Survivors of the Siege of BalerREMEMBER Baler.

In commemoration of the Spanish-Filipino Day, the Instituto Cervantes organized a public viewing last June 27 of the film Los Ultimos de Filipinas (1945), which portrayed the events of the “Siege of Baler.”

Often obscured in the pages of history, the “Siege of Baler” was first immortalized on screen during the reign of General Francisco Franco, Spain’s authoritarian leader from 1936 to 1975.

Directed by Antonio Roman, the film retold the experience of the Spanish soldiers trapped inside the church, until the day they surrendered to the Filipinos. It was a story of courage, confusion, and hope, with a tinge of humor.

Filipino characters in the film were played by Spaniards. One character, the revolution leader Moises, was played by José Miguel Rupert. The young native girl Tala was portrayed by Nani Fernandez, an actress who starred in numerous Spanish films. Because the film was not shot on a live set, the church of Baler obviously appeared very artificial. Some of the graphics were rough, apparently because of limitations in technology at that time.

The movie used several time-lapses to be able to fit the events of a year within 99 minutes. Because of this, a number of historical inaccuracies were palpable, mostly because of the creative liberties taken during filmmaking. An example would be the love story between Tala and one of the cazadores (Spanish soldier), which never really happened in real life.

The character of Lt. Juan Alonso Zayas, another Spanish official in the actual siege, failed to make it to the movie.

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The movie also showed that the Spaniards killed in the confrontation were a buried outside the church, contradicting the account in the book Baler, AuroraI, which was co-authored by Sen. Edgardo Angara. In the book, the soldiers were said to have been buried inside the church.

A more diligent research would have addressed many of the inaccuracies.

The movie ended with the Spaniards marching out of the church while the Filipino soldiers saluted them, indicating peace and reconciliation.

”The good will that the movie portrays is the same good will that we have today.” said José Rodriguez, director of the Instituto Cervantes

The good will that each party had shown is further reflected in the Spanish-Filipino Friendship Day, which officially declared on Feb. 5, 2003.

Up to this day, the renewed friendship of the two countries remains strong.

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