On August 28, 1896, when the revolution against Spain broke out, Cavite became a bloody theater of war. Emilio Aguinaldo led the Caviteños on lightning raids on Spanish headquarters and soon liberated the entire province through the Battle of Alapan.
The rivalry between Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio became intense after a split in revolutionary ranks between factions loyal to one or the other. Bonifacio’s headquarters was at Imus and Aguinaldo’s at what is now General Trias.
After peacemaking efforts failed, the great revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, head of Katipunan, the armed revolutionary brotherhood against the Spaniards, and his brother were arrested by the Aguinaldo’s group and imprisoned in the church in Maragondon, then tried and condemned for sedition by a revolutionary military court. They were executed on nearby Mt. Buntis on May 11, 1897.
Long after the revolution in Manila had collapsed from disorganization, Aguinaldo planned and implemented his strategy in Kawit, his hometown, building a solid southern front to resist the Spanish. But, the revolutionaries’ disunity, compounded by a lack of arms and supplies, enabled the Spaniards to recapture town after town and regain control of Cavite.
Aguinaldo was forced to retreat to Bulacan, and after the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, he was exiled to Hong Kong but returned after U.S. Commodore Dewey had attacked the Spanish squadron in Cavite. The Spanish defeat marked the end of Spanish rule in the country.
Aguinaldo landed back at Cavite on May 19, 1898, believing that the Americans had come as liberators, and urged Filipinos to rise in support. They routed the Spanish forces throughout most of Luzon.
Aguinaldo commanded the revolution to its successful end and proclaimed the First Republic of the Philippines on June 12, 1898, in Kawit and him as the president, hoisting the Philippine flag from his balcony to a battle hymn that eventually became the national anthem.
It was the most prominent event in the history of the Philippines after a successful revolution by the Filipino people without foreign aid. Aguinaldo then issued a manifesto on August 6, 1898, under international law to secure the recognition of Philippine independence. He played a prominent and decisive role in the most significant chapter of Philippine history and its legacy as the first successful revolution in Asia.
In the same year, the Philippines declared independence from Spain, the first U.S. expeditionary force debarked at Cavite as the Americans moved to take control of the country.
Iglesia Filipina Catolica, the first Philippine independent church, was established by Riego de Dios in Maragondon in early 1900, and the Americans established a civil government in the province in 1901. Sangley Point became the U.S. fleet’s chief naval base and coaling station in Asian waters, and Sangley Point Naval Base, at the city’s outer edge, was an old Spanish naval base that Commodore George Dewey captured on May 1, 1898.
Due to the persistent struggles in Cavite between American forces and Filipino rebels, the province became depopulated, leading to the ratification of Public Act No. 947 of 1901, reducing the municipalities of Cavite from 22 to nine.
Cavite City was chartered in 1940 and served for a time as the provincial capital. It functioned as the chief U.S. naval base and fuelling station in Asia until 1941 and continues as a Philippine and U.S. naval-air facility and shipyard. These installations and the city’s strategic position made Cavite a prime Japanese target during the 1941 invasion.
During the military conflicts and engagements against the Japanese occupation in World War II, the Japanese targeted the naval base during the first wave of attacks on military installations in the Philippines. The general headquarters of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, active from January 3, 1942, to June 30, 1946, and the 4th Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary, active again on October 28, 1944, to June 3, 1946, were both stationed in Cavite. Colonel Mariano Castañeda of the Philippine Constabulary, a native from Imus, Cavite, led the Filipino – American Cavite Guerilla Forces (FACGF) against Imperial Japanese occupation in an attempt to recapture Cavite.
In May 1942, after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor Island, the Japanese Imperial forces occupied Cavite and made garrisons in each town of the province.
After surviving the Bataan Death March and being released from Capas, Tarlac concentration camp USAFFE Col. Mariano Castañeda returned to Cavite and secretly organized the guerilla forces in the province.
The Japanese authorities pressured him to accept the position of Provincial Governor of Cavite. He refused many times over until his excuses did not work. Much against his will, he was forced to accept the position by the Japanese and thought it would be beneficial to further organize the resistance movement as Governor by day and a guerilla commander by night. Eventually, the Japanese discovered his guerrilla connection. They raided his house in the attempt to capture him. However, he escaped with Col. Lamberto Javalera by swimming the Imus river to Salinas, Bacoor. Finally, he joined his comrades in the field in Neneng, the General Headquarters of the Fil-American Cavite Guerilla Forces (FACGF) located in Dasmariñas.
Due to his organizational skills, the FACGF raised a regiment in each of the administrative units and created attached special battalions. Overall, three special battalions, one medical battalion, one signal company, one hospital unit, Division GHQ and Staff were raised to provide administrative and combat support. Later on, the FACGF, with a peak of 14,371 enlisted men and 1,245 officers, grew into a formidable force to take on the omnipresent Japanese rule in the province. At its peak, the force contained 14 infantry regiments.
After Gen. MacArthur returned, the U.S. troops parachuted onto Tagaytay Ridge to join others who had landed at Nasugbu (Batangas) before advancing north to liberate Manila. On January 31, 1945, the liberation of Cavite started with the combined forces of the American 11th Airborne Division under General Swing and Col. Hildebrand and the valiant Caviteño guerrilleros of the Fil-American Cavite Guerilla Forces. They liberated the province of Cavite from the Japanese occupiers and protected at all costs the National Highway 17 from Tagaytay to Las Piñas that serve as the vital supply route of the 11th Airborne Division, paving the way towards the road to the bitter but victorious Battle of Manila.
The Philippines regained independence on July 4, 1946, when America hauled down its flag, and the Philippines hoisted its own. The restoration of the Philippine independence was a boundless moral victory for the Filipinos and a great source of pride for the Caviteños.
Cavite has portrayed a significant part in the country’s colonial past and eventual fight for independence, gaining the title “Historical Capital of the Philippines.” Cavite and its people, what they are today, and what will be tomorrow, will remain a place with a glorious history and brave people who will live and die for a worthy cause.
Inside Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel
Cavite Province Website
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes