now: As a tribute to the Filipino and U.S. soldiers who perished during the death march, a memorial shrine dubbed “Dambana ng Kagitingan” was erected during the Marcos regime. Consisting of a Colonnade and a 92-meter-high memorial cross, construction of the shrine began in 1966 and, due to insufficient funds, was not finished until 1970.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Manila Cathedral Intramuros
Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. Photo via Depositphotos

City of Manila

Then:  During the Spanish colonization period, Intramuros served as the country’s seat of government, housing within its defensive walls government offices like the Palacio del Gobernador (the official residence of the Spanish Governor-General to the country) and the Ayuntamiento (city hall); Roman Catholic churches like the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, and San Nicolas de Tolentino Church; and academic institutions like the Universidad de Santo Tomas (UST) and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Americans took charge of Intramuros after battling the Spanish in 1898 until 1941 upon the invasion of the Japanese Army. By the end of the Second World War in 1945, only the damaged San Agustin Church was left standing in the mostly devastated Intramuros.

Now: Republic Act 597 declared Intramuros a historical monument in 1951, and with the declaration came the policy of its restoration, reconstruction, and urban planning. Long before the reconstruction, UST had been transferred to its current location in Sampaloc to accommodate its growing population, while many of the structures have been rebuilt and repurposed. For instance, the Ayuntamiento has been restored and now houses the Bureau of Treasury, the home of the viceroy has been transformed into the office of the Commission on Elections, while military headquarters called the Cuartel de España is now the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Due to the area’s deterioration, the Intramuros Administration (IA) has launched a rehabilitation program that will involve steps such as refurbishing structures, widening sidewalks, and creating parking areas within the Walled City.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Mendiola Street Peace Arch
Mendiola Peace Arch. Photo by Ramon FVelasquez via Wikimedia Commons

Mendiola Street
San Miguel, Manila

Then: Named after educator and author Enrique Mendiola, this short thoroughfare is located close to the Malacañang Palace, and was therefore the site of many often violent protests. During the Marcos administration, it was the site of the “Battle of Malacañang” or “Battle of Mendiola Bridge,” wherein student demonstrators and police forces clashed, leaving four student protestors dead. The “Mendiola Massacre” happened 15 years later, when 10,000 peasant farmers demanding land reform from President Corazon Aquino held a protest rally and crowd control troops opened fire, killing 13 protesters and injuring hundreds. The year 2001 saw a protest by President Joseph Estrada’s supporters, who were angered by his arrest after being ousted for charges of corruption. The violence that ensued led the newly sworn-in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of national emergency for two days.

Now: The Mendiola Peace Arch was inaugurated in 2010 in the hopes that future rallies to be held at the site will be conducted peacefully.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Aguinaldo Shrine Kawit Cavite
Aguinaldo Shrine. Photo via Depositphotos

Aguinaldo Shrine
Kawit, Cavite

Then: Originally the ancestral home of first Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo, the shrine was declared as such when the Philippine flag was flown at the dwelling to mark the country’s independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. Upon the death of Aguinaldo in 1964, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Republic Act 4039 declaring the mansion a National Shrine.

Now: The ground floor of the Aguinaldo Shrine has been turned into a museum maintained by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines. Parked at the front of the property is Aguinaldo’s personal vehicle, a restored 1924 Packard limousine; while a marble tomb containing the first president’s remains can be seen in the middle of the garden.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Magellan's Cross Cebu City
Magellan's Cross. Photo via Depositphotos

Magellan’s Cross
Cebu City, Cebu

Then: When Ferdinand Magellan first arrived in Cebu in 1521, he met and became friendly with Rajah Humabon and his wife Queen Hara Amihan, who were both subsequently baptized as Christians. As a gift to mark the Christianization of the Philippines, they were given a cross, which is now recognized as Magellan’s Cross.

Now: The cross has been encased in a chapel located beside the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City. Below it is a sign indicating that the visible wooden cross is merely a casing to protect the original cross from damage. Another gift from Magellan to the royal couple—an image of the Child Jesus—resides inside the Basilica itself and is considered as one of the country’s oldest Christian relics.


Present state of prominent historical sites in the Philippines MyProperty Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape Dapitan City Zamboanga del Norte
Casa Redonda at Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape. Photo by Ric Canizares via Wikimedia Commons

Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape
Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte

Then: From 1892 to 1896, national hero Jose Rizal was exiled to Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, amid accusations by the Spanish government of sedition and plotting the Philippine revolution. After winning the lottery, he purchased a 16-hectare estate in Talisay, where he built houses, started a farm, established a boys’ school, and built a free hospital.

Now: The Rizal National Park was established through President Manuel Quezon’s Proclamation No. 616, which would protect an area of 10 hectares containing Rizal’s farm site. In 2000, the area was expanded to cover 439 hectares with a buffer zone of 15 hectares and was declared a protected landscape under the National Integrated Protected Areas System through Proclamation No. 279. Within the protected landscape is the Rizal National shrine containing structures built by Rizal, including Casa Residencia, the main house; Casa Redonda, a rounded house that contained a clinic and served as quarters of Rizal’s students; Casa Cuadrada, a square house that served as students’ dormitory as well as a workshop; Casitas de Salud, two small huts that served as transient homes for out-of-town patients; and a dam. The park also contains the Rizaliana Museum containing his memorabilia, and the Mi Retiro Rock marking the spot where he composed his poems Mi Retiro and Himno a Talisay.




Main photo via Depositphotos

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