The Province of Aurora, with Baler as its capital, was founded by President Ferdinand E. Marcos in August 13, 1979 by virtue of Batas Bambansa Blg. 7. This act was the fulfillment of the prayers of the people of the former Municipalities of Baler and Casiguran to be truly independent from the Province of Quezon for the first time since the Spanish occupation.
In 1572, the Spanish explorer Juan de Salcedo became the first European to visit the region that would be known as Aurora while he was exploring the northern coast of Luzon. Salcedo reportedly visited the towns of Casiguran, Baler and Infanta.
In the early days of the Spanish colonial period, Aurora was ecclesiastically linked to Infanta, which today rests further south in the Province of Quezon. The earliest missionaries in the province were the Franciscans, who had established missions in Baler and Casiguran in 1609. Due to lack of available personnel, the region was given to the jurisdiction of the Agustinians and Recollects in 1658, but was returned to the Friars Minor in 1703. Other early missions included Dipaculao, established in 1719, and Casiguran, in 1753.
The early history of Aurora is linked to Quezon Province, of which it originally formed a part, and Nueva Ecija. In 1591, Quezon (then named Kalilaya) was organized into a district that included a good portion of what now constitutes the Provinces of Laguna and Nueva Ecija.
The original capital of Quezon was Kalilaya, now known as Unisan. In 1701, Nueva Ecija was split from Kalilaya Province. Around 1749, the provincial capital was transferred from Kalilaya to the town of Tayabas. The entire province then took on the name of Tayabas as well.
1800s to American Occupation
In 1818, Nueva Ecija annexed the towns of Palanan from the Province of Isabela, as well as Baler, Casiguran, Infanta and Polillo Island, from Tayabas. Between 1855 and 1885, Aurora (then named El Principe) was declared a comandancia politico-militar, with its capital at Baler. During the Philippine Revolution of 1898, a provincial revolutionary government was instituted briefly in El Principe. During this period, Bondo, formerly under the municipal jurisdiction of Mulanay, was made a separate municipality.
With the arrival of the Americans in the 1890s, a short-lived military government was established, followed by a civil government for this "district", established on June 12, 1902. In concert with the installation of the latter civil provincial government, the district of El Principe was transferred from the administrative jurisdiction of Nueva Ecija, which had controlled it since 1818, and placed under the jurisdiction of Tayabas.
The Birth of a Province
It wasn't until after World War II, however, that this part of Quezon Province languished in extreme isolation from neighboring provinces and cities. It was Mayor Pedro V. Guerrero, with the prodding of Doa Aurora Aragon Quezon, who sought the creation of a Sub-Province of Aurora, named in honor of Doa Aurora, as a stop-gap measure to pave the way for the eventual creation of an independent province when the required number of municipalities was attained. Guerrero was appointed Lieutenant Governor in recognition of his accomplishment.
In 1951 the municipalities of Baler, Casiguran, Dilasag, Dipaculao, Dinalongan, Dingalan, Maria Aurora and San Luis were officially formed into the Sub-Province of Aurora by virtue of Republic Act 646.
The dream of converting the Sub-Province into a regular province was indefatigably pursued by Atty. Luis S. Etcubaez, who has the distinction of being the last Lieutenant Governor of the Sub-Province of Aurora. Etcubaez was appointed as the first Governor of Aurora when it became the 73rd province of the country in 1979. Etcubaez issued an Executive Order declaring February 19 of each year Aurora Foundation Day in honor of the late Doa Aurora Quezon.