Friday, February 18, 2011

Baler “KINAGUNASAN-a festival of hope, a celebration of life” launch today

BALER, Aurora, February 18, 2011-The first launching of “Kinagunasan-a festival of hope, a celebration of life will be graced today by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Mayor Arthur J. Angara to commemorate the significance of it in the Philippine history which will be held at the provincial Capitol in this town as part of the 32nd foundation anniversary of Aurora.

Angara was once UP president and has authored and sponsored several landmark laws for the culture and the arts, said that way back December 27, 1735 at two o’clock before the sun ups a phenomenal tidal wave washed away the old town of Baler. A tide rose at such a velocity that within a few hours even the terrain where the town existed had also disappeared.

Fray Jose de San Rafael, OFM, the parish priest of Casiguran was on vacation in Baler when the event happened and he was among the survivors who made their way up the hill of Point Baja by swimming.

He narrated that about two o’clock in the morning of December 27, 1735, the sacristan major of the convent called his attention to the rising tidal wave engulfing the town. It was a weird occurrence for there was no sign or manifestation of impending bad weather. The previous night was clear and starry. Neither were the towns of Casiguran, the mission of Dipaculao and the hamlet of Dingalan were affected regardless of the fact that these places were located along the same shorelines.

The old folks referred to the devastated town as the KINAGUNASAN. Those who survived the catastrophic event fled and took refuge at Mt. Castillo, a neighboring hill now called Ermita.

Since the coming of the group of Fray Blas Palomino, OFM, in 1609 to the event of the Tromba Marina in 1735, there was an interval of one hundred twenty six (126) years. The records on Tromba Marina mentioned a number of families survived foremost of which were the Angara, Bihasa, Bitong, Carrasco, Ferreras, Lumasac and Poblete clans.  Because of their harrowing experience, the Bitong’s went to settle in San Jose (now Maria Aurora) and the Bihasa’s went to “Inategan”, today San Luis.

The Lumasac’s  remained in Baler and the Bitong’s traced their roots from the Ilongots, the Bihasa’s from the Aetas while the Angara’s were believed to be migrants who came alone with the Franciscan missionaries from the neighboring provinces.

Post Tromba Marina resident were either brought by the Spaniards as convent boys or menials and others were migrants from the neighboring towns of Palanan, Casiguran, Infanta and Pantabangan. They either came by the sea or by following the trails used by the Dumagats and the Spanish friars from Nueva Ecija and Quezon by way of Palanan, Polilio and Infanta.

Fray Manuel de Olivencia, OFM established the mission of San Jose de Casecnan now known as the town of Maria Aurora in 1753. It was a settlement at the junction of several rivers inhabited mostly by Elongots Casecnan to the Ilongots (now referred to as Bugkalots) meant the place where the rivers meet. The natives found their settlements by the rivers for transport and trading purposes.

The mission of Dipaculao in Ditale and the mission of San Jose de Casecnan were two (2) Ilongot communities. The Ilongots established their territorial jurisdiction in the hinterlands and the mountains and let the Dumagats reigned along the coastal areas.

After the devastation, a new town was resurrected on a hilly terrain west of Baler Bay. The previous site of the town that was wiped out by the devastating tidal wave was renamed “Kinagunasan” (washed out). Except for the memories and legend that it has left behind, the destruction of the old town still remains a mystery to this day.

This historical event became the inspiration of the Angaras to translate and interpret the occurrence into artistic dance and movements and into powerful sound and music, the chaos, violence, merrymaking, struggles, entertainment and everyday activities of the townsfolk.

Angara, who is a native of this town wanted to reflect how the survivors struggled and rise in unity and cooperation to rebuild of what remained of the KINAGUNASAN, saying that this is only the beginning for the Aurorans to keep it alive and make sure that the tradition will continue to the succeeding generations.

Aurora Provincial Tourism Officer Michael Palispis said that this year’s commemorative rites carry as its theme “Broadening Aurora’s Competitiveness in the global economy” celebrating its 32nd Aurora Day foundation  anniversary, informing the whole world of the identity of this town identity through “Kinagunasan”.

Palispis said that Baler town, located 232 kilometers north of Manila on the shore of a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean is rich in cultural heritage not only as Quezon’s birthplace but also for being the last bastion of Spanish forces during the Spanish Revolution.

The old Kinagunasan (township) was wiped out when a “tsunami” struck on December 27, 1735, killing 500 families. Only five families survived, including the Angaras.

Several stories account for the origin of the name Baler, the most popular of which was believed to have come from the word “Balod,” a large Paloma Montes (mountain dove) that abounded in the place.

Baler, to historians, was a place where pigeons came home to roost or a place to come home to. And that no matter where Balerianos go in their search for glory and fortune, they would always hope of coming back.

From a depressed town, Baler has flourished into a progressive municipality housing a public market, a fish port, sports complex, people’s center, a P130-million integrated rice processing complex among other facilities. (Jason de Asis)

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