The province of Cavite, founded in 1571 by the Legazpi Expedition, is not called the “Historical Capital of the Philippines” and “Land of the Braves” for nothing.
For over 300 years, its role during the Spanish colonial days and the men and women who stood up to the foreign power in a fight for independence undeniably identify Cavite.
Cavite comes from the word kalawit, meaning hook, in reference to the hook-shaped peninsula that juts out to the Manila Bay. Cavite may have also come from the word kabit, meaning connected, joined, or attached, due to the peninsula’s topographical relation to the mainland.
Cavite City, the province’s old capital, used to be a mooring post for Chinese junk trading with early settlers from Sulu and Borneo. During the Spanish period, Cavite City shipyards were the main posts for the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.
Restive inhabitants during the late 17th century, unhappy over the constant conflicts with the friars and hacienderos, launched a revolution that continued until the late 1890s. The three priests, collectively known as Gomburza, were implicated in the Cavite Mutiny in 1872, known today as the “Grandmother Event of the Philippine Revolution.”
In 1896, Emilio Aguinaldo led a successful revolt that culminated in his taking an oath as the first President of the Philippine Republic at the convent of the Holy Cross Church in Tanza, Cavite.
The great moments in Philippine history happened in Cavite in many noble circumstances, exceptional places, and during distinguished times. They took place in a context of a definite spirit and resolve. A strong sense of the past is in every Caviteño’s heart, a source of pride that fills up every page of one’s memory book.
To know Cavite well, we have to walk its ground, soak up its history, its heroes, and historical milestones that distinguish this notable destination. Similarly, talk to the locals, hear them speak with that Chavacano tone color, the Spanish Creole language, an enduring remnant of colonization spun to its own lilt through the years.
The landscape of Cavite is composed of non-rigidly terraced agricultural soil, far-reaching coastlines, waterfalls, and lively springs where nature appears exhaustibly undisturbed everywhere the eyes focus on. Tagaytay, for example. Its cool temperature makes it the country’s second summer capital.
Cavite is rich in breather come-ons. Fort San Felipe; Sangley Point; Corregidor Island; Aguinaldo Shrine; Andres Bonifacio house in Gen. Trias; Balite Springs and Waterfalls, Saluysoy Spring and Waterfalls in Alfonso; Malakas Springs, Malibiclibic, and Tala Waterfalls in Gen. Aguinaldo; Bucal ni Tata Enteng Springs and Palsahingin Waterfalls in Indang. The list is long.
Festivals that bring in money and tourism do not lack in enthusiasm and pageantry: town fiestas, the Kalayaan Festival honoring its native heroes; Mardicas, war dance in Ternate; and Karakol, street dancing with a fluvial procession in its many coastal towns. For the brave of heart, a climb of Mt. Pico de Loro, at its highest peak of 664 meters above sea level.
But, of course, you must also come for Cavite’s cuisine. It’s a place where mind and stomach rendezvous, and both are thoroughly satisfied.
In Cavite, food is history. It is also known as the capital of Philippine heritage cooking. The quality cuisine, local ambience, and the rustic landscape overcome minor annoyances like the long and honking traffic jams.
The cuisine is a mix of Asian and Spanish tastes passed down to several generations—tamales with its origin from the galleon trade, the ensaymada from Mallorca, Spain, the Mexican-inspired pipian—and jealously guarded to protect Filipino heritage food from inauthentic renditions.
The quality of food is seamlessly high, in both modest and stiff surroundings. Try the little carinderias perched on spindly stilts coping bravely to the rise and fall of the sea. Visit them as the sunset kindles fire to the coastline. The kitchens may look like a dump but the food is as good as good can be. You also get the sunset view gratis et amore.
Bernie’s Eatery in Cavite City is a revelation. A third-generation granddaughter of movie actor Leopoldo Salcedo, Bernardita Rojas-Fontanilla serves one-meal wonders that are uniquely Bernie’s. Her bacalao is something else—served only on Good Fridays. There’s sautéed codfish and lao lao fish, indigenous to Cavite, fried to a crisp. Go for the pancit with kinilaw na puso ng saging and pancit posit, also called pancit choco and pancit negra, cooked in squid ink with diced green mango and pounded chicharon, and uses bihon or sotanghon for noodles.
While it does not mind opening its massive front door to sandal-shod customers, Calle Real’s old-world ambience and uniformed staff will prod a diner to stay prim and proper while feasting on paella negra and churros.
Don’t leave Cavite without a truckload of pasalubong from Pat and Sam’s (est. 1950), Dizon’s Bakery (est. 1930), and Kaibigan Bakery (est. 1920). Tahong chips, tamales, bibingkang samala in rice or pinipig variants, and baked goodies like salakot bread, bonete, and pan de coco, most of them cooked in old-style pugon.
Take the ferry boat from Cavite City to either the Cultural Center of the Philippines or the Quezon Bridge terminal in a little more than 30 minutes with reminiscences of things past and a good fill of Cavite’s flavory delights.
Photos by Diana B. Noche
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