The church of Baler looks very simple but is actually rich with history. Some of the facts I learned from Baler’s website, information from the National Historical Commission and articles from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts surprised me.
Here are five amazing facts about Baler Church:
1. CORALS AND HONEY USED FOR CONSTRUCTION
The structure we see today has undergone many reconstructions, and the most recent renovation happened in 1939. But during the late 1700s, blocks of corals were transported by hand to build the structure. These blocks were glued together using lime and honey. This information was based on Baler’s website about tourist attractions: http://baler.gov.ph/services/for-visitors/tourist-attractions/
2. BALER CHURCH’S OTHER NAME
3. THE SITE OF THE SIEGE OF BALER
Baler Church is also called the “Last Spanish Garrison in the Philippines” and the site of the “Siege of Baler.”
The “last Spanish Garrison” was named so because it was the last place the Spaniards fortified as a military post even after the Philippine independence has already been declared. They had no idea the war was over. It is also the site of the “Siege of Baler” because it was sieged for 11 months.
In June 1898, 54 Spaniards made this their fort and found themselves trapped. More than 800 Filipino revolutionaries surrounded the church and demanded they surrender. Though the country already won independence from Spanish colonization, the news didn’t reach the Spaniards in Baler. They believed the Philippines was still under Spanish rule.
It took them 11 months to finally surrender.
Based on the information from the historical marker entitled “Siege of the Church of Baler,” of the 54 that entered the church, 19 died. It was not clear when the actual deaths took place while they were inside.
4. BALER THE MOVIE
An award-winning movie was also based on this siege, but many of the characters in the movie were fictitious.
The story focused on the forbidden love between the daughter of a rebel commander and a half-Spanish soldier. Feliza (Anne Curtis) and Celso (Jericho Rosales) fought for their love during those turbulent times.
5. DECLARED AS A NATIONAL HISTORICAL LANDMARK
The church was declared a historical landmark by the National Historical Institute (now called, National Historical Commission) on February 29, 2000.
Official markers can be seen around the Church of Baler, and here’s what’s written:
Simbahan ng Baler
Unang pinatayo sa nipa at kawayan ng mga paring Pransiskano sa Tibag (ngayo’y Sabang) sa pagtatangkilik ni San Luis Obispo De Tolosa, 1611. Inilipat sa pamamahala ng mga Rekoletos, 1658; muling ibinalik sa mga Pransiskano, 1703. Nawasak ng Daluyong. Disyembre 27, 1735; inilipat sa kasalukuyang kinatatayuan at isang bagong simbahang yari sa bato ang naitayo dito. Si Manuel Luis Quezon, unang pangulo ng Komonwelt ng Pilipinas ay bininyagan, 1878. Isang may 54 kataong garison ng mga Kastila ang kinubkub ng mga Pilipinong rebolusyonaryo, Hunyo 27, 1898 hanggang Hunyo 2, 1899. Napasailalim ng pamamahala ng mga sekular, 1899; muling ipinagawa ng pangulo at ginang Quezon, 1939; inilipat sa mga Karmelitas, 1947 at muling ibinalik sa mga sekular, 1983.
Siege of the Church of Baler
A Spanish Garrison of four officers and fifty men was besieged in this church by Filipino insurgents from June 27, 1898, to June 2, 1899. Offers of peace and demands for surrender were refused on five occasions. From newspapers dropped into the court by an emissary of General Rios on May 29, the garrison learned for the first time that the Philippines had been lost to Spain and for many months there had been no Spanish flag in Luzon, except the one waving over Baler Church. Broken by starvation and tropical diseases, the depleted command arranged a truce with the insurgents and marched out of this church across the mountains to Manila on June 2, 1899. Of the original garrison two officers, the priest and twelve men had died from disease; two men had been killed by insurgent bullets; two men had been executed; two officers and fourteen men had been wounded; six men had deserted. The fortitude of the garrison was praised by General Aguinaldo in a public document issued at Tarlac on June 20,1899. Upon their return to Spain, the survivors were rewarded by the Queen Regent in the name of Alfonso XII and the Spanish Nation.
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