The other day I ate lunch while watching the Spanish film “1898: los ultimos de filipinas”. June 30 is our “día de la amistad” with Spain.
The Siege inspired the official commemoration of the “Friendship Day” that very few Filipinos knows. You see, even laws can’t force people to remember.
This is the second movie about Baler that I have seen. First was the local romance drama “Baler” directed by Mark Meilly. It’s a rare quality period film.
“1898: los últimos de filipinas” story is anchored on the struggle of young soldier Carlos and the proud Teniente Cerezo.
If you’ve been to Baler’s church you’d have an idea of the church‘s dimensions. It’s uncharacteristically small for the region. The Spanish soldiers live, fought and died inside—even burials were within the church’s grounds.
The Franciscan church was in effect the last Spanish territory to be surrendered, and the garrisoned men, the last defenders of the Spanish realm.
Largely forgotten was the US rescue party, led by Lt. Gillmore (recommended reading is Westphal’s, “The Devil’s Causeway”). There’s political gain in it for the Americans. The Spanish capitulating to Filipinos legitimizes their claim for independence.
A few days ago I wrote a blog about the heritage houses in San Miguel. The Siege’s leader was a native of that town, Col. Simon Tecson. The “Pact of Biak-na-Bato” was signed in his house.
My favorite character in “1898” is the eccentric Franciscan. Not the typical portrayal of friars but the role reflected their ingenuity.
They understood the locals, built and expanded their church, contributed to local culture. They were the figurative boots-on-the-ground of the empire.
In the last months before their capitulation, it was Cerezo’s iron will that held the troops together. He refused orders from superiors thinking that they were faked documents.
Then a published newspaper report of the reassignment of a comrade got him thinking. He then accepted that the newspapers, and all what he heard about Spain finally losing her colonies were indeed true.
His story brought to mind the Japanese strugglers who refused surrender believing the war has not ended. The last was Mr. Onoda. He went back home two decades after imperial Japan yielded to Allied forces.
I recommend “Flames Over Baler” by Carlos Madrid as resource for those interested in Baler. He scrupulously laid down all the Siege’s history based on original documentary sources.
I met the author in 2014. We had lunch in Binondo along with Guillermo Gomez Rivera and Pepe Alas. He was then the OIC of Instituto Cervantes.
Now back to the movie.
The beautiful “indigena tagala” is Spanish Filipina Alexandra Masangkay. Comandante Luna was played by versatile actor Raymond Bagatsing. Both were outstanding in their roles.
The movie was shot in Guinea Ecuatorial, Canary Islands and Tenerife. I was a tad disappointed that no scene was shot in the Philippines!
To this day, the incident in Baler is remembered in Spain. With the Siege’s end, Spain lost their last colony.
The Spanish used to say that the sun never sets in all her dominions.
That day in Baler it did.