They say seven is a lucky number. If it is, I consider myself lucky to be part of the 7th edition of Lakbay Norte. The annual familiarization tour of the north Luzon is made possible by North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) under Convention and Visitors Bureau. If you have been following Ironwulf for quite sometime, I had participated in several Lakbay Norte tours including the first one which set the foundation of the succeeding tours. Lakbay Norte 7 continues the tradition of a fun whirlwind sightseeing, gustatory and adventure filled trip of the north. We didn’t have to go far from Manila to jump-start the tour. Our first stop in Bulacan has us stretching our legs to walk through the Malolos Historic Town Center and marvel at the ancestral homes, age-old churches and its history.
Malolos Historic Town
Just at the outskirts of Metro Manila, 1–2 hours drive away, I’m ashamed to say Malolos, Bulacan wasn’t really high in my places to visit. Aside from Barasoain Church, made familiar from the old 10-peso bill, I know nothing much about the area. A good thing really for me as it made me curious on what this city has to offer. Malolos Historic Town takes pride in being the birthplace of the First Philippine Republic and was the seat of the government after General Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence in Kawit, Cavite.
Much of the sights in the Malolos Historic Town revolves in and around the Kamestisuhan District. Originally called Parancillio district, it was an enclave for expelled Chinese who plotted and participated against the Spanish Government. What could be more significant as our first stop in Lakbay Norte 7 is the “dungeon of the defiant” also known as the Barasoain Church. A meeting place for the anti-Spanish and anti-colonial illustrados.
Also known as the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish, Barasoain Church was built in 1888 and was coined the latter as the Spanish missionaries find the place strikingly similar to Barasoain in Spain. I can’t tell how similar the places are but I do like the the large empty space fronting the church, a lone picturesque tree and the beautiful baroque-style church. A breathing space within the busy city of Malolos. At the convent is the museum church for guest wishing to delve deeper into the city’s history. An educational light and sound is presented along with interesting artifacts like an old school 3D-like viewing device, a stereoscopy.
Kamestisuhan District Walk
Our Malolos tour guide led us through Kamestisuhan District which contains about 15 houses, an old cinema, municipal hall, a cathedral and a bridge. Out of the historical zone but still covered by the National Historical Institute is a cemetery, a mausoleum, a train station, the provincial capitol and a stone church.
There’s too much to cover for a single morning visit here so let me just run down where we able to inspect.
The Malolos Cathedral, also known as the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion was built in 1580 with the present stonework built in 1817. The convent served as a seat for Aguinaldo’s presidency.
Just a short walk from the cathedral is their Neo-classical style Malolos City Hall erected in 1940. We made our way to Parancillo Street lined with several heritage structures. The Post-war movie house, Eden Cinema, caught my eye as its signage harkens back to old times, similar to the one in Ermita.
A few strides is the beautifully restored Adriano House now used as one of the branches for Meralco. Formery known as the Gobierno Militar dela Plaza during the revolution, under Gen.Isidoro Torres. Just across is the Old Carcel, the Casa Tribunal de Malolos was the original Adriano family house built in 1673. In 1859, it became the Malolos Municipal Hall then became a jailhouse in 1898, hence the sealed half-moon balconies.
The Brave Women of Malolos
Our visit to the Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos House not only left us marveling at this heritage house but also learned the inspiring story of 21 brave women who chose to defy the friars who are depriving them of education. Sparked by a letter from Jose Rizal from Spain, the 21 Filipinas ambushed Governor-General Valeriano Weyler to personally give their petition to set up a school for women. This feminist movement resulted to establishing a school for women, the Instituto de Mujeres.
Heritage City by the River
We moved on to find several more houses impressive houses. The house by Dr Luis Santos sporting a sculpture by National artist Guillermo Tolentino in its garden. The Don Jose Bautista House is an eye-catching house with its highly ornate facade. A combination of Neo-classical sculptures and French Art Nouveau style. The only house in the country with caryatids. The Bautista House is also a museum of antiquities, showcasing religious icons, China heirloom, Fernando Amarsolo paintings, the original KKK flag and more.
As if the historical and heritage overload was not enough, our lunch at Bistro Maloleño features favorite dishes by our national heroes like Jose Rizal’s tinolang manok and Gregorio del Pilar’s Arroz ala Cubana. While having our sumptuous lunch, we were treated to a demo of Pabalat, the art of making pastillas paper and Puni weaving.
This quick tour of Malolos Historic Town was an eye-opener. A fitting alternative to Vigan’s heritage splendor for those who can only afford to travel a couple of hours away from Manila. History and heritage buffs would delightfully walk these streets.
For booking a Malolos Historic Town tour, contact Bulacan Heritage Tour through Rheeza Hernandez at +63998.993.4509
For Bistro Maloleño, call (044) 795 5655 or follow their Facebook at /BistroMaloleno/
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.