Let's Go to Baguio (Part 10): The Mansion House - City of Pines' Most Historical House

The Mansion House of Baguio City

Dan Brown, in one of his books, described Manila as the gates of hell. The early Americans of early 1900s would agree with this description not because of the city's now abject poverty and high crime rate but because of the unbearable humid heat.

The intense heat in Manila motivated the American invaders to look for a place that can be their new colony’s capital during the summer months. The Americans selected Baguio due to its relatively cool temperature and the presence of an already organized town.

The gate of the Mansion House of Baguio City
The gate of the Mansion House.

William Howard Taft, the first American civil governor of the Philippines, capital of the Philippines, commissioned Daniel Burnham to prepare the plans for Baguio. Part of the plan is the construction of the house for the American governor general. That house is the Mansion House.

The Mansion House of Baguio City

The Mansion House is our next destination after having a relaxing stroll among the pines of Wright Park.

The house is just across the road from the reflecting pool of Wright Park. But before we cross the street, I got curious with the strawberry-flavored taho being sold outside Wright Park.

Strawberry taho of Baguio City
The sweet but not strawberry-licious "strawberry taho" of Baguio.

We were disappointed with the taho. There was not even a hint of strawberry. Maybe I should've opted for the regular taho. Actually, the strawberry ice cream that we bought in Burnham Park is a better strawberry treat than this taho.

Intricate gate of the Mansion House in Baguio

The gate of the Mansion House is big and majestic. Of course, there were so many tourists that it was difficult to have a decent selfie at the gate.

Historical marker of the Mansion House in Baguio

The Mansion House was designed by Architect William E. Parsons in accordance to the City Beautiful Movement, which is the architectural philosophy pioneered by Daniel Burnham. Parson used indigenous materials and local architectural style, thus, the Mansion House originally appeared as a "bahay na bato", which was a usual house of affluent families during the Spanish Period.

The original look of Baguio's Mansion House as bahay na bato
The original Mansion House of Baguio. Notice the wooden second floor, which made the house look like a "bahay na bato". (Source: Presidential Museum and Library

The first floor is made of stone while the second floor is made of wood. Governor General Francis Burton Harrison noted that the rooms were partitioned by sawali walls.

Parson's original design did not last because subsequent governor generals renovated and enlarged the Mansion House. The house was later on damaged during the Second World War.

Photo of Mansion House taken at the reflecting pool of Wright Park
Old photo of the Mansion House taken from the reflecting pool of Wright Park. (Source: Presidential Museum and Library)

From being the official residence the American governor generals, the Mansion House became the official residence of Philippine presidents. Although, presidents do not stay long in this house. Most only visited the house when they attend the graduation ceremony of the cadets in the Philippine Military Academy.

The president who stayed the longest in the Mansion House is President Jose P. Laurel. Who described his three-month stay as somber and miserable.

Laurel and his ministers were moved to Baguio by the Japanese army when Manila fell to the Americans. They felt that they are in a concentration camp. They were heavily guarded by Japanese soldiers and almost have no food nor clean water to drink. They also had to contend with constant bombing.

The Mansion House of Baguio City

There is no entrance fee to the grounds of the Mansion House. Tourists, however, were only allowed in the vicinity of the entrance gate. I believe that tourists will not be allowed to go beyond the gate when the president is in the house. We were lucky then because President Duterte was not in Baguio during our visit.

Tourists at The Mansion House of Baguio City

No one can go up to the Mansion House because the soldiers guarding the house will prevent anyone from doing so. We discovered this when our son Samuel ran toward the restricted area. A soldier accosted us immediately.

Historical Cavite: The Casa Tribunal of Noveleta

Historical Cavite: Casa Tribunal of Noveleta

There is an old house that always arouses my curiosity every time I visited my in-laws in the town of Noveleta. It is not the age of the house nor its Spanish architectural style that makes me wonder but its being out-of-place in the town of chaotic concrete.

Casa Tribunal of Noveleta, Cavite

The house in question is the Casa Tribunal, which is not a house but actually the former municipal hall of Noveleta. This was once the town’s center of authority during the Spanish Period until after the end of the Second World War when the municipal mayor's office was transferred to a new building a few meters away.

Noveleta Town Hall

The municipal government does not know what to do with Casa Tribunal after it vacated its premises. Casa Tribunal became a school then turned into a library and children’s clinic. After being vacant for many years, Casa Tribunal became the provincial library and then become the office of the Kawanihan ng Rentas Internas or the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which also vacated the place eventually.

Obelisk Marker of Noveleta, Cavite

Nowadays, Casa Tribunal is always closed or at least closed whenever I was in town. Thus, I was only able to take photos of its exterior.

Stairs of Casa Tribunal in Noveleta, Cavite

It was unfortunate that I was not able to enter Casa Tribunal. The house holds plenty of cultural and historical treasures as seen in this Youtube video

Inside Casa Tribunal of Noveleta, Cavite
Inside Casa Tribunal featuring a painting of the Battle of Calero Bridge. (Source: Noveleta Town Youtube)

Casa Tribunal is the last standing heritage building in the area. All the buildings around it are made of modern concrete. The palenque, the new municipal hall, and even the town's church are of modern architectural style.

Holy Cross Parish Church in Noveleta, Cavite
Holy Cross Parish Church in Noveleta, Cavite.

It is sad that Casa Tribunal is relegated to the side, hidden and ignored by the current residents of Noveleta. Its condition is a far cry to its major place in the history of Cavite. Casa Tribunal is the place where Tagalog revolutionaries tasted one of their major victories.

While Andres Bonifacio and his katipunero battled it out with the Spanish colonial forces in Manila and Bulacan, the CaviteƱos made their move on the 31st day of August 1896. The Tagalog revolutionaries simultaneously attacked the government forces in General Trias (formerly San Francisco de Malabon), Pasong Kalabaw, Kawit, and Noveleta. The attack is now called as the “First Cry of Cavite”.

Historical Marker of Casa Tribunal in Noveleta, Cavite

The katipunero of Sangguniang Magdiwang attacked the government forces stationed in Noveleta. The attack was commanded by Mariano Alvarez, who is the capitan municipal of Noveleta and also the head of the Magdiwang faction. He is also the uncle of Gregoria de Jesus, who is Andres Bonifacio’s wife. Pascual Alvarez, Mariano’s nephew, led the attack in Casa Tribunal, where they killed Capitan Antonio Rebolledo and Tenyente Francisco Naval of the Guardia Civil. They also captured some soldiers of the Guardia Civil.

Cuartel de la Guardia Civil in Noveleta Cavite (1897)
Cuartel de la Guardia Civil occupied by revolutionaries, 1897. (Source: ABC Foto)

Mariano Alvarez is now considered a great hero of Cavite. In fact, the town of GMA is named after him. The Battle of Noveleta is not his first brush with the Spanish authorities. He was earlier placed on the death row after he gave an Spanish infantry officer a dirty water to drink. He was sentenced to death but was released through the intervention of the provincial governor due to the protest of the townsfolk. Later on, he was suspected to be part of the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. The authorities placed him in solitary confinement with his neck and feet chained to the prison walls. He was sent to Manila to be executed but was released.

Mariano Alvarez
Mariano Alvarez (Source: GMA Municipality)

Mariano Alvarez managed to return to the good favors of the government, thus he was able to be elected as capitan municipal of Noveleta. I bet that the Spanish forces in Noveleta were surprised by the attack because they thought that the alcalde is on their side.

Artillery Bombardment during the Battle of Noveleta
Artillery bombardment during the revolution in Noveleta. (Source: Foro Policia)

The katipunero’s victory  was so decisive that Noveleta was free from Spanish control during the whole course of the revolution. The town became the seat of the Magdiwang faction, which stood in opposition to the Magdalo faction of Emilio Aguinaldo. The Game of Thrones level of struggle between these two factions led to the dissolution of Katipunan and the death of its Supremo.

Tribunal ng Noveleta Marker

The current condition of Casa Tribunal just reflects the fact that Noveleta has already forgotten its past. Its history was only recalled from time to time whenever there's a centennial celebration or other big historical commemoration. I guess the current condition of Noveleta’s Casa Tribunal fits its place in history as the seat of the Magdiwang faction. In the course of the revolution, the Magdalo faction obscured the Magdiwang faction. It is quite fitting then that the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, which is the seat of the Magdalo faction, obscured the Casa Tribunal of Noveleta.

Emilio Aguinaldo Waving the Philippine Flag mural in Kawit, Cavite
Emilio Aguinaldo waving the Philippine flag.