Tromba Marina was the name given to the destructive tidal wave that struck Baler, Aurora on December 27, 1735. This monstrous wave caught everyone off-guard when it arrived around 2:00 AM. The town was devastated in seconds and many lives were immediately lost. Seven families managed to survive the great blow of the tidal wave and found their safe haven in Ermita Hill. The ones who made it through were the Angara, Bijasa, Bitong, Carrasco, Ferreras, Lumasac and Poblete clans.
Ermita Hill was the closest high point that they could climb up to escape the floodwaters. Our guide mentioned that they used one of the burrows to climb up further to the hill. A wonderfully crafted sculpture that depicts how the families helped each other climb up the Ermita Hill was put up in one of the paths they used. The sculpture of the families is detailed and of great artistic quality. Unfortunately, certain parts were already damaged perhaps because of the rocks that fall occasionally.
Ermita Hill Chapel and the Ancient Viewing Point and Tunnel
Inscribed in the metal slate beside the burrow are the words below:
The spot on which the chapel stands is believed to be the location of the viewing point from which the community of Baler, at the delta of the river, received advance warning of incoming threats in ancient times. In those times, Baler community experienced prevalent raids by the Moros. These raids must have occurred before and after the Spaniards, led by Adelantado Juan de Salcedo, first came in 1572. These raids must have stopped when a permanent garrison of Spanish soldiers was established in Baler.
The existence of what many believe to be an escape tunnel starting from a location in Barangay Santa Elena leading up to this spot is evidence of the prevalence of raids on the community of Baler in ancient time. The inhabitants of Baler devised this ingenious way to elude the raiders, and hide here at Ermita Hill.
Tale of Two Legendary Warriors
There’s an interesting story about how the locals of Baler were attacked by the Muslim raiders from the south and how two mysterious warriors saved them. It’s written in Filipino so I did my best to translate it into English without losing any context in the story.
“Long ago, the Moros heard of the news that there was a prominent town at the end of Tayabas which has two churches that are rich in gold. Countless vinta boats by the Moros arrived and swiftly traversed Borlongan and Dinadiawan. They got confused when they arrived at Motyang because there is no path in the area where they can pass through. So they hopelessly moved back their vinta boats but some local fishermen saw them and hurriedly went back to the shore.
They recognized that the boats are from Moros who are known to attack towns that don’t have any form of defense. The townsmen agreed to have defenses made out of limestones. There are enough holes around those defenses that will let them escape the projectiles of the enemies. That’s when the town was named Casiguran which was derived from the Filipino word kasiguruhan (assurance).
Attack of the Morong Raiders
After some time, the town was shocked by the dreadful arrival of the Morong raiders. But a miracle happened and their attempt to pillage the two churches was unsuccessful because two warrior-suited men with their shining kalis and swords attacked them. Many were killed and the few remaining followed the townsmen towards the Ermita ridge. The Moros weren’t able to step on the ridge because the two mystic warriors got ahead of them and rolled large rocks at them.
They were crushed by the large rocks while the townsmen peacefully reached the top of the ridge. The town celebrated for one week out of thankfulness to the two warriors who defended them, the miraculous Virgin in Ermita and the beloved patron Antonio de Padua. This strengthened the claimed name Casiguran.”
There’s a good reason why Ermita Hill was chosen to be the viewing point during ancient times. A very wide view of the horizon can be seen from up there so it’s easy to spot upcoming raider boats from afar. There are only two shores that need to be monitored left and right. Today, people aren’t there to watch for intruders anymore but to have pleasure in viewing its scenic sights. It’s quite a steep climb to get there but a quick stroll and relaxation on this hill will take away your tiredness.