Manila Bulletin, July 1, 2005

Enduring Friendship Between RP, Spain
lauded at Baler Rites

BALER, Aurora - The strong friendship between the Philippines and Spain brought about by centuries of Spanish colonization has endured because of shared religion, tradition, culture, and values in various fields of social and economic endeavor between the two countries, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said yesterday.

In a speech read by Assistant Foreign Affairs Secretary Jaime Yambao at the third celebration of the Philippines-Spanish Friendship Day here, Romulo said that the relationship between the two countries has blossomed in recent years and is expanding in several areas of cooperation.

The level of friendship and cooperation is such that Spain currently directs the bulk of its foreign assistance in the Asian region to the Philippines and the two countries have forged agreements in the areas of culture, transportation, tourism, investments, social security, financial cooperation, and political and technical cooperation, Romulo added.

"The spiritual ties between the two countries cannot be separated by a mere political event," said Romulo, quoting historian Encarnacion Alzona.

Romulo's speech on the friendship, cooperation, and amity between the two countries actually was the climax of several activities here, which have been about the centuries of Philippines-Spanish relationship and the events that took place in this town in 1898 and 1899.

In mid-1898, 50 Spanish soldiers making a last, desperate stand for their country decided to fight it out from inside the stone church of Baler. Under siege from Katipuneros and ravaged by hunger and diseases, 33 survivors surrendered on June 2, 1899 amid chants of friendship and warm greetings from the Katipuneros who tormented them for more than a year.

On June 30, 1899, then President Emilio Aguinaldo cited the 33 cazadores for "uncommon valor" and issued safe conduct passes for their return to Spain.

The act of Aguinaldo was the first gesture of reconciliation between the two countries after a war between them.

The Siege of Baler and the event of June 30, 1899 were what prompted Congress to make June 30 of every year Philippines-Spanish Friendship Day.

According to Romulo, the event in Baler in 1898 and 1899 paved the way for an inseparable and special bond between Spain and the Philippines.

Romulo said that Spain has left its great imprint on Philippine literature, music, architecture, cuisine, language, and education. The basic political organizations were patterned after Spanish models, Romulo added.

But the greatest legacy remains the Christian religion, he added.

Senator Edgardo J. Angara, a Baler native who secured funding for the various activities related to the celebration, led prominent officials who were in this town yesterday for the third celebration of the Philippines-Spanish Friendship Day.

The others were Minister Counselor Javier Gonzales from the Spanish Embassy in Manila, National Historical Institute Executive Director Ludivico Badoy, and Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona. Local government officials led by Aurora Governor Bella Angara Castillo and Baler Mayor Arthur Angara welcomed and entertained the guests.

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