January 23, 1899 – Inauguration of the First Philippine Republic in Malolos

Barasoain Church Bell Tower

Malolos, the provincial capital of Bulacan, was a political center in the 19th century for being the seat of government for Emilio Aguinaldo’s first Philippine Republic and Asia’s first democracy. It is the leading historical site in the province of Bulacan.

For four months in 1898-99, Malolos was the capital of the Republic. After the defeat of Spain and Aguinaldo’s declaration of independence, the tension between Filipino revolutionaries and Americans who have arrived in the country escalated. The Philippine Revolutionary government moved its capital from Bacoor, Cavite to Malolos, Bulacan where Aguinaldo and his cabinet held office in Malolos Cathedral and convent.

On September 15, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo convened the First Philippine Congress, otherwise known as the Malolos Congress, at Barasoain Church.

Delegates to the Opening of the Malolos Congress in Barasoain Church

On January 21, 1899, the Malolos Congress ratified independence and framed the Malolos Constitution. It was the first democratic constitution ever undertaken by a former colonial subject and unique for Asia in splitting church and state roles.

This paved the way for the First Philippine Republic’s formal inauguration on January 23, 1899, with Emilio Aguinaldo taking oath as president.

The short-lived First Philippine Republic was known as the Malolos Republic. Twelve days later, on February 4, the Philippine-American War broke out, and the Malolos Republic went into a crisis.

The Malolos Congress held its last session on the last week of February as the Aguinaldo government left Malolos and transferred the capital to Nueva Ecija.

On March 31, 1899, the American forces captured Malolos and Barasoain as they were placed under American Control.

In 1903, the town of Barasoain was abolished as the former town was decreed to be reunited with Malolos.

Barasoain Church is about 42 kilometers north of Manila. Having earned the title as the “Cradle of Democracy in the East,” it is the most important religious building in the Philippines. It is of significant historical importance to the Filipinos.

On August 1, 1973, President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed Barasoain Church as a National Shrine under Presidential Decree No. 260. A museum opened at the old convent which is managed by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

In the wake of the 1998 Philippine Centennial celebrations, President Joseph Estrada took his oath of office on June 30, 1998.

The inauguration’s anniversary is commemorated in the Barasoain Church each January 23.


Philippines Guide – Jill & Rebecca Gale de Villa

Philippines Handbook by Carl Parkes

Insight Guide Philippines – Discovery Channel

All Photos Credit: Wikimedia

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