Exploring heritage tourism and beyond: Kawit heritage tour
Kawit, Cavite has been a witness to significant historical events in Philippine history. Apart from being known as the birthplace of the first president of the Republic of the Philippines, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the preserved sites and customs in the locality are not to be overlooked. However, in the face of continuous economic development, its cultural heritage sites’ preservation and sustainability are being compromised. This key issue became the focus of the Kawit Heritage Tour by Fundacion Santiago last April 1, 2016 at Kawit.
Mr. Jose Ricardo “Chaco” Molina, Executive Director of Fundacion Santiago, commenced the tour by providing a brief introduction on Fundacion Santiago’s Community Based Heritage Tourism (CBHT) framework. According to Mr. Molina, the Community Based Heritage Tourism (CBHT) framework is Fundacion Santiago’s way of working with the community in preserving and promoting heritage sites, as well as economic development for a specific locality. It involves development interventions that utilize a bottom-up approach, aimed at alleviating poverty primarily by fostering the historical, cultural, and environmental wealth of a specific locality. The framework currently operates in several sites in Ilocos Sur, Manila, Quezon, Laguna, Bohol, and Palawan. In part of this mission, Fundacion Santiago showcases one of the sites to which the framework was successfully implemented, Kawit, Cavite.
The heritage tour was entitled, “Life and times in Kawit,” showing what has happened before and after the revolutions in Kawit, and how the locals played a role in continuing their traditions. The guides for the tour were members of the local community, who underwent Fundacion Santiago’s training. The first stop for the tour was at St. Mary Magdalene Kawit Church, a 300 years old church which houses Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s patron saint, St. Mary Magdalene. According to the tour guide, the church plays a significant role in the history of the locality and of the country as it was the place where Aguinaldo religiously prays before the commencement of his every battle. The tour was followed by a visit at a Pandayan, where artisan knife makers demonstrated the century-old process involved in making knives and other arms. Pandays or knife makers have played a critical role in the revolutions as producers of artillery. Unfortunately, at present, there are only a few Pandayans left in Kawit. Baldomero Aguinaldo’s shrine was visited next. Baldomero Aguinaldo is the first cousin of Emilio Aguinaldo and the grandfather of Cesar Virata, a former prime minister of the Philippines. Baldomero Aguinaldo’s house was donated to the government in 1982 and was restored as a museum since then. Showcasing the architectural and decorative features of a Filipino home constructed in 1906, the shrine allows guests to revisit the past and the community’s history. Along the way, the shrine of the Battle of Binakayan was visited. The battle was one of the simultaneous battles which occurred in Kawit, leading to the retreat of Spanish army and the victory of Filipinos. The tour was followed by a visit at Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine. The shrine was where the first president of the Philippine Republic, Aguinaldo was born on March 22, 1869. It also commemorates the independence of the Philippines, where the symbolic declaration of Philippine independence and formal waving of the flag was executed. The last stop for the visit was at Irasin, a salt bed farm, where rock salt are being harvested. Irasin, is an local custom which involves scraping salt beds under the sun to harvest rock salt. According to the tour guide, the process of salt-making had been a lucrative industry at Kawit, until urbanization led to the diminishing number of locals dedicated to salt harvesting. At present, there are only three salt harvesters left in Kawit.
“You can help us in saving what we have left by sharing to others your experience in Kawit,” says the guide in concluding the tour. By promoting heritage tourism in Kawit can the local community realize the value of preserving their custom and heritage. It is by realizing that the process of preserving culture and heritage do not necessarily equate to poor economic development, instead that benefits can be reaped from their mutual relationship. At the end, the Kawit heritage tour emphasized the significant role played by the local community in promoting both heritage promotion and economic development. The tour provides a glimpse of an optimistic future ahead heritage tourism in the Philippines.