On June 12, 1898, after more than three centuries under Spanish rule, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Filipinos and the birth of the Philippine Republic. During the occasion, the Philippine flag was officially unfurled and formally presented to the people, and the Philippine National Anthem was first played publicly.

This historic event took place in present-day Kawit, Cavite, at what is now the ancestral home of Emilio Aguinaldo. His house, which was declared a national shrine in June 1964, is made of mahogany and narra and has a floor area over 14,000 square feet. Filled with secret passageways and clandestine rooms, the structure is composed of the main house on the west side of the building, the tower located in the center and the family building on the east.

Nowadays, the house contains a number of Aguinaldo’s memorabilia, as well as other historical relics, decorations and antique furniture. The street in front has been converted into a park with a long pedestrian path flanked by two long pools. At the back of the house is a marble tomb where Aguinaldo’s remains lie.

As the country commemorates its declaration of independence from Spain, the Philippine flag is raised here every year in remembrance of the Filipinos’ first taste of independence. The day of commemoration and the place itself are vestiges of a past when people sacrificed a lot – even their lives – so that a nation can have a country to call its own. It’s an opportunity to lay low on cynicism for a moment and thank the people who fought for our freedom.

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