(This article is taken from Vol. VI – THIS IS CAVITE CITY 1954-1961 written by G.S. Samonte)
Occupying the southeastern portion of the irregular shoreline that fringes Manila Bay, and protruding like a small springboard over a large swimming pool, is a narrow strip of level land with an area of barely two-and-a-half square miles and a population of about fifty-five thousand peaseful and law abiding citizens. This is the City of Cavite.
Historical accounts relate that, soon after the discovery of the Philippines by Magellan in 1521 Spain sent here expeditionary and occupation forces to lay claim on and settle in these islands. Some of these Spaniards thus found their way to Zamboanga, to Manila and to a coastal town on the western part of Cavite province which they named Ternate after the town they came from in Marianas. After staying in Ternate for sometime, the Spaniards moved inland until they reached a place which they found well populated. Here they met some natives who according to some sources, on being asked about the name of the town, told them that it was “Kawit”. Not comprehending at first the answer given by the native, they asked the same question. Annoyed by this seeming slow comprehension of the Castillians, the natives then answered in a tone of disgust, “Kawit,eh”. The Spaniards then understood it to mean”Kawite”. From thence, the town was called “Kawite or Kabite,” as was first accepted and later rectified. The Spaniards then organized a government for the town and at the same time named it “cabecera” of the province to which they also gave the name “Kabite”.
Years later, as more and more Spaniards came to the Philippines, the settlers found themselves obliged to seek expansion. From “Kabite” they moved on along the shoreline until they reached that portion called “Tanguay” on the northern part of the province which overlooks Manila Bay. Finding this to be a peninsula almost surrounded by water and considering it to be better than “Kabite”, they settled here and changed its name from “Tanguay” to “Puerto de Cavite”. A government was then also organized to this newly discovered “pueblo” and another for the adjacent one which comprised the mainland. They named this other pueblo “San Roque”. Subsequently, the Spaniards name the “Cavite Puerto” “cabecera” or capital of the province in place of “Kabite” which thenceforth became known as “Cavite Viejo” or “Kawit” as it was originally called.
To improve and protect the “Cavite Puerto” the Spaniards fortified it with high and thick stone walls called “murallas” surrounded by moats filled with water and accessible only by means of draw-bridges. Two of these “murallas” were called “Puerto San Felipe” and “Porta Vaga”.
To govern the two “pueblos” thus organized, the Spanish “Gobernador Politico-Militar”, appointed Filipinos to serve as “administradores civiles”. Each “pueblo” was placed under a “Gobernadorcillo” who was later called “Capitan Municipal” assisted by a “teniente Mayor”, a “Teniente Segundo”, a “Teniente Tercero”, “Tenientes del Barrio” and “Cabezas de Barangay”. These latter were entrusted with the task of collecting “tributes” and “polistas” which were taxes and enforces labor fees, from the people. The governments of the two “pueblos” functioned fairly well until years later the western portion of San Roque called “estanzuela”, dissatisfied with the administration of the “pueblo” demanded from the “gobernador” the separation of their district from the same. According to accounts related by old citizens, the people, represented by a certain Señor Miranda, addressed their petition in Spanish and concluded it in this wise, “Por caridad, Señor Gobernador, separanos de San Roque”. “For charity’s sake, Mr. Governor, separate us from San Roque”. This petition was duly attended to, considered and finally granted, thus creating the long-wanted new “pueblo” which was named “Caridad”, separated from San Roque by means of a boundary line called “Mojon”.
Then years of revolution in the Philippines and the arrival of the Americans in 1898 Spain, defeated and the Philippines, swearing allegiance to America, the Cavite “pueblos” changed hands and this time were settled by the newcomers. And again, Cavite “puerto” or the “Tierra de Maria Sanitisima”, as it was also called by the Spaniards, was used as the seat of the American Navy. A Navy Yard was established in the old “Puerto” which the Americans found already adequately built for such. The “commandancia” which had served as the headquarters of the Spanish “Comandantes de la Marina” also became the residence and office of American admirals.
With change of sovereignty there also came changes in the status of the governments of the “pueblos”. Instead of the “gobernadorcillos” or “Capitanes Municipales”. “tenientes” and “Cabezas de Barangay”, the Americans gave the “pueblos” new administrators called “presidentes Municipales”, “Vice-Presidentes Municipales” and :consejales”. The first Filipinos tro hold the reigns of theses local governments were Don Zacarias Fortich fro Cavite, Don Francisco Basa for San Roque and Don Jose Raqueno Bautista fore Caridad. They were all, however, under the direct supervision of ranking American Army officers, first of whom, was Colonel Meade.
In 1901, civil government having been already implanted in the Philippines, the three “pueblos” or towns were fused into one and given the name of Municipality of Cavite and subsequently designated by act of the first Philippine Assembly, capital of the province of Cavite. The Former three “pueblos” thus became mere district of San Antonio, formerly called “Sabana”, and the island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay. The municipality thenceforth functioned as a civil government whose officials consisted of a president, a vice president and ten councilors, all elected by the people. First to become president of Cavite under this democratic process was Dr.Catalino Nicolas of the old “puerto”.
As the years rolled by, and the Municipality of Cavite progressed by leaps and bounds, structurally and economically, the need for another change was felt. In order to conform to then existing conditions and their demands, while the municipality was fast becoming cosmopolitan, an act of Congress of the Philipine Commonwealth chartered in into a city. This was on September 17,1940. Since then the City has had administrative officials who are Congressional appointees headed by a mayor and two councilors. The council, however, is complemented with three other councilors, who are elected by the people and two ex-officio members.
This history of Cavite City is replete with memorable events, patriotic movements and cultural advancements. The home of the XIII Martyrs and the land that gave birth to the author and composer of our National Anthem, Don Julian Felipe, it had withstood centuries of struggle under foreign dominations, surmounted the obstacles and succeeded in becoming what it is today. On May 24, 1954, however, after having served for more than three centuries as seat of government aof the province, republic Act No.981 wrote “finis” to its saga, for, by virtue of the same, the hinterlands of Quintana, Tanza, Cavite were made City of Trece Martires and the new capital of the province.