Pinaglabanan Shrine in San Juan

If you’re surfing on YouTube the latest video uploads, chances are you have come across Drive Thru History, a series which takes viewers to a ride down memory lane in the world’s most scenic and historic locales.

Hosted by Dave Stotts, the series began with driving episodes around Israel where Biblical events happened, and later spun off to general world history. He managed to set foot in the Philippines later on to feature the country’s colonial heritage.

With his Indiana Jones-like getup, driving vintage vehicles and luxury cars, being a historian on wheels never looked so cool.

Every guy behind the steering wheel can actually be a Dave Stotts in his own right, armed with a keen sense of Filipino pride and willing to learn about our checkered past. As we mark our 124th Independence Day, read on the exciting places around the metro where you can drive through history away from the all-too-familiar sites.

Katipunan Founding Site

Pit Stop 1: Manila. The archipelago’s recorded history begins in this capital city which has seen a Renaissance of sorts in the past three years. Aside from the Old Manila districts, there are historic spots tucked in the city’s nooks and crannies which are overshadowed by the more popular monuments.

The bargain capital of Divisoria is a treasure trove of history where the seeds of the libertarian struggle were sown. A middle-class residential area during the Spanish period, it is the home of the Sto. Nino de Tondo Church, one of the first and biggest parishes in Luzon.

Along Ylaya St. is a nondescript compact plaza where the La Liga Filipina was founded by Dr. Jose Rizal at an ilustrado house in 1892 to organize a bigger group that would demand reforms from Spain.

Three days after its founding, Rizal was exiled to Dapitan in Zamboanga for sedition charges. Upon learning this grim news, reform-minded Filipinos were resigned to the fact that changes cannot be achieved through peaceful means, and the need to rebel against the authorities seems inevitable.

Thus, on July 7, 1892, the popular revolutionary Katipunan movement was established by Andres Bonifacio at the house of Deodato Arellano, the group’s first president. Located at the corner of Azcarraga (now Recto Ave.) and Elcano Sts., the spot is marked by a relief brass sculpture across decrepit emporiums.

In between the wholesale warehouses are well-preserved colonial-era stone houses where Katipuneros could have met to solicit support and plan the 1896 Revolution.

As it is a sea of humanity at any given time, it is best to park at the nearby Tutuban Mall, the spot where Bonifacio was born and later became the terminal of the Manila-Dagupan railway system. It is more exciting to go around on a motorcycle or bicycle to give you flexibility in navigating the Divisoria maze.

If bargain items along the way seem to be irresistible, give in to temptation and plunge into a one-of-a-kind shopping experience which approximates Bangkok’s Chatuchak market.

Wawa Dam in Montalban (Rodriguez), Rizal

Pit Stop 2: Montalban. Unbeknownst to many, the first independence declaration took place here when Bonifacio and several Katipuneros wrote such cry for freedom on the walls of Pamitinan Cave on April 12, 1895. While not as grandly planned as the Kawit proclamation, it reflects the Filipinos’ desire to break free from foreign rule.

This wilderness just outside Manila’s doorstep was a stronghold of the revolutionaries where they would regroup after battling Spanish troops.

Now known as Rodriguez town, it takes pride in a 608-hectare protected landscape which covers a gorge, the postcard-pretty Wawa Dam, a river, and the twin peaks of Pamitinan and Binacayan. It takes pride in being the nearest nature retreat where you can climb every mountain, bathe at a dam and icy waterfalls, cruise on a river, explore caves, and interact with indigenous Dumagat tribesmen.

Offroad, motocross and bike enthusiasts can put their beasts to the test in the highlands, crossing creeks and cliffside trails. Indeed, there’s no greater thrill on wheels than driving through rough roads and history.

Pit Stop 3: San Juan. This hilly town just outside Manila is where the proverbial first blood of the Revolution was drawn on August 30, 1896 after the tell-tale Cry of Balintawak a week earlier. Standing beside the San Juan City Hall is the Pinaglabanan Shrine where the poorly armed Katipuneros clashed with Spanish troops, signaling the start of a nationwide uprising.

The centerpiece of the sprawling manicured park is a monument which immortalizes the heroism of the freedom fighters. The Shrine also has the Museo ng Katipunan and the El Deposito museum, the restored reservoir which the rebels intended to destroy to cut off water supply to Manila.

Within a 1-km radius are the churches of Pinaglabanan and San Juan Del Monte which figured in Revolution-related events.

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