Press Release
June 28, 2009

In celebration of the 7th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day

As the country celebrates Phil-Spanish Friendship Day, Senator Edgardo J. Angara today recognized and lauded the continued support of the three adopted sons of Baler in fostering good country interrelationship between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Spain.

"The continuous respect and support for historical connection of these adopted sons of Baler shows the incessant friendship between our country and Spain. The mutual friendship and affection between these two countries symbolizes cultural and historical tie between our madre patria and its previous colonizer," informed Angara who chairs the Philippine-Spanish Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Under the Republic Act 9187, which Senator Angara authored, June 30 of every year is celebrated as Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day in recognition of the day when President Emilio Aguinaldo acclaimed the gallantry and fidelity of the Spanish soldiers who were besieged in the Church of Baler in 1898.

President Aguinaldo in June 30, 1899 signed a decree that pronounced the thirty-five Spanish soldiers who survived the siege as friends and not prisoners of war. In history, fifty Spanish soldiers from the 400 soldiers of the Spanish garrison in Biak-na-Bato arrived in February 1898.

Led by Capt. Enrique de las Morenas, the Spanish contingents assembled at the Baler Church on June 27, 1898 for their safety and security. Knowing that the church housed the Spaniards, the locals, led by Teodorico Luna Novicio, with their desire to free their motherland from colonization, attacked the church by surrounding it on the following day. Only when 2nd Lieutenant Saturnino Martin Cerezo read the Spanish newspaper El Imparcial which announced that the war is over did the Spaniards surrendered.

The three adopted sons of Baler are: Exequiel Sabarillo Salvilla, a Filipinista in Spain who founded the research on the Siege of Baler in 1985; Jose Ignacio Bidon, a leading practitioner and professor of law in Sevilla who also promoted a football cooperation program between Andalusia and the Philippine Football Federation; and Jose Angel Valbuena Garcia, who wrote and directed a TV a historical documentary Los Hijos de Baler and a full-length film entitled Returning to the Siege of Baler.

Gracing the event is Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who will also lead the wreath laying ceremonies at the Church of Baler together with His Excellency Amb. Luis Arias Romero from the Kingdom of Spain.

Various dignitaries will also witness the event including: His Excellency Amb. Alistair Macdonald of the European Union; His Excellency Amb.Kulkumut Singhara Ayudhaya of Thailand; His Excellency Amb. Tomas Calvillo Unna from Mexico; His Excellency Amb. Jorge Rey Jimenez of Cuba; and Mr. Manuel Perez Iturbe of Venezuela.

Mr. Ambeth Ocampo, Chairperson of National Historical Institute, Mrs. Vilma Labrador of National Center for Culture and the Arts, Undersecretary Edcel Custodio of DFA International Economic Relations, Asst. Secretary Victoria Bataclan of DFA-European Affairs will also be present in the event.

The celebration will be highlighted by the launching of commemorative stamps, film showing of the movie Baler, and the viewing of a documentary by Jesus Valbuena entitled Returning to the Siege of Baler. A cultural night composed of various performances from the UP Singing Ambassadors and the Ilongot tribes are also lined up for the event.

"This celebration is not only an important historical occasion but a celebration of the years of friendship between our country and Spain," added Angara.

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