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Aurora Aragon House and Baler Town Hall
Part 11 of the Libotero Baler Roadtrip series
From Quezon Park, we took a lunch break in one of the popular dining destinations in town, Gerry Shan’s Place.
Expect nothing grand and fancy as Gerry Shan’s is a simple but clean airconditioned restaurant at the town proper. Actually, I’d like to call it an airconditioned “carinderia”. Baler is a small town of a few people and I noticed that most of the tourists who were staying at the same hotel as us were also at the restaurant. It is that popular, especially among tourists, both local and foreign. The restaurant is known for delicious food at affordable prices. Among the must-try food are their Yang Chow Fried Rice, Pancit Canton, and Lumpiang Shanghai. Also don’t fail to try their Halo-Halo and Mango Shake.. I wasn’t able to take any photos of the food though as we were already very hungry to even think about photographing what we would eat… Hehe..
After lunch, we proceeded to the town plaza…
Lovely town plaza with those pavers
Here’s an overview of the history of Baler based on the heritage marker at the Town Plaza:
- Old town was located in Barangay Sabang before the Spaniards came
- Established as a Franciscan Mission on 1609
- Destroyed by big waves on December 27, 1735. Townsfolk seeked refuge on Ermita Hill before they relocated to the current Poblacion
- Became capital of the District of El Principe (now Aurora) on 1856
- Place where Manuel Luis Quezon was born on August 19, 1878
- Revolution flared up on October 1897
- Revolutionaries struggled to overthrow Spanish forces, which were identified as allies by General Emilio Aguinaldo through a decree which took effect on June 30, 1899, at the Baler Church from June 27, 1898 to July 2, 1899
- Became part of Tayabas (now Quezon) on June 12, 1902
- Became the capital of the sub-province of Aurora on 1951
- Became the capital of the province of Aurora (1979)
Can anyone name the people whose tombstones are pictured above?
A few steps away from the Town Plaza is the Aurora Aragon House.
Aurora Aragon-Quezon is the wife of late-president Manuel L. Quezon. Aurora province was named after her. She was a popular civic leader and social worker, known to all locals for her unselfish and persistent efforts in social welfare programs which benefited the citizens of Aurora. Her death was very tragic as she was ambushed by Hukbalahap rebels, together with her daugher, Ma. Aurora, while they were traveling at the Bongabon-Baler Road on their way to attend the inauguration of the Baler Memorial Hospital where she was supposed to be the guest of honor.
This house in Poblacion served as Aurora Aragon’s birthplace. Although destroyed during the Siege of Baler, the house has recently been restored based on archived documents and old photos that brought out what were the original details of the house, through the efforts of Senator Edgardo Angara, Mayor Antonio Angara and the National Historical Institute.
Except for the landscaped garden and cemented “silong” (area under the elevated flooring), the structure is at its best faithful to the original to maintain its true character. The site is now open to the public, and is actually used for some community meetings and events.
When in Baler, it is a must to visit Aurora Aragon’s House to truly get an idea of the Balerian lifestyle. The house is located at Rizal St. corner San Luis St., Baler, Aurora.
Meanwhile, a heritage marker dedicated to Aurora Aragon has been placed in front of the house:
Aurora Aragon Quezon (1888-1949)
- Civic leader and first-ever first lady of the Philippines under the Commonwealth of the Philippines
- Born on February 19, 1889 in Baler, Tayabas (now Aurora)
- Studied at the Philippine Normal School
- Married in Hong Kong to Manuel Luis Quezon, Senate President on 1918
- Children: Maria Aurora, Maria Zeneida, Luisa Corazon Paz and Manuel Luis, Jr.
- Established and performed different kinds of knowledge base for the citizens, especially the youth, in Baler to promote proficiency in reading and writing and to uphold civil duties.
- After the death of President Quezon in 1944, she promoted social and religious work to improve the standard of living and provided wisdom and grace, especially to the poor
- Played a significant role in the promotion of Red Cross as a national association and became the organization’s first woman leader
- Backed the reconstruction of the Baler Church
- Ambushed while on the way back to Baler by a group of “Hukbalahap” in Nueva Ecija and among the casualties are Maria Aurora, in-law Felipe Buencamino III and some friends on April 28, 1949
- In honor of her, the sub-province of Aurora was established on 1951 through Republic Act 648
- Aurora finally became a province of its own through Batas Pambansa No.7 on 1978
(…to be continued)