A Visit to Baler, Aurora
Looking back at history
(Clockwise from top left) Marker of Manuel L.
Quezon's birthplace; Author poses before MLQ
portrait; at Aurora Quezon's home; Baler Church
By Heidi M. Pascual

When I joined two of my kids and their families for a brief summer
respite in the province of Aurora recently, I didn’t expect the place to be
much different from other towns in rural Philippines. But it is. The long
travel from Metro Manila (6 hours) traversing the Sierra Madre Mountain
range via zigzag roads with sharp curves was itself quite exciting,
although at times scary. But the sight of many vehicles with local and
foreign tourists along the way gave me an okay feeling, a sense that
where we were going was worth the long and tedious trip. I was ready to
be surprised and get impressed.

Baler is a beautiful town facing the Pacific Ocean along the northeastern
part of the Philippines. Considered one of the finest destinations in the
Philippines today, Baler is known for a rare combination of lush forests,
cool river waters, and beaches great for surfing. More than all these,
however, is its historical significance. This is the place where one of the greatest Filipinos was born—Manuel Luis Quezon,
president of the Philippine Commonwealth (during the American regime), and father of the Filipino language. This is also
the place where Quezon’s wife, Aurora, was born. Aurora became famous not only as a First Lady during the
Commonwealth, but more so because of her work and services as the first chairperson of the Philippine National Red
Cross, her active campaign for women’s right to suffrage, and her outstanding work at the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and
several other organizations.
It was during Quezon’s presidency when World War II
erupted and the Quezons had to escape to Corregidor to
avoid being captured by the Japanese. Later they were
shipped out to Australia on the way to the U.S. Frail and
stressed out years before, President Quezon died of
tuberculosis in Saranac, New York. After the war, Aurora
continued to be engaged in social work, notably her role in
establishing the Philippine National Red Cross in 1947.
Unfortunately, she was assassinated, together with one of
her children, while on her way to Baler in 1949 to inaugurate
a hospital, at the mountainous road connecting Baler to
Nueva Ecija Province. That attack was believed to have
been made by the Hukbalahap, then the military arm of the
Communist Party of the Philippines.

While the province of Quezon in Southern Tagalog Region
and the City of Quezon in Metro Manila were named after
Aurora Quezon's living room
(Above, L-R) Artwork; ripping off of cedulas and signing Katipuneros oath with
blood; KKK (Kagalang-galangan, Kataastaasang Katipunan) against the
Manuel Quezon in honor of the man,
the province of Aurora which used to
be the northern part of Quezon
Province, was created in honor of the
lady, with Baler as capital. Several
infrastructure throughout the country
have been named after the Quezons,
to honor their memory and legacy.

I was honored and very pleased to
view this part of Philippine history
about the Quezons, captured in part
at the Baler Museum, which also
featured several art pieces by local
painters, along with old photographs
and memorabilia. The home of
Aurora Quezon was also restored,
and all these pose a reminder to
Filipinos that once upon a time not
too long ago, there was a couple
from far-away Baler, who rose to
become leaders of a country that
tackled head-on the challenges of
colonialism, political controversy,
and insurrection. While their tragic
passing left Filipinos an awfully sad
memory, their legacy lives on and the
Filipinos today and tomorrow will
continue to be thankful to the
Quezons for their exceptional love for
their country.