This is an overdue post about out halfday heritage tour of Malolos, the capital city of Bulacan. Bulacan is a province located in Central Luzon, a few hours’ drive from Metro Manila. Malolos played a big role in Philippine history, and it was once was declared capital of the Philippine Republic post the Spanish colonization.
D and I were inspired to visit Malolos as I wanted to see the historical Barasoain Church, check out the ancestral houses, and have a taste of the famous empananda de kaliskis. Luckily my friend who’s into heritage tours connected me with someone who works in the Malolos Tourism Office. When I confirmed our trip, she recommended I pre-order the empananda de kaliskis because at the time, the famous pastry shop, Mercy’s Empananda de Kaliskis, was not accepting walk-ins due to the pandemic. Our tour guide would pick up the empanadas for us when we get to Malolos.
So on an early Monday morning we drove to Bulacan and arrived at the Barasoain Church, which is also known as Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish. The church has a Baroque architecture, designed by Miguel Magpayo. It was constructed from 1885 through 1888, and there is a convent beside it. There is also a museum beside the church but it was closed when we visited as it was a Monday. In 1973 the church was proclaimed National Shrine. The image of Barasoian Church was printed on the old ten peso bill. Post the Spanish rule the Malolos Constitution was ratified here on the 21st of January 1899, and the First Philippine Republic was inaugurated in Malolos on the 23rd of January 1899.
After our brief self-guided tour of the Barasoain Church, we drove to the Malolos Cathedral where our tour guide was awaiting us. We walked to the Bautista and Santos Ancestral House. Near the entrance is a makopa tree, which our guide said could be found in most ancestral houses as there is a belief it brings wealth. This reminded me of the makopa fruit (java apple), which I have not eaten nor seen since I was a child. I wish I can taste it again, but I don’t think they’re sold in supermarkets.
The ancestral house has a Neoclassical design, and was constructed in 1887. It was home to one of the most affluent families in Malolos. As with most old houses in the Philippines, the ground floor has stone walls, and the second floor has wooden walls. As we ascended to the second floor, our guide explained that the steps of the stairs were numbered according to the Filipino belief oro, plata, mata (gold, silver, death). These words are chanted with each step, and the topmost step should never end with mata as it meant bad luck. Ending with an oro or plata signifies good luck.
Next stop was the House of Dr. Luis Santos, built in 1933. Don Luis was a renowned opthalmologist. His house is a beautifully preserved art deco house which contains two art pieces from two Filipino National Artists: a water fountain in the front garden which was sculpted by Guillermo Tolentino; and a mural on the second floor ceiling painted by Fernando Amorsolo.
Before we headed back to Metro Manila, our guide gave us our pre-ordered empananda de kaliskis, still hot and fresh from the oven. The empanada was filled with chicken and potato, and was called such because its crust is flaky (like fish scales). D and I happily munched away at the savory pastry – a perfect way to cap our short heritage tour. When we go back to Malolos this is definitely on top of my list to get and bring home to my family.