Press Release
June 30, 2008


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senator Edgardo J. Angara will lead the nation in the commemoration of the 6th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day today in Baler, Aurora.

President Arroyo is set to lead the wreath laying ceremonies at the Baler Church in the morning to pay homage to the heroism of Filipino and Spanish soldiers.

Gracing the event are His Excellency Luis Arias-Romero (Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines), Amb. Ovid Hrasich from the Republic of Chile; Amb. Jorge Rey Jimenez from the Republic of Cuba, Charges-de-affaires Manuel Perez Iturbe from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Charges-de-affaires Nikolaus Verghis from the Hellenic Republic; and Amb. Alistair Belle Macdonald from the European Commission.

Other attendees include: National Historical Institute Chairman Ambeth Ocampo, National Museum Director Cora Alvina, Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and Baler Mayor Arthur Angara.

The celebration will be highlighted by the proclamation of the adopted Sons of Baler, the unveiling of the mural at Museo de Baler by national artist Abdulmari Imao, the viewing of the archeological exhibit and the re-enactment of the Siege of Baler. Several cultural activities and presentations are also lined up for the said event.

"This occasion will be a constant reminder of the long-standing friendship and affection between the Philippines and Spain. It also marks the cultural and historical ties between our country and its former colonizer," Angara said.

Aurora is the site of the historic Siege of Baler, the last and one of the most significant stories of the Philippine war of independence against Spain. In 1899, fifty-seven Spanish soldiers held out in the Baler Church.

The soldiers began occupying the church in June 27, 1989, or 15 days after the proclamation of Philippine independence. It was unknown to them that while they were there, a war had already ended. Despite efforts to tell them so, the soldiers, who, for love of country and call of duty, remained at their post for 11 long and weary months.

It was only when President Emilio Aguinaldo passed a presidential decree - lauding their heroism, allowing them safe passage and decreeing that they be treated by Filipinos as friends - that they finally came out after 337 days, with only 33 soldiers surviving starvation, disease and death.

In 2003, Senator Edgardo J. Angara and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara authored Republic Act No. 9187, creating the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day and setting its observance on June 30 of every year.

The soldiers reciprocated with expressions of gratitude for the hospitality and generosity of the Filipinos. As observed in Republic Act 9187, the act of benevolence of Filipinos in Baler paved the way for better relations between the Philippines and Spain.

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