Regional And Aurora Prehistory
by Jesus T. Peralta

In 1905, a certain Richard C. McGregor saw being used as a talisman in Polillo Island in northern Quezon, then Tayabas, what was in actuality an adz that dated back to the Philippine Neolithic Age. Adzes like these were highly valued in the area as charms and were referred to as ngiping kulog or "thunder-teeth." The people held the belief that when lightning struck a tree, this "tooth" was sometimes planted in the trunk. Closer to the truth perhaps was that ages ago, when the tree was being felled, the adz broke and was left inside the trunk of the tree that was at another time struck by lightning.

The eastern coast of Luzon was a bed of archaeological finds. Early reports however of such finds were mostly from surfaces of sites and the recoveries were to a large extent unsystematic. Some pieces that depicted images of the past were heirloom pieces in nature, and the archaeological significance of objects were often clouded over by popular or supernatural beliefs, as demonstrated in the above anecdote.

In Mauban, caves in a small island were reported to have had numerous wooden coffins, human remains, broken pottery, stoneware, and porcelain- all of pre-Spanish date and typical of the 14th and 15th centuries AD. These finds were similar to what appeared in the Visayas, where associated with the complex were human remains with frontally flattened skulls; such a practice on human skulls did not exist before or even after the 14th and 15th centuries. In Gumaca, Quezon, Chinese ceramic and Siamese celadon pieces were found together dating back to the same period.

On 21 January 1905, a small well-polished adz was found at the southern end of the Bondoc Peninsula, and then in 1932, halfway down the middle of the same peninsula, an unusual jar burial site was worked on by the National Museum. These jars had grooved stone covers that fit their rims. Shell bracelets, gold ornaments were also reported. In recent times, more of this type of burial jars were found up to the end of Sorsogon province, closely packed on hilltops and with the stone covers barely protruding from the surface. There were at least three types of jar burials in the area that had been dated to the Philippine Developed Metal Age. (Beyer, 1947).

Farther north a find distinctive in the Philippines was found. In 1970, Warren Peterson, an American archaeologist, found in Dimolit, Isabela, indications of a house floor, together with jadeite beads and pottery fragments, all of which dated back from 4340 to 2530 BC, well within the Philippine Neolithic Age. That was the first evidence of ethnic architecture found in the country. The find comprised of the organic remains of house posts placed in a circle on the bank of a river. There was an entry point into the structure and traces of a fireplace inside.

In 1990, the National Museum conducted a small systematic archaeological excavation in Sitio Castillo, Barangay Sabang, along the coast of Baler Bay. There were two sites actually excavated: one at the Carmen T. Valenzuela Elementary School and another one just outside it and referred to as the Julio Site. The former was largely sterile, but the second site yielded a total of 175 artifacts, the more diagnostic of which were porcelain and pottery to 15th century culture similar to those found in other parts of the country prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers (De la Torre, 1990).

It was clear early on that the eastern coast of Northern Luzon, in spite of its forbidding environment, saw the unfolding of human drama dating back to the Late Neolithic Age, a development that moved on through the Metal Age and the Age of Contact with the Great Traditions of Asia just before the coming of the Spanish period (Fox, 1970). Already there existed in Aurora a culture that could be shared with the rest of the country.

How The Name "Baler" Came About

There are many stories about the origin of the name "Baler." According to one local legend, the name "Baler" came from "Balid," the name of a wise powerful Lakan or chieftain who lived in the village in the area. When the Spaniards first arrived, they found the native "d" difficult to pronounce so that they called the chieftain "Lakan Baler."

Another version was the name "Baler" came from the dialect spoken by nomadic people of the area such as the Dumagats and Tingguians. "Baled," a word in the latter's language, meant waves. This is because the coastline of Baler is noted for the waves that sweep n from the Pacific Ocean.

Yet anoher story was of how the name came from the word "ibalid," meaning "to return." It also meant a place people return to - "pinagbalikan" in Tagalog. It is possible that outsiders such as Spaniards asked an inhabitant of the name of the place and the inhabitant thinking that the stranger was asking where he was going, would have said that he was returning to the place where he started from.

Other people said that Baler came from a woman's name-Valeriana. A Spanish missionary happened to ask a native woman the name of the area he was in and the woman could have thought that he was asking for her name. On the other hand, others said that the name came from a man's name, a Spanish missionary named Valeriano. This missionary was most likely Fray Pedro Valeriano who accompanied Fray Bias Palomino in 1690. Fray Valeriano was said to be very kind and the people loved him. They called him Padre Vale, that when he died the villagers named the village in his honor.

The last version was that Baler came from the word "Balod" which is the name of a large mountain dove which abounded in the area. This name could be found in the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala which was authored in 1754 by Fathers Pedro San Lucar and Juan de la Noceda. The word "Baler" came to be known as the place where the doves came to roost.