Aurora Aragon viuda de Quezon was on her way to open a new hospital in Baler on 28 April 1949 when members of the insurgent Hukbalahap ambushed her entourage in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija along the Sierra Madre mountain range. She died in the hail of bullets along with her daughter Ma. Aurora and son-in-law Felipe Buencamino III, then Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, and several others. In her honor, the sub-province of Aurora was carved from Quezon province in 1951 that was later relegated as a full province in 1978.
The Quezons of Baler are actually first cousins because their mothers are sisters. Aurora married Manuel (who is officially acknowledged today as the second Philippine president after Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo) in 1918. Officially, Aurora is the second First Lady but was the first to be called as such. She is also the first of 3 presidential spouses to be murdered before Alicia Syquia-Quirino who was massacred with 3 of her children by the retreating Japanese during the Battle of Manila, and Cory’s Ninoy who was assasinated while coming home from exile.
She shunned politics after her husband’s death of tuberculosis, declining an offer ro run as senator under the Liberal Party and a P1,000 per month pension offered by the Philippine congress “… when so many of (her) less fortunate sisters and their children are not yet taken care of. . .”. She instead became actively involved in socio-civic organizations like the Philippine National Red Cross of which she served as its first chairperson until her death. The Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards was named after her “to remind people of the fact that in times of violence, the first to suffer are the innocent”.
The Quezon house in Baler is just a around the Church of San Luis Obispo that the Franciscans first built of light materials in Tibag (i.e. now Sabanga) in 1611. It was handed over to the Augustinian Recollects in 1658 then back to the Franciscans in 1703. The church was destroyed by a tidal wave in 1735. It was relocated to its present site where a new church of stronger materials was built. Manuel L. Quezon, the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, was baptized in the church in 1878. The young Aurora Quezon and her sisters were with a garrison of Spanish troops in the church that was besieged by Filipino revolutionaries from 1889 until 1899. Lt. Commander James C. Gilmore of the United States Navy was captured by Filipino troops when he arrived to rescue the Spanish troops. The church was handed over to the secular clergy in 1899, to the Carmelites in 1947, then back to the secular clergy in 1983. Aurora Quezon and her husband had the church rebuilt in 1939.