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Walking inside a town 400 years old

I have been a teacher for the past four years of my professional career (graduated back in 2011), two of those years have been spent teaching in the IB – PYP and another two teaching History. So far  I have enjoyed teaching history the most enjoyable part of my working life. The challenge in teaching my subject is how to make sense of all of these past events and make it relevant to students who don’t know much or any about our country’s history. To make events in history exciting and relevant, research has suggested that students should go on field trips to have a first hand experience of the lessons they have learned in class. Hence, last Thursday and Friday, I along with three other members of the school, my grade 6 class and some parents, took a historical and geographical tour of Aurora Province, specifically the surfing municipality of Baler.

*for the purpose of safety, security and confidentiality, I have not included any of my students’ faces. 

Dona Aurora Ancestral House

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Winding roads and scenic views
After a long five and a half hour drive along NLEX, SCTEX, parts of the TPLEX and the scenic vies of the Pan-Philippine Highway, we finally arrived in the scenic and slow municipality of Baler. I was itching to get on with the tour of a municipality that I have only heard and seen.

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The old stomping grounds of the late First Lady of the Commonwealth
Our tour began in the historical replica of Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon’s house, a beautiful old-style and authentic Filipino nipa hut. Inside this two-storey nipa hut are photos of Baler in different times and authentic Filipiniania costumes made out of a banig material. On the second floor is an exhibit of paintings depicting moments of the municipality’s 400 year old history. Paintings of the early indigenous people, the blood compact and other interesting tidbits in  the country’s history exposed to the waning sun of Baler. In another room was a study filled with books donated by various people and old Commonwealth-era photos of the late Dona Aurora and her husband, Manuel Quezon.

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The Dumagats, the early settlers of Baler, who have since moved up north due to the development of Baler
The house itself was a beautiful replica but it did not have enough information to really bring out the ooh and the aah’s that I was hoping to get from my students. The information inside the house wasn’t rich but it was a perfect way to learn how our forefathers lived during a time when the air condition was practically non-existent. Though sparse and lacking in any real museum-like content, the main draw of the museum was the old Chrysler limousine that Pres. Quezon used to go around the city of Manila

Museo De Baler

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Our old president greets you just before you enter
Moving along with our tour, we passed by the old plaza of Baler, where the quadricentennial monument stood. Apart from monument it was also the route heading to the Museo De Baler. The museum, with its open spaces and lush greenery was beautiful. It’s facade alone was striking enough, red bricked and murals lined its wall, and just before you enter the museum, a bronze sculpture of Pres. Quezon himself sits waiting to greet visitors and photographers alike.

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The second floor of the museum houses portraits and paintings done by some of the local artists
If the Dona Aurora ancestral house was sparse in its collection, the museum was a little richer. Providing most, if not all, of the information that I hoped my students would use for our evening of processing what they were able to learn and observe. Inside the museum was a timeline of events using murals, wonderfully painted in a style not so classical but still very much interesting and enlightening. Apart from the paintings there were also the geographical models of Baler as it developed from a sleepy fishing community to what it came to be when the sub-province of Aurora became a full-fledged province in the 1970’s.

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The museum and its collection
Besides the geographical models there were also some archaeological artifacts from the precolonial to the Spanish era. The true highlight of the museum were the photographic and artistic materials depicting the change that Baler went through. The struggles the community faced as they fended off early Spanish conquistadors, Moro and Chinese pirates, the tsunami which wiped out practically the entire community, and the two sieges of Baler (the Spanish and the Japanese). Like the Dona Aurora house, the museum also boasts of another restorative piece from the Commonwealth-era, this time in the form of the General Douglas MacArthur’s old limousine. My belief is that these two limousines came from their original exhibits in Corregidor (which I have yet to visit).
The tour and our short walk around the town was a great experience for many of my students who got to witness and experience firsthand the lessons they have been learning. As for me, it was an entirely new experience going on a field trip that actually made sense and had a purpose. At the same time, the tour allowed me to actually turn the town into a beautiful classroom where my students saw how different concepts and terms all came alive.
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