For the past few weeks, my country has been buzzing with excitement. Why, you ask? Oh, only because the Pope was coming to town. Yesterday marked his arrival and the start of a long—count ’em, five days—weekend. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s the Pope or the vacation that has people in higher spirits. (Okay, it’s probably the Pope).
But there’s something else that the Philippines is celebrating this January. I’ll give you a high-five if you can guess what it is based on the photos above and below.
It’s the anniversary of the First Philippine Republic, better known as the Malolos Republic. Every year, this Renaissance city of Bulacan comes alive in January to commemorate that time when our ancestors took control of our own country after the long Spanish rule.
Did you know that the Philippines was the first country to have a democratic constitution in the whole of Asia and Africa? It was founded here in Malolos, Bulacan!
The Fiesta Republica traditionally starts on the 17th and ends with a bang on the 23rd, the day the Republic was inaugurated back in 1899. Plenty of events take place over that week, including friendly competitions, culinary feasts, and cultural fairs. This time around though, the celebrations began last September under the Vamos a Malolos (“Let’s go to Malolos”) initiative.
Thanks to TravelNow magazine, I had the chance to join the press conference for Vamos a Malolos last December. The event ate up a full day, but it was more than worth the trip up north, which took less than two hours via bus. Aside from the conference itself, we went on a short tour of the city, tried some of their local delicacies, and even witnessed their giant lantern parade. How’s that for a productive trip?
If you’re looking for something to keep you occupied over the long weekend, why not head to Malolos for a dose of history, culture, and merrymaking? You can even be back in Manila in time to attend the Papal Mass on Sunday! Be sure to join the Lakbay Republika walking tour, which will bring you to some of the most important places in town.
Read on for some of the sights awaiting you here!
The Barasoain Church
I’m ashamed to admit that it was my first time to visit the Barasoain Church. Heck, it was my first time to visit Malolos! That being said, I made sure to relish the experience as much as I could given our time there.
This impressive Baroque church also goes by the name of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. But aside from that, the Barasoain Church is known as the Cradle of Democracy in the East, because this was the birthplace of the first democratic constitution in Asia and Africa. It hosted the first Philippine Congress, the creation of the Malolos Constitution, and the inauguration of the Malolos Republic. Impressive, right?
Admire the steadfast adobe-and-concrete walls, the detailed carvings on its grand doors, and the decorated ceiling and altar. Also check out its museum—and see if you can spot Pope John Paul II inside the grounds!
Did you know that the Kamistisuhan District of Malolos used to be the hottest address in the Philippines? It could be considered the Forbes of their time.
Malolos has a lot of important ancestral houses, many of which were or are still owned by prominent Filipinos (does the name Cojuangco ring a bell?). The Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos House is one of these—in fact, it’s officially considered a national heritage house. Nowadays, it functions as a museum commemorating the Women of Malolos who lobbied for the right to study Spanish and aided the soldiers who fought in the 1896 revolution.
Inside, you’ll see photographs and memorabilia of the 21 brave women. They were so inspiring that Dr. Jose Rizal himself wrote them a letter expressing his admiration. Talk about Filipinas to look up to!
Don Antonio Bautista’s house was one of Rizal’s stops in Malolos, and it used to be the Secretario de Fomento office. We didn’t get to enter it, but check out those Grecian caryatids on the columns!
Dr. Luis Santos House
This was definitely the highlight of my trip—and if you’re an architecture fan, it might just be yours too! The former home-slash-clinic of eye specialist Dr. Luis Santos is one of the best examples of Art Deco that I’ve seen in the Philippines. It amazed me. Seriously. I wanted to stay here the whole day. Okay, maybe just half of it.
Oh, and let’s not forget this tiny, simple ceiling mural painted by Fernando Amorsolo. You know, the national artist.
I’ve so many photos from my trip that I want to share, but because I have storage limits, I had to narrow them down. Continue scrolling for more of my favorites!
Aren’t you excited to visit now? Vamos a Malolos!