AURORA | Baler for History Enthusiasts

Baler Church historical marker

Apart from pristine coastline and Pacific waves that attract beach-goers, surfers and wannabes, Baler's rich history draws equal attention to its visitors. Walking around downtown is like wallowing inside a museum because most of Baler's historical sites are in close proximity within the town center.

The quaint town is witness to an important turn in the country's Spanish colonial history and to the life of one of the country's adored leaders. Aurora province's capital also has a catastrophic past that is worth learning about.

These spots in Baler will give adrenaline to history lovers.

READ ALSO: 11 Things to Do in Baler

Quezon Memorial Park, Baler
Quezon Memorial Park

Quezon Memorial Park

Manuel Quezon, the President from 1935 until his death in 1944, was born in Baler. His modest house once stood at this spacious park at the heart of the town.

Situated within the park grounds are the historical marker dedicated in his honor, his bronze statue that stands at the center, a replica of the nipa house where he grew up, a glass enclosure that once housed his vintage presidential car, and Museo de Baler, the town’s local museum.

Quezon Park is center to peoples’ recreation and a place to remember Baler’s illustrious son.

Quezon's statue and Museo de Baler's facade
Museo de Baler

Museo de Baler

The museum’s facade has intricate murals that depict Baler’s momentous events in history. Housed within the walls are artifacts significant to the town’s rich past.

Old photographs of Baler’s disastrous past, the town’s early settlements, the Siege of Baler (an important turning point in the Spanish era) and notable personalities that shape the town fill the museum’s ground floor. It also houses archaeological pieces unearthed in Aurora and memorabilia of the 2008 historical drama film Baler, a local film commissioned by the late Sen. Edgardo Angara, another Baler native. The upper floor was filled with artwork galleries that showcase the talents of the people of Aurora.

READ ALSO: Museo de Baler and Quezon Park, Windows to Baler's Rich Past

Doña Aurora Quezon’s House, Baler
Doña Aurora Quezon’s House

Doña Aurora Quezon’s House

Few blocks from Quezon Park stands the childhood home of another noteworthy child of Baler and a beloved figure in Philippine history. Aurora Aragon Quezon was a first cousin and eventual wife of Manuel Quezon. She was the first presidential spouse to use the First Lady honorific and a civic leader working on humanitarian activities in background during his husband’s political life, even after the president’s death in 1944. She was among those who fought for women’s suffrage which they attained in 1937. She was instrumental during the formative years of Philippine Red Cross and became its first chairperson in 1947 until her tragic death in 1949.

With only a few keepsakes inside the restored bahay kubo (most Quezon memorabilia are in Museo de Baler), the house seems not meant for an exhibit but a mere shrine to commemorate the life of Doña Aurora.

Across the street was the town’s church with which Doña Aurora was actively pushing for its reconstruction in 1939.

READ ALSO: Doña Aurora Quezon's House in Baler

Baler Church's facade
Baler Church

Baler Church

The thick walls of the centuries old San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Church is a silent witness to the Siege of Baler. In the final days of Philippine revolution against Spain in 1898, the last 54 Spanish soldiers in the country took the church, the only stone structure in town, in fear of enemy attack. The Filipino insurgents besieged the church, offering peace and demanding surrender only to be dismissed on five occasions by the Spanish captain who had considered those offers as a military deception. The 11-month siege ended when the Spanish soldiers surrendered on June 2, 1899, effectively ending the Spanish colonial era. Out of 54 soldiers, 35 survived. Starvation and tropical diseases depleted their command.

Baler is center to the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day celebration that falls on June 30, the same date when the first fire of the siege broke out in 1898 and when Emilio Aguinaldo issued a decree in 1899 declaring the last soldiers as friends, not prisoners of war.

The first church made of bamboo and nipa was constructed in 1611 but was destroyed by a tidal wave that washed the entire town on December 1735. The present church was built by forced labor and completed in 1798.

Lt. Gilmore's historical marker
Lt. Gilmore's historical marker

Lt. Gilmore Rescue Party marker

Few meters from Baler Church, at one corner of the town plaza grounds, there’s a historical marker dedicated to an event involving an American rescue party.

The Siege of Baler, a battle between Spanish soldiers and Filipino revolutionaries then allied with the Americans, was ongoing when the Philippine-American War broke out on February 1898. On April that year, the Americans intervened by attempting to rescue the Spaniards that garrisoned Baler Church. Filipino insurgents ambushed these American soldiers; Lt. James Clarkson Gilmore and other men that survived were held captured until American forces rescued them in December. This ambush was considered the first Filipino victory during the Philippine-American War.

Tromba Marina Monument at Ermita Hill
Tromba Marina Monument

Ermita Hill

The old Baler settlement established in 1600s was not on the site of the present Baler town center. The fateful day was December 27, 1735 when a huge tidal wave or tromba marina phenomenon engulfed the old Baler town at around 2 AM when most inhabitants were asleep. The 14 families who escaped drowning made their way up to Point Baja (now Ermita Hill) by swimming, and afterwards moved the town to where it is now. From these families, the present Baler natives had sprung. Angara family, who are presently a well-known political clan, was among the survivors.

Relaxing view of Baler's coastline from Ermita Hill
View from Ermita Hill

Ermita Hill is a couple of kilometers away from the town center. At the foot of the hill stands the Tromba Marina Monument that commemorates the survivors’ refuge to the hill. The hilltop offers a soothing breeze and a relaxing ocean view.


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

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