Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sunburned at Barasoain

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The sun was high and my patience was wearing thin as our tour bus made its way to Malolos City, Bulacan. The city of Malolos is located 45 kilometers north of Manila and boasts of green fields, heritage houses, and delightful local delicacies such as pastillas de leche (milk candies), suman (glutinous rice stick), and ensaymada (ensaimada). I was, however, frustrated over one thing:  Our visit to Barasoain Church.

The Bell Tower of Barasoain Church.  
Barasoain Church is one of the national landmarks that I wanted to see since I was young. Its image was once prominently featured on the Philippine ten peso bill (Now it's on the two hundred peso bill).  In addition, the church was the venue of significant events in the history of the Philippines. It was where the first Constitutional Convention of our country was held which led to the drafting and ratification of our constitution. It was also the seat of the First Philippine Republic which was established in 1899, making it the third republic established in Asia. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo also had his inauguration as President at the Barasoain Church.

So you can imagine my dismay when our tour guide sheepishly said that we may not be able to go inside Barasoain Church.  Okay, so what am I supposed to do there? Take photos outside and leave?  The disappointment increased as soon as we arrived at the church. I immediately noticed some tour buses already parked outside, with one completely blocking the view of Emilio Aguinaldo's monument. There was also an on-going construction at the Church. Thus, taking a photo of the whole facade was not possible. 

The original structure of the  Church of Barasoain  was burned in 1884.
The current structure is the result of a reconstruction that started a year after.
(Source: National Historical Institute)
I could feel the sweat forming on my brows and the sun burning my skin  as soon as I stepped out of the bus.  Once outside, our tour guide said we could explore the adjoining convent which has been converted to a museum. The convent's white color and Bahay na Bato design was a contrast to the grey stone facade of the church.  Unfortunately, I could barely hear what was being discussed by the guide as we climbed the narrow wooden steps leading to the museum. The other tour groups were quite noisy. It  reminded of the reason why I stopped joining guided tours before. 

I did hear that there were 2 museums at Barasoain: One featuring religious artifacts and another showcasing Philippine history. We  explored the latter as the other one was closed that day. It was an opportunity to rediscover the historical landmarks of Malolos and the heroes of the Philippine revolution.

Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal and Felipe Calderon:
Men who shaped Philippine History. 
The Women of Malolos (L) and the Men of Freedom (R).

There was also a simple light and sound presentation at the second floor about the journey to Philippine independence and democracy. The presentation would have had more impact if the heat wasn't too oppressive. With more than 40 people in the room and only one electric fan, it was difficult to pay attention. 

One of the panels for the light and sound presentation.

Afterwards, we were herded to the last hall which featured an exhibit on the Philippine Constitution. We all did just a quick look as the room was filled with the smell of sweat and the sound of pounding hammers from the adjacent hallway.   

We all tried to find respite from the heat at the courtyard downstairs. The courtyard is said to be a favorite venue for wedding receptions.  While others took photos, I decided to take a seat in one of the wooden benches. I looked around and wondered if any of the trees there lived long enough to witness the important events that led to the birth of the republic and the country's short-lived independence from Spain. I didn't notice any signs or marks on the trees though unlike in Paco Park.

Barasoain Church is also known as the Nuestra Senora del Carmen
 or Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish.
Soon, the tour guide announced that it was time to go. With my cheeks red from the afternoon heat and my mouth dry, I stood in a queue to the bus. I regretted that I did not visit Barasoain Church on my own and  hoped that I could return soon to explore it at my own pace. Have you ever felt that way about the places you've visited?

Inside the bus, the tour guide said that the Barasoain Church's design was patterned by the Augustinian missionaries after another church in Spain.  I Googled it when I got home and found out that it was the Iglesia de Barasoain (see photo here) in Navarra.  Do you see any similarities?  Share your comments below!

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