The last time I visited this place I was in secondary school. Back in the early 90’s, a brother purchased a small but tidy house in this Bulaqueño town. It was for a bargain price. It is now leased to a family for a very reasonable rent with the conditions that they keep it in order and that they make no changes. But just before it was put up for leasing, we had to refurbish and fix the house. The summer of ’91 was when I spent the whole vacation break in this historic town. The house is less than a kilometer drive from the Kapitolyo.
Aside from the historic Barasoain, the first seat of the republic, there are the old buildings and houses I vividly remember. I’ve always wanted to go back so I can document the district in pictures. It was a unique and memorable experience then, as I was already into history, spending a summer in Malolos heightened my interest in old houses specially those that played an important role in our history.
Malolos, as we all know, was the seat of Aguinaldo’s government. What brought him to Malolos was not only the support of its populace and its prominent families but the town’s layout, which seem to be perfect for an administrative complex not to mention the proximity with Manila. At that time that they have not abandoned the hope of getting back to Manila – after all, history tells us that whoever controls the capital controls the state. But I’ll skip the critical points for now and just enjoy the town that we know and love.
If I’m not mistaken, Malolos is about 50 km from Manila. But don’t take my word for it – what I’m certain about is it’s less than an hour trip without traffic from the Baliwag bus station in Cubao. Of course, you could forget about counting time if you’re caught in bad traffic in highway 54.
The best place to start a historic tour of Malolos is in the Capitol building. Built in the early 1900’s it was destroyed and razed by the Japanese during the war. It was rebuilt by American funding, just like all government building in 1950’s. The spacious park in front of the building is perfect for for picnics, during the rainy seasons it becomes lush and green. Events from pageants to political rallies are held here. Not to miss is their version of walk of fame, where they’ve etched the names of honored National Artists’ and known personalities from the town in black marble stones.
The Capitol museum located in the far right corner of the Capitol compound was renamed Blas Ople. The great Bulakeño from Hagonoy is someone I admire for his prescience and depth of knowledge in Philippine historiography. The Premio Zobel awardee has steadily advocated the preservation of Spanish during his political career because of historic and economic reasons. It is not his first language. His bust stands in the main door entrance of the museo.
From the here going to Barasoain is a quick jeep ride. You can also walk if you want. Just like in the old days, the route is still dominated by the undersize karatig jeeps which fits the small town feel of Malolos. The Barasoain church has remained the same, which is what we want since we’ve seen countless heritage structures go to waste. The only changes were the improvements made for the NHI museum located on the second floor of the old convent. It was truly awesome and inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the officials who made the project possible.
The attractive courtyard can be seen from upstairs. The palm trees and other plants help maintain the spacious garden cool during these hot summer days. After spending some time walking in and out of the Church I then decided to head out to the Cojuanco house. The Chichingco relatives of the Cojuanco’s are the caretakers of this elegant looking old house, now decorated with yellow ribbons and banners of Noynoy. The house was said to have been the temporary home for some revolutionary leaders. It is said that Ysidra Cojuanco, daughter of Jose met Antonio Luna and fast became lovers. What is gossip to many is true history to many other (read Henares take on this here). Jose Cojuanco was said to have decided to move to Paniqui because of Ysidra’s unwanted pregnancy. Many believe the son was that of Luna. Ah, the marvelous world of historical gossips!
Next stop is the Casa Real. Unlike the Cojuanco house which was inaccessible to the public, this one is, being administered by NHI in cooperation with an association of women called “Kababaihan ng Malolos”, in homage of the brave women of the town. Entrance is gratis. The Casa is preserved and beautifully kept with many interesting pieces from the women of Malolos. Made of ladrilyo and mortar this administrative building was built in 1786 but it was in this same location that the original was also erected.
Going to the Cathedral you’ll pass by an arched roman bridge that has amazingly survived the test of time. The Cathedral became the official office of Aguinaldo, there were bronze statutes of the General and his leaders in the church yard under a tree that they call the centennial tree. The interiors was splendid although it has been repainted and repaired many times.
The other antillean houses can be seen from here as they are not far. The Municipal building is located right in front, while walking along the old Parian will reveal more beautiful historical houses. One has to keep in mind that the Republic headed by Aguinaldo practically converted the town into an administrative complex, making government offices out of residential spaces. This is what’s so unique about Malolos. That is of course aside from having the distinction of giving birth to Asia’s first republic.