28
Jan
08

El Puerto de Cavite/ Ribera de Cavite • Cavite City

Originally named Tangway, Cavite Puerto was part of a town, which included in its jurisdiction Kawit (Cavite el Viejo) and Binakayan among others. It was the site of a shipyard which built, repaired and outfitted the galleons that plied the Manila-Acapulco route.  From the 16th century to the early 19th this sea route linked Manila with the rest of the Spanish empire.  Through the annual voyages of the galleons, goods and peoples were exchanged across the Pacific.  With it came ideas, customs, practices, arts and crafts, industry, plants and so forth, which created a mixed culture on both sides of the Pacific.  Hispanic but with an American and Asian touch.  Cavite Puerto evolved as the settlement for those involved actively in the galleon trade.  It was at Cavite that goods were uploaded and downloaded.

It was constituted an independent town in 1614 with Tomás Salazar as earliest known gobernadorcillo recorded. Cavite was a cosmopolitan town and it attracted the different religious orders to set up convents and churches within the limited confines of the fortified town. There were all in all eight churches in Cavite. The Jesuit Church of Nuestra Señora de Loreto was attached to a college. Near the Porta Baga gate was a church to Nuestra Señora de Soledad de Porta Baga, devotion to which is traced to the 1660s. 

The fortification of Cavite as a settlement and later a city stretched from the 16th to the 19th centuries and involved various architects and engineers under the direction of the Spanish military. Various plans of Cavite’s fortification drawn at different times show the evolution of the settlement. At one time a channel was built to separate the settlement from the rest of the sandbar, thus making it an independent island. This fortified settlement is described in Spanish documents as a fuerza, the fortification of Cavite Puerto is similar to Intramuros in that it encloses a settlement rather than a military installation.  More accurately then it should be called a citadel. 

Cavite Puerto with Fuerza de San Felipe Neri, Intramuros and Santiago, northeast across the bay, formed a single complex of fortifications.  Cavite Puerto was residence and administrative center of a naval outfit and a shipyard responsible for building, repairing and outfitting the galleons. At its most extensive, the fortification enclosed a small town of eight churches, a college (San Ildefonso), public buildings and residences, which served the needs of a native population, the soldiers and workers at the port, transients and passengers on board the galleon.  The principal entrance to the walled settlement was through Puerta Vaga (“New gate” corrupted to Porta Baga), which was flanked by two stout bastions.  Control over the port was turned over to the Americans at the turn of the 19th century.  It was redesigned as an American naval station; to make way for modern ships and armaments, the ruinous historical structures were demolished, along with most of Fuerza de San Felipe.

The whole settlement was reduced to ashes early on the Second World War.  Except for the bell tower of the Recollect church, nothing remains of the settlement.  Presently, excavations at Porta Baga is being undertaken.

 

 

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