Spanish holdouts

June 2, 1899: Last Spanish holdouts surrender in Baler

Fifty-three Spanish soldiers and 4 officers staked out at the Baler Church, Baler, Nueva Ecija Province, from June 28, 1898 to June 2, 1899 (Baler is now the capital town of Aurora Province; it is 140 miles, about 225 kilometers, due north of Manila, but on the eastern or Pacific side of Luzon Island).

Not knowing that the Spanish-American War had ended on Aug 13, 1898, that Spain ceded the Philippines to the US on Dec 10, 1898, and that the Filipinos were now battling the Americans, they held on, fighting the Filipinos and resisting several demands for surrender. They fought despite hunger, illnesses, and desertion from among their ranks.

USS Yorktown ca 1890-1901
The USS Yorktown, circa 1890-1901. She was 244 feet (74 m) long and 36 feet (11 m) abeam with six 6-inch (15.2 cm) guns augmented by an assortment of smaller-caliber guns.

On April 12, 1899, the gunboat USS Yorktown, under the command of Commander Charles Sperry, arrived at Baler Bay, for the purpose of taking the besieged Spanish troops back to Manila. Sperry sent a cutter, with 14 men under the command of Lt. Commander James C. Gillmore, to ascertain whether there was a sufficient depth of water to enable the Yorktown to enter the mouth of the Kinalapan- Pingit River. Gillmore and his crew took soundings of the water depth, but for no apparent reason, they went upriver.

River mouth where Lt. Gilmore and his landing party captured
The mouth of the Kinalapan- Pingit River; about a half-mile (1 km) upriver, Lt. Commander Gilmore and his landing party were ambushed and captured by the Filipinos.

The cutter was ambushed by the Filipinos; 4 of the Americans died and the 11 survivors captured. The prisoners were marched to town and kept there for three days then taken to San Isidro, Nueva Ecija Province. From Nueva Ecija they were taken further north to the Ilocos region. The captors then deserted the prisoners.

James C Gillmore and Party after rescue on Dec 28 1899
Lt. Commander James C. Gillmore (Front row, 2nd from right) after he and his men were rescued on Dec. 28, 1899.

A party from the 33rd U.S. Infantry Regiment rescued the Americans on Dec. 28, 1899.

Baler Church facade
Facade of Baler Church
Baler Church side view
Lateral view of Baler Church

Spanish soldiers last holdouts June 2 1899 photo with numbers

In making their last stand the Spanish holdouts made Baler the last Spanish outpost in Luzon. When finally convinced that the war was over, they gave up and the 35 men who survived the siege were greeted by the Filipinos with shouts of “Amigos! Amigos!”

President Emilio Aguinaldo had magnanimously decreed that the Spanish holdouts be treated not as enemies but as honored friends. They were given safe-conduct to Manila.

Los Ultimos en Filipinas in color
Original caption: “Los ultimos de Filipinas, a su llegada a Barcelona despues del largo asedio de Baler.”

The Spanish contingent left Manila on July 20, 1899, reaching Barcelona, Spain, on Sept. 1 that year. The Los Ultimos de Filipinas, as how they were called, were received as heroes. Of the 57 men who entered the church of Baler on June 27, 1898, 35 survived the 337-day siege; 19 men died, 15 from diseases. Only 2 men died from wounds, the only battle casualties.

Spanish soldiers Sept 1899 last holdouts on June 2 1899 Saturnino Martin Cerezo

There were 5 deserters from the garrison: Filipino natives Corporals Alfonso Sus Fojas and Tomas Paladio Paredes; and the Spaniards Felipe Herrero Lopez, Jaime Caldentey Nadal, and Jose Alcaide Bayona.

Two men —Antonio Menache Sanchez and Vicente Gonzalez Toca—were imprisoned at the baptistry of the church for helping in the desertion of Alcaide, and executed on orders of Spanish Lt. Saturnino Martin Cerezo (LEFT) on June 1, 1899, the day before the surrender.

Spanish holdouts at Baler 1899

1904: A magazine in Spain features the last Spanish holdouts at Baler.
Los Heroes de Baler 2
1904: A Spanish magazine features the repatriation of the remains of Spanish soldiers who died at Baler.
Baler Church renovated and inaugurated in 1939
Baler Church in 1939 after undergoing renovation
Baler Church today with basketball court
Baler Church in the 1990’s