CAVITE | Inside Emilio Aguinaldo's Mansion

Aguinaldo Shrine holds a huge historical importance from the era of Spanish-colonized Philippines; so paramount that it has become synonymous to the province where it stands. But apart from being a president's abode, the venue where such leader declared the country's liberty from Spain and other historical what-not, the structure itself, inside and out, is as imposing as the past it withstood.

Aguinaldo mansion's tower

The prominent white mansion in Kawit, Cavite already stands even before Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, the Philippines' first official president, was born. Though not yet as grandiose as it is now, the house back then displays his parents' high social status. In 1963, a year before his passing, Aguinaldo donated the mansion to the government and since then leaves its visitors in amazement sans any fees.

Aguinaldo's memorabilia; it's his home, just because

The entire mansion is a museum that walks visitors through Aguinaldo's celebrated life. The silong (basement) used as a storage for harvested crops back then now holds a gallery of Aguinaldo's keepsakes including some of his personal garments and weapons. It also exhibits old photographs, paintings, and dioramas depicting the battles that occurred in Cavite. Getting around the house usually starts from this artifact-field space.

Gallery at Aguinaldo Shrine
Aguinaldo's personal belongings

If I would be asked of a personal favorite, I'll pick the diorama portraying the General's swearing-in following his election at the controversial Tejeros Convention. Simply artistic.

Diorama depicting Aguinaldo's oath taking at Tanza, Cavite

And that old, life-size portrait showing Aguinaldo's actual height that is "so Filipino".

Aguinaldo's life-size portrait

The sinners' balcony

One of the mansion's notable balconies is a spacious veranda surrounded with fastidiously crafted wrought irons that overlooks the main road going to Manila. It's where the revolutionaries supposedly plotted military strategies against the colonizers and where romantic courtships that eventually led to marriages took place; hence, playfully coined by the General himself as the Balcony of Sinners.

Balcony of Sinners

That scaffolding is not really a part of the balcony, by the way.

Butikin and the infamous bandage

A built-in medicine cabinet or butikin is found at the second floor. A wooden sliding door encloses the glass-paneled medicine storage that it could be mistakenly perceived as one of the bedrooms if not opened. It holds bottles of Ocusol eye drops and other medications that the General had consumed, and a vial that keeps the gauze bandage accidentally left inside Aguinaldo's stomach while performing an appendectomy.

Ocusol bottles stored in butikin

That hurts.

Patriotic symbols in every corner

Three stars and the sun with eight rays, icons that represents the Philippine flag, were ubiquitously incorporated in ceilings, benches, wooden receptacles, rooflines, even in the mansion's famous window where Aguinaldo unfurled the very first version of the flag for the first time. The house was intricately designed with these marks in his request.

Philippine Flag icons engraved on furniture

A large raised-relief map of the Philippine archipelago mounted at the ceiling of the mansion's formal dining room seems like it oversees the family's important guests when the Aguinaldos held special occasions or throw house parties. On the map, the only part painted in red was Cavite denoting the province as the center of the revolution.

Relief map at the ceiling

Some other symbols around include a wood carve image representing Inang Bayan (motherland) and sculptures of kalabaw (water buffalo), the country's national animal and Aguinaldo's favorite, a historian says.

The mansion's secrets

Aguinaldo's mansion consists of rooms connected together via secret passageways, designed as such for the family and insurgents to easily escape should the manor house came under attack. The General and his wife's bedroom, for instance, has access from a hat rack near the second floor entrance. Behind his closet is another hidden exit while the room's bathroom has a door that leads to the swimming pool.

Aguinaldo's bedroom

Behind and beneath the long wooden chairs installed along the hallway are unsuspicious storage used to keep firearms and confidential documents of the revolution.

Hidden storage for guns and documents

An arc-shaped hole at the center of the basement museum gives a glimpse of a bunker that served as bomb shelter during World War II. It has access from under a movable wooden table at the second floor and a walkway going to the nearby Kawit Church.

Bomb shelter beneath Aguinaldo's mansion

Not amazed yet?

Aguinaldos' cozy lifestyle, it seems

The palatial estate he inherited from his parents houses sophisticated housewares and amenities. From intricate balusters, columns and windows to seemingly expensive furniture and bed frames, Aguinaldos had undeniably lived an insanely comfortable lifestyle if without, of course, the hostilities of that era.

On the kitchen there was the shabby two-door fridge and a built-in ice reserve whose contents back then were imported from miles and miles away; from Boston, our volunteer tour guide says. The family utilizes the ice storage for cooling when the power's out.

Built-in ice storage
Bricked furnace and water tank

There's also the bricked furnace that does not just heat the covering stove top, but warms up the adjacent water tank as well, supplying hot water to bathroom showers. It's sort of predecessor to today's electrical and mechanical water heaters.

Indoor swimming pool

And just before visitors exit the house to the backyard where Aguinaldo was entombed, they can have a sight of the restored indoor swimming pool that's about seven feet deep. The door through it leads to the General's bedroom as earlier mentioned.

Aguinaldo's tomb

Did you know?

  • In June 12, 1898, the historic waving of the Philippine flag took place at the mansion's center window, not at the present balcony attached to it. It was only in early 1920s when the famous balcony as well as the seven-story spire were built.
  • A law, R.A. 8491, mandates that the Philippine flag shall be permanently hoisted at the shrine day and night throughout the year and shall be illuminated at night. That makes Aguinaldo Shrine a sight to behold when dark falls.
  • Aguinaldo has a known video footage unlike his contemporaries from late 1800s. An American documentary film, "Around the World in 80 Minutes", featured him in the show's Philippine segment. Watch it here.

Emilio Aguinaldo's statue in Freedom Park

Its owner, despite the controversies that marred his political life, was as amazing as the house is. He's been one of the pillars of Philippine independence who had led a revolt and eventually spearheaded a sovereign nation at a young age of 28 — an achievement that any Filipino may not surpass.

Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo (Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine)
Address: Gen. Tirona St. Kaingen, Kawit, Cavite
Opens: Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrance Fee: None
Contact: (046) 484-7643 / (+63) 09176564132 /


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

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