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My Island Memoir: Baler

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If there are lands always serene and always peaceful, there are oceans of the same atmosphere even three times the size. It’s a place where my lungs breathe free, my mind smiles blankly, and my heart beats younger—making my soul happy.

Known for its historic and famous event, “The Siege of Baler”, this is the time I must tell you now why this place is my favourite town to visit. A distressful life in the city always needs a break, and so I regularly travel to this town to get a doze of peace, making it “my dwelling place”and “my breathing space.”

As a lot people know, Baler is currently dubbed as “the birthplace of Philippine surfing.” It brings friendly waves in April and great wave heights on its peak seasons.

 

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And not only is it famous for the mentioned sport. It has many other magnificent spots worth the visit, history to learn, cultures to blend in, and affordable food. More than that, a whole weekend getaway to this place can only cost a single traveller of up to Php3,000.00.

 

These are the things to do and places to visit when you plan a weekend getaway to this town.

 

  1. Watch the sunrise

Baler is one of the first towns in the Philippine East Coast to see the sun rise up everyday. Watching it is pure bliss, especially if it goes with the sound of the waves while its rays shine down on the sparkling water.

 

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  1. A walk along Sabang Beach

You will see lots of happy people and their families spend time together: walking by the shore, bathing in the water, riding the waves or just sitting around while watching the sun rise, the waves flow, and other people spend time happily smiling at each other.

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  1. Culture

The one thing I love the most about the locals in this town is their honesty.

This town has a happy culture even though its dwellers are not as high-end as in Manila when it comes to their income. They respect each other and treat other people well. I remember when I lost my GoPro camera in the ocean while surfing, one of the local surfers walked up to me while searching for it, offering his help and suggested that we use a fisherman’s net. We were unable to find the camera. It was too late to look for it because it already fell onto the seabed and got carried off to the deeper part of the ocean. He somehow assured me that he will inform me in case he finds it. Since it was only recent that I lost the camera, he assumed people who live by the beach are aware of it, thus there is hope of finding it.

 

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4. Breakfast buffet food trip at Bay’s Inn Hotel

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Bay’s Inn Hotel is situated at the heart of Sabang Beach where the spirit of surfing is high. Believe it or not, the buffet price per person is only Php150. But it is only open from 6am until 10 am on Saturdays and Sundays.

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5. Surfing

No need to be scared if it’s your first time. Even non-swimmers experience the joy of riding the waves, and come back to this town for more.

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First time surfers are always assisted by instructors on a one-on-one basis. They push your rented board when going to the line up to wait for waves and when it’s time to stand up and ride. Beginners are never taken by their instructors to the deep parts of the ocean where your feet can’t touch the sea bed, since there are no waves and it’s dangerous. Before they take you and your board to the water, they teach you safety precautions, parts of the board, proper position standing up and riding, etc. all about surfing 101.

A beginner surfer on the photo is pushed by her instructor from a water level, which is only shoulder-deep.

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6. History tour

Going to the historic sites of the town is one tricycle ride, less than 5 minutes, and only costs per passenger Php11.00. You can choose where to be dropped off. Either in front of Museo de Baler (or Baler Museum), Baler Church or Maria Aurora Aragon’s house. These places are all next to each other, with canteens and food huts that you can eat in if you’re starving or would rather go for cheaper meals.

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The photo above is Baler Church, where the historic “Siege of Baler” happened during the Filipino-American war. On the right is the house of Maria Aurora Aragon, mother of the former Philippine president, Manuel Quezon. This house is just right across the street from Baler Church. President Manuel Quezon’s presidential cars are also on display next to this house. There is another display beside Museo de Baler.

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At the heart of Baler town, Museo de Baler welcomes anyone who visits the town for any small amount of donation. This museum exhibits a lot of artefacts during the Spanish era in the Philippines that made Baler a part of its historical stories.

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7. Nature sidetrips

 

A. Countryside Tour

 

On the day you reach Baler and finished taking your lunch, you can take your rented van or hire a tricycle for a sidetrip at Buton Street which is at the back of Bay’s Inn Hotel. Each tricycle can be rented for as low as Php300 if your nature sidetrip is to the countryside of Baler. So, if there are three of you, you get to chip in only Php100 each in your group. The countryside tour can be done by visiting Baler’s historic sites first, but it will put additional cost in the tricycle rental.

a.) First on the countryside tour is Ermita Hill.

Driving up this hill to see the whole Baler from a higher view, the breathtaking scene provides a secure place for the locals whenever there is a tsunami warning.

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This statue of the townspeople during the past decades depicts what it is like for them whenever there is a tidal wave or a tsunami warning. Up to this date, they still have to climb hills and rooftops to stay safe. Ermita Hill is the best and closest hill for the locals to take refuge in a tsunami scare. But on the top of the hill is the breathtaking view of the town of Baler and Sabang Beach; on its other viewing deck is the lovely and blue Pacific Ocean.

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b.) Second is Baler’s fishport.

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Baler fishport is the centre of the fishing business in the province. At the edge of this drive is the picturesque and clear Pacific Ocean water that show fish schools and corals under its surface with oceanic view and fresh air to breathe. One thing you should never do is to jump off this driveway though.

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c.) Dela Torre Beach (entrance fee: Php20/person)

This beach comes with a fee of Php20 per person who visits. It is perfect for taking pictures and water depth is only ankle-to-knee deep, making it easy to sit on those rocks.

The rock formation in the photo is what you see from Sabang Beach when you watch the sun rise.

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d.) Diguisit Beach

The last beach in the countryside tour lives very quietly with white sand that’s free for anyone to go for a dip. Every time my companions and I visit this place, we often don’t have enough time to stay long in this stop over. Therefore whenever we’re here, we just take a short stroll around the area and take a few pictures.

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B. Ampere Beach

One of the most worthy reasons to wake up at 4:00 am is to watch the sunrise. To experience this wonderful gift of nature, one has to rent a tricycle and travel 45 minutes going to Ampere Beach located at Dipaculao – another town in Aurora province next to Baler.

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C. Ditumabo Falls

Featured in magazines, travel segments on TV and a lot of blogs, this magnificent waterfall entails an adventurous trek through a forest trail, large slippery rocks, and cold rushing waters if there’s a storm. Also known as “Mother Falls” since it feeds all the water bodies in Aurora province, Ditumabo Falls satisfies the souls of travellers who are also trekking enthusiasts.

The ride going to Barangay San Luis where this waterfall is located takes about 30 minutes by tricycle ride. Going to its trek entry point is a very rocky ride because the trail is not cemented. Trekking to the falls takes about 30-40 minutes through cold rushing water and slippery rocks. It is a great adventure but you have to be cautious of the slippery rocks that might cause accidents and injuries. Be very careful when walking through rushing waters.

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D. Dicasalarin Cove

This is a hidden beach where I have never been to before. I have always wanted to visit this beach my whole life, if only I wasn’t hosting trips. Locals said the white pristine shores of Dicasalarin is their great pride. Worthwhile to visit, a fisherman’s boat may be rented for Php2,000 in which ten people may chip in Php200 each. If the trip going there is taken by land, it will take around two hours because of the steep highway past Disguisit Beach.

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Lodging Contacts:

(Contact these lodges for their rates.)

A. High End Hotels
Aliyah Hotel (website: http://www.aliyasurfcamp.com/;
email: info@aliyasurfcamp.com; mobile: +63 939-939-0929)
Bayler View Hotel (website: www.baylerviewhotel.com/‎; email: baylerviewhotel@yahoo.com; mobile: SMART – +63 919-286-3105, GLOBE – +63 927-363-8735 )
Bahia de Baler (They can be contacted thru facebook: Bahia de Baler | Facebook)

 

 

B. Comfort basis

Bay’s Inn Hotel: 0908-982-3509

Yellow Fin Aircon Cottages (good for 2 people): 0930-817-6683

 

C. Budget cottages (no free breakfasts provided by these lodges)

BBC (starting at Php600/room): 0939-939-0841

June Samano (starting at Php600/room): 0908-104-2043

0929-716-3292

0929-716-3292

Little Girls lodge (starting at Php600/room): 0907-704-1186

0918-685-9449

Pasilyo (starting at Php500/room): 0908-251-5119

0916-255-6025

0920-567-8153

0927-894-7232

Suggested Transportation:

Getting to Baler is only available by land. Only one flight used to fly there back and forth from Manila but it is already discontinued. So to get there by land, you have the following options:

  1. Van rental (for a group of 12-14; travel time: 6 hours – one way)Contact: Jun 0932-851-0776 Van rental fee: Php 9,000.  Additional budget for fuel and tollgates: Php3,500
  2. Joybus Reservation: (632) 441-6834 (travel time 4.5 hours – one way). One way fare to Baler: Php700.  Terminal address: EDSA Northbound corner New York Ave., Cubao, Quezon City

Unlike any other regular air-conditioned bus, Joybus provides a comfortable travel experience for people travelling to and from Baler. It accomodates 28 passengers each bus; they have very nice reclining seats so passengers may fall asleep comfortably. Each row has only three seats – two on the left and one on the right. This bus travels with its own attendant, has a lavatory, free food and drinks, WiFi connection, and passengers are provided with pillows and blankets. They can watch in-bus movies too. Commuting is best for travelling groups of less than 10 people.

3. Genesis (travel time 6 hours – one way)

One way fare to Baler: Php450

Terminal address: EDSA Northbound corner New York Ave., Cubao, Quezon City (same as Joybus)

 

Transportation direct to Baler offered by the same company as Joybus, Genesis may not provide the same comfort as Joybus, though still air-conditioned. But it is best for budget travellers making sure they get straight to Baler. Buses are new and clean lately.

 

Upon arriving at Baler terminal via any of the buses, just take a tricycle ride waiting right outside the bus and ask the driver to take you to the hotel or lodge where you will be staying at. Expect to arrive there in less than 5 minutes. You will be taken there in less than 5 minutes for only Php15 per passenger.

Cost estimation per person for my group (non-budget):

  • van rental contribution (round trip gas and tollgates included): PHP1,000
  • accomodation contribution (Bay’s Inn A/C room for 4): PHP600
  • 2 hrs surfing 101 with instructor PHP700
  • est. food budget (all meals during the trip) PHP500
  • est. budget for side trip PHP200

TOTAL PHP3,000

 

Cost estimation per person for my group (budget basis):

  • Genesis one-way fare Manila to Baler: PHP450
  • Commuting fare (non- A/C carpool from Baler to Cabanatuan) PHP220
  • Commuting A/C ES transport bus fare  (from Cabanatuan to MLA) PHP185
  • accomodation contribution (BBC fan room for 2): PHP300
  • 2 hrs surfing 101 with instructor PHP700
  • est. food budget (all meals during the trip) PHP300
  • est. minimum budget for side trips PHP200

TOTAL:  PHP2,355

Suggested itinerary:

  • 2 days and 1 night
  • Transport: Joybus
  • The same itinerary can be followed if renting a private van for your group; meet-up at any place in Manila that you want (travel time is 6 hours)

 

Day 0 (Friday) 

11:00 pm – 12:00 mn: meet-up at Genesis bus Terminal EDSA Cubao

 

Day 1 (Saturday) 

12:00 mn – 12:30 am: load in the bus

12:30 am – 5:00 am: ETD Manila to Baler (no stop-over)

5:00 am – 6:00 am: ETA Baler; Proceed to Bay’s Inn Hotel; Sunrise Ritual

6:00 am – 7:00 am: Check-in to rooms if already available; Rest

7:00 am – 8:30 am: Buffet breakfast at Bay’s Inn beach front Restaurant

8:30 am – 9:00 am: Dress up for surfing

9:00 am – 10:00 am: first batch surfing

10:00 am – 11:00 am: second batch surfing

11:00 am – 12:00 nn: dry up; rest

12:00 nn – 1:00 pm: Lunch at any restaurant along the beach, Gerry Shan’s, Buton street or Rolling Store

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm: History tour and Countryside tour or rent a boat and sail to Dicasalarin Cove (hidden white beach)

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: head back to hotel, surfing again

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: wash up, get ready for dinner

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm: dinner and socials

10:00 pm:  GOOD NIGHT !

 

Day 2 (Sunday)

(optional) 4:00 am – 4:30 am: WAKE-UP; get ready to go to Ampere Beach

(optional) 4:30 am – 5:15 am: head to Ampere Beach

(optional) 5:15 am – 6:15 am: sunrise ritual

(optional) 6:15 am – 7:00 am: head back to Sabang beach

7:00 am – 8:00 am: WAKE-UP; breakfast time

8:00 am – 9:00 am: free time or surf again

(optional) 9:00 am – 12:00 nn: sidetrip to Ditumabo Falls

12:00 nn – 1:00 pm: lunch at the hotel

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: wash-up, pack up

2:00 pm – 9:00 pm: ETD Baler (@7:00pm: stop-over at Cabanatuan for dinner)

9:00 pm: ETA Manila

 

 

 

Author: Carla Pido

 

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Photo source:

All photos – Courtesy of Carla Pido

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