Brief History of Kawit
Even before the arrival of the Spanish colonial government, Kawit was already a thriving settlement. It is the oldest municipality in Cavite having been established in 1587. The territory of Kawit included what are now Cavite City (1614), Imus (1795), and Noveleta (1868). It was the oldest of the three parishes established when Miguel García Serrano, O.S.A. was Archbishop of Manila from 1618 to 1629.
The Spaniards established their first anchorage in Kawit, which was then the most populated settlement. When they discovered a new location with deep waters suitable for a port, navy yard, and the repair and construction of ships and galleons, in another part of Kawit (present day Cavite City), they renamed the town Cavite el Viejo, to distinguish it from Cavite Nuevo, Cavite la Punta or Cavite el Puerto, the commercial port and naval base at the Fuerza de San Felipe Neri. Present day Noveleta was called Tierra Alta. The name Kawit is said to have originated from the hook-shaped shoreline that stretches from present day Kawit to Sangley Point in Cavite City. The Tagalog term for hook is kalawit or kawit.
The area was a mooring place for Chinese junks that traded frequently with settlements around Manila. Kawit and Bacoor had large populations of Chinese traders. During the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, Cavite became the main staging ground for the large galleons, becoming the most important port that linked the Philippine Islands to the rest of the world. It became a major center for exchange, where Chinese merchants traded silk and porcelain with goods from the New World and Spain. It was no wonder that a creole language called Chabacano had developed in Cavite with the vibrant mix of traders, Spanish seamen and local residents.
Kawit in particular, had developed a bad reputation as a red light district, with Spanish marines on shore leave making frequent visits to Cavite el Viejo. To solve the bad reputation of the town, Archbishop Serrano placed the town under the patronage of Saint Mary Magdalene. Some researchers believe that the town was previously under the patronage of the Virgin Mary, as all other Cavite parishes were consecrated to Mary.
The town played a major role in the Philippine Revolution. After the Katipunan was discovered in August 19, 1896, Cavite el Viejo became a major flashpoint of the revolution. Don Emilio Aguinaldo, then capitan municipal of Cavite el Viejo, led the capture of the tribunal on August 31, 1896.
Filipino insurgents captured a contingent of the Spanish Army from Dalahican in Noveleta, who were about to Aguinaldo and other municipal officials whom they suspected of being Katipuneros. The Battle of Binakayan-Dalahican, fought in the shores of Binakayan, Dalahican and Dagatan (in present day Kawit and Noveleta) from November 9-11, 1896, was the first significant Filipino victory against Spanish forces during the Philippine Revolution. General Candido Tria Tirona was killed during the battle. And so was Gregoria Montoya, who was posthumously promoted to general. In total, Kawit produced seven generals of the Philippine Revolutionary Army: Emilio Aguinaldo, Candido Tria Tirona, Gregoria Montoya, Cripulo Aguinaldo, Baldomero Aguinaldo, Tomas Mascardo and Daniel Tria Tirona.
The declaration of Philippine Independence was made on June 12, 1898 at the window of the house of President Aguinaldo.
On September 20, 1907, the Philippine Commission approved Act. No. 1718 changing the town’s name from Cavite el Viejo to Kawit. The rich history of Kawit highlights the great significance of its built heritage and spirit of place to the story of the Philippine nation. While its role in the Philippine Revolution is evident, the connection of Kawit and neighboring Cavite City to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade should be highlighted as part of the Kawit story.
Kawit played a major role in the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and in the Filipino-American War. It was in this town where the Spaniards met their first major setback when Filipino insurgents, led by the town’s Capitan Municipal by the name of EMILIO AGUINALDO Y FAMY, captured a contingent of Spanish soldiers from Dalahican headquarters who were about to arrest Aguinaldo and other municipal officials suspected of being Katipuneros.
The initial victory of the Katipuneros under the leadership of Aguinaldo was followed by a string of other successful battles against the Spaniards, bringing fame and glory to their young leader and laid foundation to his becoming the President of the First Philippine Republic. It was on June 12, 1898 when General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the Philippine Independence on the balcony of his Mansion (The Aguinaldo Shrine).
Aside from General Emilio Aguinaldo, this small town produced another five (5) generals of the revolution that contributed to the attainment of the Philippine Independence. They were: Candido Tria Tirona, Crispulo Aguinaldo, Daniel Tria Tirona, Baldomero Aguinaldo and Tomas Mascardo. The history of Philippine struggle for freedom will not be complete without mentioning these prominent figures who contributed immensely to the establishment of the First Nationalist Democratic Republic in Asia.
The New Municipal Hall of Kawit located at Brgy. Batong Dalig boasts of being the symbol of a resurgent community, at par with its neighbors and continually striving to be a globally competitive municipality. The well defined structural design and architectural lines characterize today’s Kawit, strong in its conviction, geared up for the challenges ahead, and always ready to respond to calls for modernism. It is also a concrete demonstration of Kawit’s rise from a struggling town to one in the forefront of innovation and progress.
The old Municipal Hall will however be preserved as a testimony to the Kawiteños struggles and victories in the past. It was where the great Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo held office in his younger political days, aside from playing hosts to a number of notable historical episodes including the Agaw Armas, one of the first acts of heroism and courage of our forefathers. The ground floor of this old Municipal Hall is still being used as Kawit Post Office and PNP Headquarter and Office of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development.