Aurora Province is located on the East-Central side of Luzon Island. It is the north-eastern most province of Central Luzon (Region III). It is bordered on the north by the provinces of Isabela and Quirino, on the west by Nueva Ecija and Nueva Viscaya, on the south by Bulacan and Quezon Province, and on the east by the Pacific Ocean. The province’s main link to the rest of Luzon is through a narrow mountain gravel road that twists through the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. The road is located between Baler and Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. The capital of Aurora is is Baler.
Aurora was named after Aurora A. Quezon, the wife of President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth. Both of them were born in the capital town of Baler. The early history of Aurora is linked to Quezon province, of which it formed a part until its establishment as a province. It became a sub-province of Quezon in 1951, and finally became an independent province during the presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos, by virtue of Batas Pambansa Blg. 7 enacted on August 13, 1979.
Beyond the lush forest of the Sierra Madre Mountains lies a splendid land so unbelievably rich and untouched – Aurora, otherwise known as the “Sanctuary of Nature’s Splendor.” The Sierra Madre Mountain Range covers a large part of the province of Aurora. In fact, next to the Aurora coastline, it is the place where flora and fauna are most concentrated. Waterfalls, rivers, crystal clear streams of varying sizes are located within, if not adjacent to, the area of the Sierra Madre mountain. Special interest trips such as mountain climbing, safari, bird watching, ecological studies, or even as simple as picnics could be rolled into one by taking the trails recommended by local nature trekkers in the area. When the northeast monsoon winds blow and the usual tranquil white beaches are transformed into deathtraps by angry waves, it is time to come to Aurora to ride the waves on a surfboard.
Before the arrival of the first Spanish explorer in 1572, Aurora already has established towns of Casiguran, Baler and Infanta. In 1609, Franciscan missionaries established their mission in Baler and Casiguran. However, due to lack of manpower the mission was handed over to the Augustinians and Recollects in 1658 but was later turned over to Friars minor in the year 1703.
Aurora used to be a part of Quezon or Kalilaya province. However, in 1749 the provincial capital was transferred from Kalilaya to Tayabas. Thus, since then the name of the town is also known as Tayabas. Between the years 1855 to 1885, Aurora was known as “El Principe” and its capital is Baler. Then upon the arrival of the Americans in 1890 a military government was established but on June 12, 1902 it was changed to a civil government and placed under the governance of Tayabas.
After World War II, the sub-province of Aurora was created as a means to the eventual creation of an independent province from the province of Quezon. In 1951, Baler, Casiguran, Dilasag, Dipaculao, Dinalongan, Dingalan, Maria Aurora and San Luis officially became a sub-province of Aurora through Republic Act 646. Then on August 13, 1979 by virtue of Batas Bambansa Blg. 7, the late President Ferdinand Marcos founded the province of Aurora and made Baler as its capital.
During the pre-colonial period, native settlers dotted its mountains and coastlands. As pieces of evidence show, there was pre-Hispanic trade between its inhabitants and Chinese traders.
In 1572, while exploring the northern coast of Luzon, Spanish explorer Juan de Salcedo reportedly visited Casiguran, Baler, and Infanta. In 1609, the Franciscans under the leadership of Fray Blas Palomino established missions in Baler and Casiguran, which were turned over to the Augustinians and Recollects in 1658 but which were carried on by the Franciscans in 1703.
On Dec. 27, 1735, a huge destructive wave known as the tromba marina wiped out Baler, leaving only seven surviving families, prompting the inhabitants to resettle in a new location known today as the Poblacion of Baler.
The historic Siege of Baler (1898-1899), which has become the basis for the annual Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day celebration, occurred when Filipino revolutionaries besieged the fortified town church manned by colonial Spanish troops who defended the Spanish flag for almost a year but who later surrendered to the Filipino troops under the leadership of Pres. Emilio F. Aguinaldo who decreed that the Spanish soldiers be treated not as enemies but as friends and be allowed to safely return to Spain.
The whole land area of Aurora was originally composed of Baler and Casiguran, which were administered as part of Tayabas until Nueva Ecija was established in the early 19th century. In 1856, the eastern part of Nueva Ecija was created into a district called El Principe. Thus, Baler and Casiguran were part of Nueva Ecija until 1902 when the Commonwealth government abolished the district and annexed it to Tayabas.
Maria Aurora, which was carved out of Baler, became a municipality on Jul. 21, 1950 under Executive Order No. 246 signed by Pres. Elpidio R. Quirino, while Dipaculao was created out of the original Casiguran under Executive Order No. 375 issued on Nov. 27, 1950. These four municipalities composed the first Aurora Sub-province created as an administrative area under Quezon Province by virtue of Republic Act No. 648 signed into law on June 14, 1951.
Other municipalities of Aurora Sub-province, which were carved out of the first municipalities, include San Luis (created on June 21, 1952 by virtue of Republic Act No. 2452 and became a regular municipality on June 18, 1966 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4785), Dingalan (created as a municipal district in May 1956 and became a regular municipality on June 16, 1962 by virtue of Republic Act No. 3980), and Dinalungan (created as a municipality on June 16, 1966 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4759).
In 1978, Lt. Gov. Luis S. Etcubañez requested the 21 Assemblyman of Region IV (Southern Tagalog Region) to co-sponsor a parliamentary bill for the establishment of Aurora as an independent province, which was eventually passed. In a plebiscite held on May 20, 1979, the people of Aurora voted in favor of full provincehood. Finally, Aurora was declared as a full-fledged province, with Baler as its capital, on Aug. 13, 1979. Soon after, Lieutenant Governor Etcubañez issued an Executive Order declaring February 19 of each year as the Aurora Foundation Day in honor of the late Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon.
On May 17, 2002, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 103 which redefined the composition of Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog administrative region and transferred Aurora Province from Region IV (Southern Tagalog Region) to Region III (Central Luzon).
In 2007, the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), a special economic zone located in Casiguran, was created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9490 signed by President Arroyo through the efforts of Sen. Edgardo J. Angara and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo M. Angara. It is expected to be a major transshipment hub going to the Pacific region, aiming to boost social, economic, and industrial developments in the Province of Aurora, advocating an eco-friendly approach to industrialization and enhancing the potential of the community in productivity.
Given its wealth of natural and cultural resources, as well as its strategic location, Aurora Province, under the leadership of incumbent Gov. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo, is poised to be the next trade, industry, and tourism hub in the Central Luzon region.
More than half of the population of Aurora is Tagalog, mainly in the municipalities south of Baler; about less than one-third is Ilocano, particularly in municipalities north of Baler; and some are Kapampangan in the capital. Other ethnic groups in the province are Bicolano, Kasigurahin and Kankana-ey. They comprised about 16% of the population.
There are also pockets of Negritos, called Dumagats in the province. Most Dumagats are living in the hillsides or mountains and survive from fishing and hunting. They are believed to have resulted from a fusion of Austronesian and Melanesian ancestries. There are three kinds of Dumagats in Aurora Province: the Umiray Dumagat, Casiguran Dumagat, and the Palanan Dumagat. All of these subgroupings have the Bible translated into their own language.
Aurora is heavily forested and the cleared land is used mostly for farming. The principal products are copra, rice, banana, coffee, pepper, and citrus, plus various wood and fish products. There is some cottage weaving in the province. The provincial government is trying to develop the food-processing and wood-processing industry.
The province is exposed to Pacific typhoons, and is hit by an average of four typhoons per year, some of devastating severity. On the other hand, it is a fine place for surfing, as well as scuba-diving and snorkeling, though local support services are not readily found. It also has dramatic scenery on the side of the mountains.
Aurora can be reached via two road networks – the Canili-Pantabangan Road and the Baler-Bongabon Road (though this route – Baler / Bongabon – is impassable at the moment). Genesis Transport with terminals in Manila and Pasay City offers daily morning trips from Manila to Baler. Travel time is approx 8 hours. For those coming from the northern provinces, D Liner buses stationed in Baguio take 8 hours to reach Baler. Buses, jeepneys and private vans stationed in Cabanatuan Central Terminal in Nueva Ecija take two hours to reach the southern-most town of Dingalan, and four hours to reach Baler.