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Baler revisited

The Dicasalarin Cove in Baler

One hundred twenty years ago, the Philippines and Spain became friends when they should have been enemies. And this historical circumstance happened in Baler.

Baler, the capital of Aurora province, is famous for its waves that are the altar of many surfers. Its beautiful beaches and resorts are world famous, too.

But Baler in itself is a historical altar that needs to be revisited if only to inculcate patriotism in one’s heart. Written records say that on June 27, 1898, 15 days after the Philippine Independence was proclaimed, “54 Spanish soldiers of the Baler garrison, under the command of Captain Enrique de las Morenas y Fossi, made the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa church their barracks. When de las Morenas died on Nov. 22, 1898, Lieutenant Saturnino Martín Cerezo replaced him. On June 2, 1899, the last Spanish garrison in the Philippines surrendered after the Siege of Baler, effectively ending over 300 years of Spanish rule in the country.”

We were recently in Baler to celebrate the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. “We are here to commemorate once more the deep connection between the Philippines and Spain. We also remember, this time of the year, the Siege of Baler wherein, despite the harsh situation then brought about by the besiegement of our countrymen and the last Spanish soldiers, still, the ties that bind our countries was shown to be stronger when the same Spanish soldiers were decreed by President Aguinaldo to be regarded as friends. From this conflict arose a strong bond between our people, which has remained true to this day,” shared Alex Ocampo, political affairs officer of Rep. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, during the Philippine-Spanish Friendship day held at the Plaza de Baler in Aurora province.

The inter-agency committee for the Philippine-Spanish Friendship celebration led the commemoration of the 118th anniversary of the Siege of Baler. Leading the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies were guests of honor Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, representing the Philippines; and Spanish Ambassador Luis Calvo, representing Spain. Former senator-now-envoy to the European Union Edgardo Angara, Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo and National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ Dr. Rene Escalante were in attendance as well.

Hundreds of Katipuneros from Baler and 50 Spanish soldiers exhibited a brand of patriotism and loyalty to their motherland and flag. The Filipinos, while fighting for their freedom from the yoke of subjugation from conquering invaders, showed their benevolence and generosity to the enemy.

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On the other hand, the besieged Spanish soldiers, fighting to defend the Spanish flag against all odds, exhibited their own brand of unwavering love for their motherland. Against this background formed an unusual kind of friendship that has extended to a cultural and economic cooperation forged between the Philippines and Spain. This is what we are celebrating today.” Thus read the invitation for all friends and visitors to Baler. The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day was established by Republic Act No. 9187 on July 22, 2002 as a means to strengthen the relationship between two nations that share history, values and traditions.

In its 15th year, the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day in Baler, Aurora is a continuing reminder of the strong cultural and historical ties that bind the Philippines and Spain. At the heart of this special occasion is the inspiring story of the Siege of Baler, which showed admirable traits of both the Filipinos and the Spaniards. That particular event displayed the honor and forgiveness — with the Filipinos and Spanish choosing to treat each other as comrades of peace and not as enemies.

At times of adversity, the Siege of Baler story is a good reminder to choose love over hate. A story like this is worth preserving. Thus the celebration of friendship between the Philippines and Spain.

The NHCP is the national government agency mandated to promote Philippine history through its museums, research and publication and preserve the nations historical heritage through conservation and the marking of historic sites and structures.

It was a weekend of commemoration and fun for the delegates who attended this prestigious celebration. We landed in Baler aboard the Air Juan seaplane and we witnessed the thick forests and lush vegetation of Baler. We checked in at the beautiful tropical paradise called Costa Pacifica with its well-appointed bedrooms and swimming pools.

Baler, a must-see surf, culture and adventure destination in the Philippines, welcomes travelers of all ages and interests: from families to friends, from beach bums to business travelers. At Costa Pacifica in Baler, there is something for everyone. The resort boasts some of the best waves the Philippines has to offer. It is a vacation spot deserving to be on any adventurer’s bucket list; and where better to begin than in Costa Pacifica?

Located on Sabang Beach of Baler, Costa Pacifica offers some of the best waves in the Philippines that attract local and international travelers looking for adventure. It is here where one can enjoy the glorious seascape and enchanting landscape.

We had lunch at Dicasalarin Cove with Alex Angara (daughter of Sen. Angara) and her loving husband Joseph Cole and the charming Ferdi Salvador and gracious Myta Santiago with our media friends Angelo Comsti, Marlene Bonnin,  Alex Vergara,  Mica Chua and Wren Go.

Joseph accompanied us to the caves of the cove and we walked the lovely beach. For dinner that evening, we enjoyed the Four Hands Dinner by chef Sau del Rosario and chef Marco Villareal.

Chef Sau del Rosario is a French-trained Filipino chef who is considered one of the most innovative chefs in the country. Chef Marco Villareal is a true-blue Balerlano, who is equally talented in the art of cooking.

While having dinner, we were serenaded by Noel Manzano and Verna Catusalem, young Baler singers with amazing talent. They learned Spanish songs for this event.

For appetizers, we had sticky rice with macapuno and toasted cashew rolled in corn chips and squid ink and prawn. For soup we had sopa de ajo with quail egg and moringa-infused olive oil and chorizo, smoked fish and mung bean soup. For salad we had watermelon, tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs in pineapple-ginger vinaigrette and tofu, dragonfruit, pineapple and jicama salad with curried peanut butter vinaigrette. For the main course, we had banana blossoms in coco cream adobo and lobster paella with coconut cream and turmeric; and for our second main course, we had blue marlin fillet caldereta with native spring chicken breast roulade stuffed with mushroom and pistachio plus pumpkin puree and chicken ginger jus. For dessert, we had rice flour pearl, toasted black sesame and purple yam ice cream and manchego cheesecake with coco jam.

There was the Tareptepan cultural night with the theme “The Siege of Baler Revisited.” True to the spirit of the Philippine-Spanish day, “The Siege of Baler” is a theatrical presentation co-directed by two of the best talents in the film industry in the Philippines and Spain. They were John Arcilla, a multi-awarded actor famous for his portrayal of Heneral Luna and a Baler local himself; and Jesus Valbuena, a renowned filmmaker from Spain who directed the documentary Returning to the Siege of Baler. His grandfather was one of the 33 Spanish survivors from the Siege of Baler.

The next morning, there was a wreath-laying ceremony in the Baler Church. There we learned that on the last day of June, Filipino and Spanish people celebrate Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. The two nations share a tumultuous history, and the holiday was created in 2002 to promote and encourage international relations. That evening, we attended the opening of the newest restaurant in town called Kubli serving a fusion of international cuisine. It was a night to remember.

 And it was a weekend of remembering and celebrating the valor and friendship between Spain and the Philippines. In the words of Alex Ocampo, “The Philippines without Spain is unimaginable and vice versa, for our historical ties will always pull us towards each other, and such relationship becomes our guiding light in traversing the different challenges that life throws in our respective countries’ path.”

It’s time to revisit Baler.

 

 

 

 

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For more information on Costa Pacifica, log on to www.costapacificabaler.com. Email the author at miladay.star@gmail.com.

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