Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day is celebrated every June 30 as a national holiday by virtue of Republic Act No. 9187 authored by Senator Edgardo J. Angara and enacted into law in February 2003. This day was meant to commemorate the decree made by President Emilio Aguinaldo after the Siege of Baler granting safe passage and friendly treatement to Spanish soldiers garrisoned inside the Baler Church.
To recall our history, a group of Spanish soldiers were besieged for almost a year by warring Katipuneros in Baler, Aurora even after the Treaty of Paris, where Spain seceded the Philippines to the United States of America, had already been signed. These soldiers were among the last to stay and fight in the Philippines, not knowing they had already lost to the United States. It was considered as the Royal Spanish Army’s last stand in the Philippines, and many a film had been made in its honor.
It was just, therefore, appropriate to celebrate Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day in Baler, the fourteenth such celebration and the 117th of the Siege of Baler, upon the invitation of Baler’s very own Senator Edgardo J. Angara and his son, the extremely hard-working Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara.
This year’s festivities started with a beautiful cultural presentation at the plush Costa Pacifica Baler resort owned by the Angaras which, in my book, is one the best resorts in the country. The show started with the Belles of Baler, an all-female group that not only can belt out those pop hits with professional aplomb, but can also make many a gentleman’s head turn. Believe me, they were lookers. The Ilongot tribe, indigenous to Aurora province, performed a dance which looked similar to the ones I saw being performed all the way up to the north of Luzon Island. The Philippine Ballet Group awed the audience with their terpsichorean renditions of classic favourites, and I noticed that the members of the Diplomatic Corp were the most impressed. The night ended with a feverish but hypnotic fire dance performed under the moonlit night on the beach facing the Pacific Ocean. Truly spectacular.
In this day and age, thus, the Siege of Baler, by tourists and foreign guests alike, including the Spanish, has taken on a more friendly, less violent, more enjoyable atmosphere. If I was a Spanish soldier in the 21st Century, I’d definitely want to make my last stand here… in blissful retirement.