LOOK: Baler’s cultural heritage 116 years after historic siege
BALER, Aurora, Philippines—Baler is more than just an Anne Curtis film.
The younger generations may be familiar with it because of a movie reference, but generally speaking, this municipality just six hours away from Manila is relatively less popular compared to other historical sites in the country.
In fact, when you ask the youth of today what comes to their mind when they encounter the word “Baler,” surfing will most probably be the top answer.
However, less historical popularity does not necessarily translate to less historical significance.
Here are some photos proving that there is more to Baler than its famous waves and beaches.
- The Baler Catholic Church or the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Church is the site of the historic Siege of Baler, which celebrates its 116th anniversaryon Tuesday.
It was where some Spanish soldiers who refused to surrender at the end of the Philippine Revolution against the colonial Spain and the outset of the Spanish-American war isolated themselves for 337 days. For almost a year from July 1, 1898 to June 2, 1899, it has been a wonder to many how the barricaded Spaniards were able to survive despite their isolation to food and water.
However, narratives abound that some women natives who developed relationships with the Spanish soldiers secretly delivered food to the church. Filipinos also reportedly allowed carabaos to stray into the church grounds to serves as source of food.
According to a tour guide here, when the enclosed Spaniards surrendered after almost a yearlong siege, the Baler natives even healed the wounded soldiers and accompanied them to Manila before they finally retreated back to Spain.
Despite undergoing renovations and repainting, the tour guide said Baler Church was able to maintain its original walls and facade.
- Just near the Baler Church patio is the house of Aurora Aragon Quezon, the wife of then Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon. After the death of his husband, Aurora has devoted her time leading social and pastoral activities aimed at educating and improving the lives of children and the less fortunate.
Her efforts led to the recognition of the Red Cross as a national organization. She also became its first woman president.
In her honor, Aurora was declared a sub-province of Quezon in 1951, and an independent province in 1978.
Aurora’s house contains old books and portraits of the Quezons, among other household materials such as a coal-powered iron. The tour guide said the wooden columns of the house were maintained since they were built.
- Also near the Baler Church is the birthplace of Manuel Quezon himself. The compound houses the Baler Museum and sitting statues of the former Commonwealth president.
Aside from the nipa hut where the late president grew up, Quezon’s 1937 presidential car, especially manufactured for him by General Motors Corporation, is also on display in the area. The same vehicle was used by American General Douglas McArthur in his tour of duty in the country.