“To return,” the literal translation of the Dinagat word “balid”, where the name of Baler originated. With just the tale of how this coastal municipality in Aurora got its name, you can already discern vibrant chronicles it can offer. And to accurately dig into this great record, a short walking tour of Baler’s historical sites is a must on your visit.
What’s good is that all landmarks are accessible by foot and just located on a single street. First destination is Quezon Park, the birthplace of then-President Manuel Luis Quezon. A monument, built to commemorate his legacy, is situated in the center of the park.
At the back of the Quezon Monument is Museo de Baler with the welcoming mural that was dedicated to the youth of the town for them to remember and emulate the valor and heroism of their ancestors. Entrance fee is Php30 for the two-story museum. First floor houses the different items from the major historical moments in Baler like jars during the galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico that took place between 1565 and 1815.
Aside from that, you can also pass by the props, materials, and important stuff that was used in the filming of the famous movie Baler, starring Anne Curtis and Jericho Rosales. Items like the objects used in the Holy Mass scenes as well as the awards and recognition that the movie got.
The second floor is dedicated to recognizing arts with some paintings and photographs related to the present and past Baler. A segment also features the gallery of Oscar Fernandez Orengo, the 44 Cineastas Filipinos, with perfectly taken portraits of famous Filipino filmmakers such as Jeffrey Jeturian, Mel Chionglo, Jose Javier Reyes, Brilliante Mendoza, Peque Gallaga, and Maryo J Delos Reyes.
Located on the other side of the road, through the intersection, is the Baler sign that usually serves as a picture taking area for tourists. After some snaps, you can proceed to the Baler Church, a structure and a witness of Baler’s past. The church was built in 1611 by the Franciscan Friars with nipa and bamboo as materials. The siege of a Spanish garrison of four officers and fifty men by Filipino insurgents from June 27, 1898 to June 2, 1899 is the famous contribution of Baler Church to Philippine history.
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Facing the church on the other side of the road is the Aurora Quezon House. Aurora Aragon Quezon, the wife of President Manuel L. Quezon, was a civic leader who spearheaded some activities for her community. Their house, which resembles a grander version of a nipa-hut, has two floors; the upper floor has two rooms; a library and the other one adjacent to the living room. You can proceed to the dining room from the living room through the corridor that also leads to the back door of the house.
A 1936 Chrysler Airflow Limousine is housed in a garage next to the house. The car, with a plate number 1, served as the official car of the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. It was restored under the supervision of the Vintage Car Club of the Philippines. It took 18 months for the car to be completely restored with another restoration done in 2009.
Last station for the historical walk is the Lt. Gilmore Rescue Party marker. This is the statement written on the marker: “Lieutenant-Commander James Gilmore, USN Commanding the USS gunboat Yorktown, was captured together with all his commandos. 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.”
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Some of the narrations of the past that we were able to relish during the short historical walk were not that widely written in textbooks. And the convenience of having the destinations adjacent to one another makes it a better way for visitors to track the history that Baler openly shares. Lastly, it is clear how the present and past people of Baler, and Aurora in general, are proud of their town that despite its remoteness, they were able to build a thriving and vibrant society.