Press Release
July 16, 2009

In celebration of the 400th foundation of the town of Baler

Under Proclamation No. 1696 declaring 2009 as the "Year of Baler" in commemoration of the quadricentennial foundation of the town of Baler, Senator Edgardo J. Angara today lead the presentation of the program of activities for the occasion.

Baler ng Puso Ko, a zarzuela prepared by the NCCA Baler 400 Steering Committee was presented as a frontliner to the row off events that will be showcased in August in the town of Baler for its 400th anniversary.

"Baler is just a showcase of the rich culture, flora and fauna and biodiversity of the province of Aurora which holds the biggest forest cover in the country, percentage-wise. This effort in celebrating Baler 400 will give rise to many institutions that appreciates the native, the local and the culture that is truly our own," said Angara, a proud son of Baler, Aurora.

Baler, which became the capital of the Distrito del Principe was created in 1856 from the land belonging in the province of Nueva Ecija, established in a mission by Franciscan missionaries lead by Fr. Blas Palomino. To note, it was in Baler where Spanish soldiers made the last defense of Spanish authority in the Philippines whose gallantry moved then President Emilio Aguinaldo to issue a decree on June 30, 1899 that declares the Spanish soldiers that took refuge in the Baler church as "friends and not prisoners of war."

It was this event that gave way to the enactment of Republic Act No. 9187 that declares June 30 of every year as "Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day."

On the other hand, under the proclamation, the National Organizing Committee lead by the Executive Director of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) was tasked to plan, prepare and execute the program of activities in line with the event. The Departments of Education, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Tourism were also the other agencies of the government that is involved in the organizing committee. Meanwhile, representatives of the Lone District of Aurora, the Provincial Governor and the Baler town Mayor were held as ex-officio members.

Angara added, "To promote and recognize the important role of culture and history in this momentous celebration, we are plotting to create two institutions that would identify and appreciate the talents of Aurora. The first body is the Academy of the Arts and the second one is the Artists' Village that will be a destination for performing and visual artists who want to contemplate and draw inspiration from nature."

Meanwhile, the zarzuela will demonstrate the various stories in the historic town of Baler: the indigenous communities, the tale of the tsunami survivors (Tromba Marina) and the notable Siege of Baler. The said zarzuela was under the direction of Frank Rivera, libretto of Isagani Cruz, music by Lutgardo Labad, Lara Maigue and Diane de Mesa who is a scholar from Baler. In the cast are Al Gatmaitan, Montet Acoymo and Eugene delos Santos with the performances by the UST Liturgikon Choir.

"Baler is not only a metaphor of the Philippines' rich history and culture, it is a proud display of our own identity as a people - as Filipinos," said Angara.

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