ON JUNE 30, we commemorated a historical event involving the Filipino and the Spanish forces that is certainly different from the usual storylines of war and bloodshed. Unlike most battles of the Philippine revolution that ended in deaths and tragic surrenders, the Siege of Baler represents a gracious and diplomatic reconciliation between the Philippines and Spain, after the latter surrendered to the United States and ceased claims over the Philippines by virtue of the Treaty of Paris.

In this battle, our gallant Filipino revolutionaries led by Teodorico Luna Novicio, Norberto Valenzuela, and Antero Amatorio, exemplified valor and patriotism, who for 337 days formed a stronghold against the Spanish troops who retreated to the fortified church in Baler, Aurora. Our local katipuneros guarded the Spanish fortress and forced the capitulation of the foreign soldiers, who were then allowed to return to Spain and were not held as war prisoners as part of the terms agreed upon by both parties. This non-violent settlement between the Spanish troops and the katipuneros reveals that Filipinos indeed are hospitable, diplomatic, and forgiving despite the terror and abuse inflicted by the colonizers.

In celebrating the 20th Philippine-Spanish Day and the 123rd Anniversary of the Siege of Baler with the theme “A History of Friendship: Standing Firm Against Challenging Times,” we should not only look back and recognize the value of the historical events during the Siege of Baler that highlight the bravery of our Filipino soldiers in defending our land, but we also remember that this significant part of our history also forged a special bond between our country, the Philippines and Spain.

We choose to celebrate the gracious and diplomatic agreement with the Spanish troops after our gallant katipuneros showed their bravery in triumphantly guarding our Motherland and forcing the Spaniards to return peacefully to Spain. This peaceful resolution paved the way for the Philippines and Spain to develop a strong bond, showing that even adversaries can amicably settle a battle and create an alliance. With the courage exemplified by our Filipino soldiers, they have also exhibited our diplomatic and tolerant nature as peace-loving people.

And in times of adversity, such as now when we are still recovering from the ill effects of the pandemic, we know how a strong and nurturing relationship with other countries helps us in our recovery efforts. Together, we can stand firm against all adversities with the support and cooperation of our genial neighbors and allies in the world. Let us be inspired not only with the patriotism and bravery of our exemplified by our ancestors, but let us also take pride in our identity as warm-hearted, peace-loving, and remissive people.