Fading Images and Fond Memories

Fading Images and Fond Memories
as told by the descendants of the Revolution of 1896

Jaime B. Veneracion
University of the Philippines

Upon my return from a three-month research in Madrid in 2001, I shared with Senator Edgardo Angara the information that Baler, his hometown in the province of Aurora, figure very well in books on Spanish military history. One discovery I made was a diorama of the “siege of the church of Baler” at the Alcazar Museum in the city of Toledo. I took a picture of the said diorama and published it in a souvenir program on the Filipino revolution against Spain in 1896-98.

Whether this initial conversation had an impact on the senator for him to recognize the historical significance of Baler, I have no way of ascertaining. Perhaps my information was not exactly new to him. His brother Mayor Arthur Angara of Baler had even been invited in Madrid to grace the commemoration of the centennial of the event in 1999. The said “homenaje” was the idea of Exequiel Sabarillo with the assistance of the Filipino community in Madrid and the cooperation of many descendants of the “heroes” of Baler, known in Spain as “Los Ultimos de Filipinas”. A movie of that title had been made through the initiative and direction of Francisco Franco in the 1950s.

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Rang-Ay Festival

Rang-ay is Ilocano for progress. It’s also the name of the annual festival held in Maria Aurora every July to coincide with the town Fiesta. One of the event’s highlight is a multi-cultural street dancing competition. This year the competition was held on July 20 and believe it or not, yours truly – the guy who would not dance even if you bribe me with an ipod – was one of the judges. I took loads of pictures from my judge’s perch in front of the public market and also from the plaza stage but they’re still in postproduction and will be ready before the second coming of Christ. Stay tuned.

Agta Ako!

Agta Ako! about the Siege of Baler :

1. Why it took almost a year for the revolutionaries to defeat the Spaniards before they finally surrendered. Why was the newspaper article had more bearing for the Los Ultimos than the persuasion of the revolutionaries?
2. Is the church really impenetrable? They were surrounded, all their supplies cut-off, they suffered from beriberi. They were outnumbered. They had defectors in their ranks.
3. Considering the above, were the revoultionaries out of their wits to force surrender? Were they untrained bunch of indios bravos?

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Watch Apocalypse Now Before You Die

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now has been named as the number one film that cinemagoers should watch before they die by a panel of experts. Read here.

If you’re living in Mars or somewhere further, you might not know that parts of Apocalypse Now was shot in Baler and the gig was responsible for today’s biggest surfing community in the Philippines.

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Ms. Beverly Siy, a writer and the resource person of the Sining Silangan 06 literary workshop held last May, alerted me about this great website – Panitikan.com.ph, your portal to Philippine literature. It has tons of literary works as well as news and infos about the country’s literary scene.

Baler’s very own, Sining Silangan 06 Gawad Balagtas awardee Ms. Estrella Sindac’s poems are featured in the website. Just click here and look for her name in the list.

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Aguas Potables

The first potable water system in Baler, called Aguas Potables by the oldies, was the initiative of Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon, again according to the senior citizens of Baler. The water source was the Digisit Falls (or Natulo Falls) more than 10 kilometers from the Poblacion. There was no water treatment facility at Digisit. Fresh water from the mountains are channeled from the top of the waterfalls through kilometers of large pipes straight to the houses of the town. The water, according to those who were lucky enough to sample them, was cold, fresh and sweet. Better than todays purified water courtesy of the ten water purifying stations in town. Natural disasters, old age and the emergence of free flowing wells rendered the water system obsolete during the early 80’s and the pipes slowly disappeared or migrated to the junk shops. Some sections of the pipes are still visible and the water source still produces the same cold, fresh and sweet water although in much smaller quantities. Some private resorts along the Digisit area still get their water supply from the waterfalls using newer but smaller pipes. The picture above, taken last May, shows two pipes coming from the watersource; the original 1940’s pipe on the left and a newer one on the right.

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