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When we were kids, we scrutinized the back of our ten-peso bills hoping to find the cat supposedly hidden in the printed outline of the Barasoain Church. It has been more than 15 years since then, and the ten-peso bill has been phased out, so a visit to the church was due. I was finally able to see the infamous church in person on a very hot Saturday one weekend, at the urging of my friends. Upon arrival, we were told there was no cat! But the trip was worth it, as we dove into a great experience of history.
The Barasoain Church is the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. However, more than a normal Catholic church and parish, it is a symbol of history, nationalism, heroism, and faith.
The Barasoain Church was originally founded by Augustinian Missionaries, and built for the Roman Catholic masses in Malolos, Bulacan during the mid-1500s to early-1600s. It was well-known for its intricate architecture and adornments. However, it was burned down at the height of the Philippine Revolution in the 1800’s. It was renovated and reconstructed, but its haunting beauty still remained. Throughout the years, it has served as a venue for various occasions. The most notable are these three major national events: (1) the First Philippine Congress; (2) the drafting of the Malolos Constitution in 1899; and (3) the inauguration of two Philippine Presidents: General Emilio Aguinaldo, the President of the First Republic, and President Joseph Estrada, the 13th President of the Republic of the Philippines.
In 1898, under what was then a revolutionary government, the Philippines’ capital was moved North to Malolos, Bulacan. The Barasoain Church was chosen to be the site of the First Philippine Congress, more widely known as the Malolos Congress, headed by Don Pedro A. Paterno. This led to the drafting of the Malolos Constitution which was ratified in 1899. With the constitution ratified, the Filipinos were able to inaugurate the First Philippine Republic. It was because of this that the church was dubbed as the “Cradle of Democracy in the East”.
Only two Philippine presidents have been inaugurated in the church: (1) General Emilio Aguinaldo as the President of the First Philippine Republic (also known as the Malolos Republic, a revolutionary government) in 1899; and (2) former president Joseph Estrada, almost a century later in 1998. Interestingly, both presidents were unable to finish their term: the former due to captivity during the Philippine-American war; and the latter because he was impeached during the EDSA People Power II Revolution, infamously dubbed as EDSA Dos.
Former President Ferdinand Marcos declared the Barasoain Church a National Shrine, as per his Presidential Decree No. 260 in 1973.
The Barasoain Museum, an interactive gallery beside the church, houses historical and cultural artifacts from the 1800s, and more. There are documents and memorabilia from the aforementioned historical events. The most remarkable ones are a glass engraving of the newspaper El Heraldo de la Revolution (Herald of the Revolution), and an exhibit of the Philippine Constitution. The National Historical Commission (NHC) formally opened the upgraded Barasoain Historical Landmark and Museum on Saturday during the 114th commemoration of the Malolos Congress.
There is now a Light and Sound Show (which you can read about THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY: Barasoain Museum Experience Transformed). The church grounds is often the venue of several cultural shows and feasts in the historical City of Malolos, that culminate colorful parades through Paseo del Congreso.
The Barasoain Church is located along Paseo del Congreso, at the corner of Republica Street in the City of Malolos, Bulacan. It is about 42 kilometers north of Metro Manila. Depending on the traffic, it takes 1-2 hours to get to the church from the country’s capital. It may seem like a long drive, but the experience is well worth it.
Learn more about the church and their services from their website: https://www.barasoainchurch.org/