Barasoain Church is one of the historical landmarks of the Philippines. I’ve grown up seeing pictures in history books, postcards, photos, and even on the ten peso bill before the government converted this to coins. But I’ve never had the chance to visit it, even on a school field trip. That was, until my recent road trip to Pampanga with my friends.
Barasoain Church and Philippine History
Built in 1630, Barasoain Church is more than just another church erected during the time when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines. This historical landmark is also reputed to be the Cradle of Democracy not just in the Philippines, but in the East.
In 1898, it served as the place where the first Philippine Congress convened. It is also where the Malolos Constitution was drafted which resulted to the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines, making the country the first in Asia to gain its independence from a foreign power. More recently, it made its mark in Philippine history as the venue of the inauguration of former President Joseph Estrada.
Getting to Barasoain Church
Thanks to smartphones, we managed to find a map to Barasoain Church on the Internet. One important thing to note about the map that we found though is that it didn’t mention that there is a bridge along the Malolos Crossing. To get to Barasoain Church, make sure that you stay on the right side of the road and avoid the bridge. You’ll be turning right underneath the bridge in order to get to the town proper and to the church, which will be on your right.
Arriving at Barasoain Church
When we arrived at Barasoain Church, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that it was not as crowded as Intramuros or any of the other historical sites that I’ve visited before. Apart from a few local residents walking through the parking area, there wasn’t that much people there. In a way, it was a good thing for me and my friends since we were able to take some pretty good pictures of the church’s facade. Yet, in a way, I was a bit disappointed as well. The lack of the crowd here at the church is a clear tell-tale sign of how this historical landmark has been superseded by others across the country.
We paid P20 for the parking fee (approx. $0.47). We weren’t really sure if we could park outside the gates surrounding the church, but considering that it’s such a low price, we chose to park inside, making sure that our van was not going to interfere with the pictures that we were planning to take.
Unlike the other old churches that I’ve visited like the one in Binondo, Barasoain Church did not open to a sprawling plaza. Instead, it is pretty much surrounded by buildings left and right so much that if you weren’t really conscious of looking for it, you can easily pass it by.
On the other side of the parking lot stood a statue of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the Philippines and the other only president of the country that was ever inaugurated here at Barasoain Church.
Waving high and proud in the mid-day sun behind the statue of Gen. Aguinaldo were replicas of the nine different flags used by the Katipunan during their revolt against the Spanish colonizers with the very first design on the leftmost side. At the center of was the flag designed by Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, and is believed to have been the very first of many versions that led up to the design of the Philippine flag used today, once again serving as a reminder of the important significance of Barasoain Church to the country’s birth as an independent nation.
The Garden and Museum at Barasoain Church
We tried to get inside the church itself. Unfortunately, it was closed when we were there since there was no scheduled mass when we arrived. One of the locals told us that the museum at the back of the church was opened, so we decided to have a quick look around.
On our way to the museum, we passed through a small tunnel-like walkway where we saw the restored carriage used by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on his way to his inauguration as the first president of the Philippines held here in Barasoain Church.
As we exited the walkway, we were greeted by a beautiful square garden surrounded by the building which was once the temporary residence of Gen. Aguinaldo, and now serving as the museum here at Barasoain Church. Aside from giving us some refuge from the early afternoon sun, walking through the gardens almost felt like stepping back through time. As I looked up to see the balconies overlooking the gardens, I thought to myself this was probably what Gen. Aguinaldo and his family must have enjoyed seeing each and every single day while they stayed here. Of course, many of the plants and trees here were more recent. But there were still a few old trees that stood tall. I wondered what stories would they tell if they could only talk.
We finally made our way up the narrow steps to the museum where many of the religious relics are housed. There is no fee to go into the museum, but it is highly recommended to leave a small donation in the box located at the door.
As we entered the museum, we saw a man painstakingly restoring a part of the metal carvings that decorated many of the images religious statues housed not only inside the museum, but also inside the church. When we asked him what he was using to restore the metal artwork, he told us that he was using bronze leaf that he attaches with the help of a brush since the leaf is very brittle that merely touching this with your fingers is more than enough to break this.
If the outside of Barasoain Church paid tribute to the political history of the Philippines, the museum at Barasoain Church showed how significant Catholicism was at this time. All around were different religious icons and images, many of which dated back to the time of the Spanish colonization.
Notable were the number of images depicting the Virgin Mary, which comes not a surprise since another name for Barasoain Church is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, one of the many titles given to the Virgin Mary.
There was another part of the museum that housed the different memorabilia and images of the role Barasoain Church played throughout Philippine history. Unfortunately, the man doing the restoration work told us that it was closed and usually opened only under special arrangements.
As we headed back to our car to continue our trip to Pampanga, we saw a group of young kids who were being arranged for a picture by their teachers. I smiled. Barasoain Church may be one of the less visited historical landmarks in the Philippines, but it is really uplifting to know that teachers make sure that the younger generation would not forget this. Perhaps someday, it would gain the popularity among local and foreign travelers as one of the popular destinations in the Philippines.