After a couple of hours in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, we hopped on a bus going to Baler. It took us more than 3 hours to reach the town. Crossing the Sierra Madre was steep and difficult, because it’s a dirt road most of the way. The route was still untouched of modernity; the road was surrounded by green rivers, forestry and a couple of houses there and everywhere.
The stopover station was literally a box shape house, without any paint on it. We spent most of the day at the bus we watched movies, slept and we have finally reached the town before sunset. From the final stop we rode a tricycle to any resort in the Baler Bay. We have checked in at a local inn and enjoy our time at the Sabang Beach.
We swam at the cool waters of the bay and even though it was not as white and clear as we had hope for it was enough for us to relax after a day of traveling. We also took several pictures and end the night with a dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Gazing at the night, sea and sky it was breathtaking.
We woke up early the following morning. Enjoying the morning breeze of the bay we walked on the sands of the beach. We explored the other side of the beach which we did not have the chance to do yesterday. After that we took a quick bite and went on our way.
We rode a tricycle to the town proper and visited the most famous building in town. Baler is already known for its surfing and hometown of the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon. But in recent events, the Church of Baler became the setting for the period drama movie “Baler.” The movie was based on a Siege of Baler during the Philippine Revolution, the last stand of the Spaniard forces in the Philippines taking refuge in the church for almost one whole year. Here is the history of the church and the historic event connected to it. I will be talking more about later on so here is the brief description on the historical marker located on the wall.
“Siege of the Church of Baler
A Spanish garrison of four officers and 50 men was besieged in this church by Filipino insurgents from June 27, 1898 to June 2, 1899. Offers of peace and demands for surrender were refused on five occasions. From newspapers dropped into the court by an Emissary of General Rios on may 29, the garrison learned for the first time that the Philippines had been lost to Spain and that for many months there had been no Spanish flag in Luzon, except the one waving over Baler Church. Broken by starvation and tropical diseases, the depleted command arranged a truce with the insurgents and marched out of this church across the mountains to Manila on June 2, 1899. Of the original garrison two officers, the priest and 12 men had died from disease; two men had been killed by insurgent bullets; two men had been executed; two officers and fourteen men had been wounded; six men had deserted. The fortitude a public document issued at Tarlac on June 20, 1899. Upon their return to Spain the survivors were rewarded by the Queen Regent in the name of Alfonso XIII and the Spanish nation.”
Aurora Quezon y Aragon
Right across from the church is the replica of the house of Dona Aurora Quezon y Aragon; the wife of the former President Manuel L. Quezon, which was also his first cousin. The province of Aurora was named after her honor. Its a two storey bahay na kubo with no first floor with stairs leading up to the second. Unfortunately, it was closed when we came so we only took a picture of the house and the marker.
Then near the same area, a couple of steps away is an empty lot with a construction going on. But one thing standout and that is the historical landmark.
Lt. Gilmore Rescue Party
“Lt. Gilmore Rescue Party
Lieutenant-Commander James C. Gilmore, U.S.N., Commanding the USS Gunboat Yorktown, was captured, together with all his command, save two, who were instantly killed and two mortally wounded, by insurgent forces, when he came to Baler in April 1899 to relieve the half-famished Spanish garrison that had been besieged in the town church for nearly a year. Lt. Gilmore and the survivors were taken to Nueva Ecija, and then to Northern Luzon. They were later rescued by American forces and taken to Manila.”
We walked to Quezon street and turn left, and we caught sight of the Quezon Park; the birthplace of President Manuel L. Quezon. In front is the statue of the president sitting on a chair and right behind him is the Museo de Baler. A museum dedicated to the town and its famous residents. I will talk more about the Museum and the President later on. Outside is a replica of the nipa hut of Pres. Quezon’s home.
After a tour to the museum and its surrounding, Jerry and I left and ride a tricycle to the marketplace. It was busy with people doing their regular errands and we paid no intentions as we rode the next bus heading back to Cabanatuan. We rode an air conditioned one as usual and it didn’t take long before it left. Jerry listened to the music on my phone while I slept most of the way until the bus broke down and we were forced to change bus.
We saw the same sights we have saw on our way and thinking of our little adventure on the far off town of Baler, where there were plenty of history but not enough sights. I think what made the town popular were the natural wonders one can see, from the beach and surfing waves, to the mountains. The second was the history and they do try to show the rich heritage they have but if you are a history buff like me you will not be contented. Now I have to go back in the future to see any new sights in town and even visit Dona Aurora’s house, and maybe go see the nearby towns in the province.
This is the end of my short adventure as we head back to the city and on for another one in the other provinces in the country.