Unforgettable Moments at the 120th-Anniversary Tribute to the Heroes of Baler during Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day

June 30, 2019 marks a milestone in the long and deep history shared between Spain and The Philippines. For the 17th consecutive year, the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day was celebrated in Baler, capital of the province of Aurora, northeast of Luzon.

Adrián Valbuena, great-great-grandson of Corporal Jesús García Quijano, was the flag bearer in the reenactment of the departure from the church carried out by the Association Heroes de Baler – Últimos de Filipinas 120 years after the end of the historical siege. Photo by Vicente Bataller.

The date recalls the day in 1899 in which General Emilio Aguinaldo, president of the first Philippine Republic, issued a safe-conduct ordering that the survivors of the Detachment of Cazadores No. 2, after entrenching themselves in the Church of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa for 337 days (and nights) not only were not to be treated as enemies, but on the contrary, as friends and “legendary sons of El Cid and Pelayo.” This decree signed by Aguinaldo went down in History as an unprecedented ode since the year 390 BC, when the Gallic chieftain Brennus, after besieging and conquering Rome, coined the expression Vae victis! (Woe to the vanquished!) to highlight the helplessness of the defeated.

After a century of gradual indifference and mutual oblivion between Madrid and Manila, the initiative to recover the historical ties between The Philippines and Spain was taken in 2002 by Senator Edgardo Javier Angara, probably the most relevant Filipino politician since Aguinaldo himself and Manuel L. Quezon, the first President of the Commonwealth of The Philippines in 1935 and, like Edgardo J. Angara, also a native of Baler, in whose church the sun set for Spanish empire.

On this 120th anniversary, there have been innumerable moments of bursting emotion while showcasing the enormous fund of coexistence between the two countries. This celebration has induced to a new step forward in the rescue from oblivion of the universal legacy involved in the events which occurred in Baler at the dawn of the XX century. We have selected in this post some of those moments.

The first is this video by Sara Armas, the EFE Agency correspondent in The Philippines, because it sums up well what happened during the event. This news report has contributed more than it is quantifiable to publicize in Spain how the Philippine-Friendship Day is celebrated in Baler every year.

We also highlight another video, edited by the Association Últimos de Filipinas – Héroes de Baler, which has circulated virally among thousands of devices, to exceed 100,000 views, a sample of the interest that exists in Spain beyond the ideological instrumentalisation that is often made of our own History. It proves the curiosity to know more about the military and civil deed (in short, the human accomplishment) that occurred in Baler. A creative mix of images from the 1945 film with the reenactment of the departure from the church, 120 years later, performed by the members of the Association. The group was led by its President Aurelio Calvo Infante and the flagman Adrián Valbuena, great-great-grandson of Corporal Jesús García Quijano. The bouquet of flowers, with the flags of both nations, was carried by his Corporal grand-daughter, María García García, and by Enrique Castillo, great-grandson of soldier Felipe Castillo, the last to die among the survivors of the Siege. They were followed by Marcos and Francisco Cervantes, grandsons of the Murcia-born soldier Luis Cervantes and by Toni and Toni Bauza, nephew grandson and nephew great-great-grandson, respectively, of Antoni Bauza, ‘the one of the crosses’, as he was known in his hometown Petra, in Mallorca. A recreation sponsored by the National Historical Commission of The Philippines, which can be considered as historical among the previous 17 celebrations.

Another moment that will be recorded in the history of this unique celebration was the tribute that the Municipal Government of Baler pays each year to the Filipino revolutionaries who besieged the church of Bale. On this occasion it also counted on the active presence of the Spanish expedition, making the spirit of friendship a reality, in the enclave of Putok sa Dikaloyungan, a small monument in El Real, the hidden place in the jungle where the insurrectos, as the insurgents were called back then by the Spaniards, swore to rise in arms against Spanish rule on 3 September 1897. The descendants of the kastilas, as the Filipinos called the Spaniards, met there with the descendants of Teodorico Novicio, Anterio Amatorio, Norberto Valenzuela and Colonel Simon Tecson himself, making certain the self-correcting mechanism that History sometimes has. We genuinely enjoyed the exchange of views with Arnulfo G. Querijero, Bobot Tecson and Professor Jaime Veneracion, who have thoroughly researched about the Siege for many years.

All members of the expedition contained their emotions during the celebration, except in our first group visit to the church. The 8 direct descendants of 4 of the survivors (Corporal García Quijano and the soldiers Felipe Castillo, Antoni Bauza and Luis Cervantes) gave free rein to our childhood memories to share with the rest of the Cazadores the torrent of mixed feelings one experiences while walking into the history of those four walls.

“Today we commemorate that what began with death, war and fatality ended in friendship and mutual respect. Instead of commemorating how the colonists surrendered after a siege of 11 months, it is better that, as a nation, we remember that almost four centuries of Spanish rule concluded with reconciliation, friendship, compassion and camaraderie”, said Senator Sonny Angara, a native of Baler and son of also Senator Edgardo Angara, who in 2002 promoted the declaration of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. It was an honor to give my friend Sonny a personalized shirt of the Spanish football national team.

Next is the group photo with the Secretary of Defense, Delfin Lorenzana, Senator Sonny Angara, the outgoing mayor of Baler Nelianto Bihasa, the Aurora representative Rommel T. Angara, the director of the National Historical Commission of The Philippines, Rene Escalante, and the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines, Jorge Moragas, right next to the Baler Municipal Hall, located in the building that in 1898 housed the Political-Military Command of the District of El Príncipe.

In the Casino Español de Manila we celebrated the farewell dinner of the expedition and enjoyed the same menu that was served to the heroes of Baler after his return to Manila in July 1899, just a few days before embarking on the steamer Alicante towards Barcelona. The President of the Association, Aurelio Calvo, presented to each male expeditionary the Cazador diploma, that of the Lady of Honor to the female expeditionaries and the Diploma of Honor to Javier Galván, director of the Cervantes Institute of Manila and a good friend of Baler. A great end point to such a memorable trip.

This article would be incomplete without a photograph of the true protagonists of the event. The best known is this one, which was taken on July 7, 1899 at the Palace of Santa Potenciana, in Intramuros, where they stayed after arriving in Manila before returning to Spain. In addition to the 2 Franciscans, Fathers López and Minaya, 33 Spanish soldiers survived the Siege. Here are their names and their place of origin, to which they were anxious to return when they were being photographed.

  1. Saturnino Martín Cerezo. Lieutenant. Miajadas, Cáceres.
  2. Gregorio Catalán Valero. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Osa de la Vega, Cuenca.
  3. Vicente Pedrosa Caballeda. Soldier. 37 years-old. Peasant. Married. Carballino, Orense.
  4. Loreto Gallego García. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Requena, Valencia.
  5. Ramón Boades Tormo. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Carlet, Valencia.
  6. Miguel Méndez Expósito. Soldier. 21 years-old. Peasant. Puebla de Azaba, Salamanca.
  7. José Jiménez Berro. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Almonte, Huelva.
  8. Felipe Castillo Castillo. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Castillo de Locubín. Jaén.
  9. José Pineda Tura. Soldier. 32 years-old. Baker. Sant Feliu de Codinas. Barcelona.
  10. José Martínez Santos. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Almeiras, La Coruña.
  11. Eufemio Sánchez Martínez. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Puebla de Don Fadrique, Granada.
  12. Ramón Ripollés Cardona. Soldier. 29 years-old. Tailor. Morella, Castellón.
  13. Timoteo López Larios. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Alcoroches, Guadalajara.
  14. Pedro Planas Basagañas. Soldier. 39 years-old. Locksmith. Sant Joan de Abadesses, Girona.
  15. Francisco Real Yuste. Soldier. Cieza, Murcia.
  16. Luis Cervantes Dato. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Mula, Murcia.
  17. Juan Chamizo Lucas. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Valle de Abdalajís, Málaga.
  18. Manual Menor Ortega. Soldier. 21 years-old. Peasant. Seville.
  19. Marcelo Adrian Obregón. Soldier. 22 years-old. Servant. Villarmanzo, Burgos.
  20. Marcos Mateo Conesa. Soldier. 23 years-old. Hatter. Tronchón, Teruel.
  21. Antonio Bauza Fullana. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. Petra, Mallorca.
  22. José Hernández Arocha. Soldier. 22 years-old. Peasant. La Laguna, Tenerife.
  23. Eustaquio Gopar Hernandez. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Tuineje, Fuerteventura.
  24. Santos González Roncal. Cornet player. 22 years-old. Peasant. Mallén, Zaragoza.
  25. Miguel Pérez Leal. Soldier. 25 years-old. Blacksmith. Lebrija, Seville.
  26. José Olivares Conejero. Corporal. 22 years-old. Shoemaker. Caudete, Albacete.
  27. Emilio Fabregat Fabregat. Soldier. 21 years-old. Baker. Salsadella, Castellón.
  28. Jesús García Quijano. Corporal. 24 years-old. Peasant. Viduerna de la Peña, Palencia.
  29. Bernardino Sánchez Cainzos. Sanitarian. 23 years-old. Peasant. Guitiriz. Lugo.
  30. Domingo Castro Camarena. Soldier. 23 years-old. Stonecutter. Aldeavieja, Ávila.
  31. Pedro Vila Gargante. Soldier. 40 years-old. Cook. Married. Talteull, Lleida.
  32. Ramón Mir Brils. Soldier. 23 years-old. Peasant. Guissona, Lleida.
  33. (*) Rogelio Vigil de Quiñones y Alfaro. Lieutenant Doctor, who does not appear in this photograph and whose contribution was decisive during the siege.  Marbella, Málaga.

Some of these moments, due to their symbolic importance, must be maintained over time, so we have not hesitated to update our documentary The Last of the Philippines. Return to Baler, available in its specific section of this blog.

Long live Philippine – Spanish Friendship!

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