Less than 50 years after they were established by St Ignatius de Loyola, the Jesuits were already
off to the Philippines, in pursuit of more souls to convert to Catholicism. They arrived in 1581,
on the heels of the Augustinians and the Franciscans and proceeded to establish their own missions and parishes, first in Luzon and later on in the Visayas and Mindanao.
However, in 1767 King Charles III of Spain ordered the suppression and expulsion of the order so
the good padres were deported back to Spain.
In the more than 150 years from the time they first landed, the Jesuits were able to build quite a
few churches, some of which still stand today. On our recent Cavite Culinary and History Tour,
we visited one -- the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion church in the small but historically significant
town of Maragondon. The church stands at the end of a long driveway and with its clean,
Spanish colonial lines, is quite a majestic sight.
The Jesuits established the parish in 1618 but this stone church was finished nearly 100 years later,
in 1714. When the Jesuits left the country in 1768, the parish was given over to the secular clergy and even served as an outpost for Gen. Aguinaldo's men during the revolution.
The well maintained and well preserved Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion church is one of the 26 churches in the country designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Cavite played a major role in the Galleon Trade as the "Manila" galleons were built in the shipyards of the province. Thus you can see a galleon on the intricately carved wooden doors of this church, along with other ecclesiastical and floral motifs.
The church interiors are beautiful. Behind the main altar is the retablo, covered with beaten silver plates and where the statue of the Our Lady of the Assumption stands, right above the Tabernacle.
The retablo rises all the way to the top, to the ceiling of the church's dome which is painted a vivid sky blue. I am always happy to see a church that has kept its communion rails and the ones in Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion are polished to a shiny gleam.
There is an ornate pulpit marked with IHS, the letters used by St. Ignatius as the symbol
for the Society of Jesus. The other panels feature the letters AMR which I guess must refer to
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven (Asuncion del Maria, Reina).
As I was about to leave the church, one of the ladies in the group pointed out this old tombstone marker almost at floor level. Mr. Modesto Porrin passed away on June 12, 1898 -- the date when Philippine Independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite just 30 kilometres away!
Did he know that the revolution had been a success? Did he die a happy and fulfilled man?
Was he a casualty of the war? Or did he die of natural causes?
It does not say how old he was but he must have been widowed as the marker says "ala ala ng mga anak" with no mention of the "asawa" or spouse. So many possible stories from one small plain tombstone.
But I could not stay in the church, musing about Mr. Porrin. Our guide, Cavite historian
Ige Ramos shepherded us all to our next destination.
Just a few blocks away from the church is the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio or the Museum of the Trial of Andres Bonifacio.
This bahay-na-bato, built in 1889 by Teodorico Reyes was the actual venue of the trial where the Supremo was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
I was not even aware that this museum existed. The house had been donated to the government
and in 1997, then President Estrada proclaimed it as a National Heritage Site. I guess this is one
of the few good things that came out of his administration.
A shiny brass door knocker glares fiercely at me. Perhaps it also does not agree with what happened inside this house in May, 1897.
Upon entering the museum, this bust of the Supremo is the first thing I see. In my opinion, formed from reading different viewpoints of Philippine history, Andres Bonifacio certainly got a bum rap.
He may have had his faults but he was tried unfairly, shot and even worse, was never given a proper and decent burial. Do we even know where Bonifacio's bones lie?
A museum guide, a young man who is very well spoken led us up to the second floor, where
the main exhibits are. Large murals are mounted on the walls and there are written accounts of what transpired here.
The museum is well laid out, taking visitors through the timeline of what transpired, from the time that Bonifacio arrived in Cavite to the breakdown of his relationship with both the Magdiwang and Magdalo factions and finally to the capture, trial and sentencing of the Supremo.
Our guide ushers us into the main part of the museum -- the room where the trial was
held. When we come in, the room is dark. I can barely make out the life size statues of Bonifacio,
his brother Procopio and the members of the military tribunal that conducted the court martial.
The statues are posed as if they were about to speak.
And because this is an interactive museum, having been modernised two years ago, we actually
do hear them "speak". With the push of a button, our guide sets the show in motion.
As each character speaks, the spotlight falls on the statue -- it's history as theatre.
I found it dramatic and powerful. And yes, quite disturbing. I felt anger and pain as I listened to the false accusations of treason against the Supremo.
Because he was a member of the proletariat, unpolished and unsophisticated -- he never had a chance against the high and mighty, the scheming and ambitious illustrados of Cavite led by Gen. Aguinaldo.
After the "light and sound" show, we moved to the next room where we were greeted with
the haunting and expressive voice of Aiza Seguerra singing "Sa Huli ang Sikat". The music
was composed by Ms Seguerra and Francis de Veyra, and the lyrics are from a poem written
by Bonifacio's wife, Gregoria de Jesus.
It is at once a tribute and a lament for a lost husband. Our guide told us that Oriang, as she was called, did not even know her husband had been shot and spent months and months searching
for him, to no avail. Underlying the great historical tragedy that was the death of Bonifacio is this personal tragedy, no less great, where a woman lost the man she loved.
As we leave the room, a very appropriate quote by the Supremo is mounted on the wall. Indeed,
no one can hide any secrets, let history be the judge of what happened to Andres Bonifacio.
Despite his circumstances, Andres Bonifacio had greatness. On the wall by the staircase are simple renditions of his "Sampung Utos ng mga Anak ng Bayan" -- his own ten commandments, his "dekalogo". He wrote these ten simple rules as to how his Katipuneros should conduct themselves, as God fearing, patriotic Filipinos -- ready to give up their lives for love of country and freedom.
This is Jonel, our young, knowledgeable and yes, very objective museum guide.
Thank you, Jonel for steering me through this chapter of Bonifacio's and the nation's history.
I believe this museum is a must visit place particularly for our young people -- it will help give them a better understanding of history and how what we know about the past can help shape our future.