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The Motion of the Ocean at Baler, Aurora

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The Philippines is known for its beautiful beaches. If you are settled in Metro Manila, you don’t need not travel far in order to experience a relaxing weekend by the sea. Right here in the Luzon island, there are many provinces that will give you easy access to the beach to catch some waves. One of them is in Baler, Aurora.

 

baler_surfer

 

Here’s a guide from Lonely Planet’s  book chapter about Baler, one of the best beaches to visit in Luzon.

 

Cut off from the outside world by the Sierra Madre and the Philippine Sea, Baler (bah-lehr), the capital of Aurora province, is best known as the location of the surfing scene in “Apocalypse Now”. The minuscule waves on display in that scene are a testament to the area’s fickleness.

 

SEAIR has flights here and the provincial government has been touting Baler’s adventure credentials, which in addition to surfing, include hiking in virgin rainforest and exploring some seriously remote beaches. Alas, travellers haven’t quite caught on yet and Baler remains a place to get away from it all.

 

Alvin_and_friends

(Photo by: Alvin Bermillo for Epxatch)

 

Information

 

There are no ATMs and banks do not change cash. AMCI-B2B Center (cnr San Luis & Burgos Sts; per hour P20; 9am – 10pm) has internet access.

The friendly Provincial Tourism Office ( Phone: 209 4373; Provincial Capitol Compound; 8am – noon & 1-5pm Mon-Fri) has maps of the area and can help you find bangka or hiking guide. It also has information on exploring the scenic Aurora coastline north of Baler around Casiguran and Dilasag.

 

baler_luzon_B

 

Sights and Activities

 

Offshore typhoons kick up big swells for surfing between July and October. From November to March, onshore breezes make conditions challenging. The biggest waves are over a reef at Cemento Beach, 6km east of town off Cemento wharf. The town hosts the Aurora Surfing Cup every February on Sabang Beach, an endless strip of fine dark sand extending north from Baler proper to Charlie’s Point, the river-mouth break that spawned the famous ‘Charlie don’t surf’ line in Apocalypse Now. Aliya Surfshop (board rental/ lessons per hour P150/200), near the central lifeguard stand dubbed Baywatch, offers boards and instruction. It also has a dive shop.

 

If you continue 4.5km past Cemento wharf, you will come to Digisit, where a hiking trail through the jungle leads south to an isolated white-sand beach at Dicasalarin Cove. It is a two-to-three hour hike (take a guide), or you can hire a bangka (P1000 return) from the fishers near the San Luis River mouth at Sabang Beach. A non-motorised bangka (P3+) takes passengers across the river to barangay Castillo, from where you can you walk to Cemento wharf. Otherwise take a tricycle from Sabang or Baler centre (P120 one way).

 

An easier hike is to Ditumabo Falls (Mother Falls), which drop 15m into a small reservoir above an unfinished hydroelectric dam. The turn-off to the trail is in Ditumabo, 5.7km west of San Luis. From there, walk or take a tricycle 2km along 4WD track to the trailhead, from where it’s a somewhat technical 45-minute hike to the falls up a creek bed next to a water pipeline.

 

Museo de Baler (Quezon Park; admission P20; 8am-noon & 1-5pm) has some interesting photos and exhibits on the history and culture of the area.

 

Sleeping & Eating

 

Most Baler’s accommodation is along the beach in Sabang.

MM’s Lodge ( Phone: 0919 537 9405; d with/ without bathroom & air-con P800/350) Basically a budget surfers’ crash pad, but it does have the only two true beachfront rooms in Baler. They are on the 2nd floor of a concrete structure and have balconies, just not luxury.

 

Bay’s Inn ( Phone: 209 4312; d with fan/ air-con P500/850). Its lively beachfront restaurant does a reasonable job of capturing the surfer ethos, with yummy tacos (P60) and grungy post-punk playlist (sometimes). The rooms (with cold water only) are just adequate, however.

 

Bahia de Baler Garden Hotel ( Phone: 0921 576 5655; d incl. breakfast P1500). This is by far the nicest place in town if you’re looking for something above basic. The rooms are spacious enough and some even have a few stylish touches such as inlaid-bamboo walls and designer lamps.

 

Drinking

 

Neighbouring Freddie’s Place ( 8pm-2:30am) and Maharajah (8pm-2:30am) roll live-music acts every night. They can get pretty rowdy on weekends.

 

Shopping

 

Next to the public market in Baler, Pasalubong Centre (7:30am-5:30pm) sells locally made crafts and hand-woven hats at good prices.

 

Getting There & Away

 

SEAIR has Monday and Friday flights to/from Manila (50 minutes). Baler is a seven-hour drive from Manila. Buses take the (mostly) sealed road via Pantabangan. If you have your own 4WD, take the more direct and more scenic dirt road out of Palayan. Genesis has four daily air-con buses to Pasay, Manila (P420, eight hours).

 

From other points in Luzon, you must travel first in Cabanatuan. Air-con vans link Cabanatuan and Baler (P230, four hours) every hours or so during daylight hours. Vans depart from the main bus station near the new public market. Also at bus station, D’Liner has four morning buses that tackle the road to Dilasag (P400, six hours), the jumping-off point for boats to Palanan.

 

Surfing!

If the sea is calling you, the best way to respond is to surf in Baler! There are many spots to check out for surfers of any skill level. Here are tips from E-Philippines.

 

Cemento Reef – “This right handed reef break is not for the beginner. It is about a 45 minute walk south of Baler, or the easy option is to catch a banca to the reef, about 10 minutes. Cemento Reef can cope well with big swell and if you are game and experienced a nice 4.5 metre barrel will greet you. You will find that Cemento is usually the spot for the annual Aurora Surfing Cup.”

 

Baler_Alvin_1_C

(Photo by: Alvin Bermillo for Expatch)

 

Charlie’s Point – “Charlie’s Point breaks both left and right and is a sand bottom. It is where Apocalypse Now was filmed. A nice easy walk from Baler.”

Lindy Point – “Found north of Baler, Lindy’s Point was created when the mouth of Baler Bay was opened up to prevent floods during the wet season. The actual break runs left and right.”

Sabang Beach – “The wave here is seasonal. The waves arrive during the months of October to February and are great for first time surfers. As the swell gets bigger more experienced riders can have an absolute ball. It breaks on sand and is a left and right pleasing both natural footers and goofy’s alike.

 

Other Tourist Attractions of Baler

Surfing is not the only activity you can do at Baler. You can also explore the historical sites inside it and experience what it’s like turning back the time during the Spanish-occupation era. We listed the interesting sites below which you can include to your itinerary:

  • Baler Church – (famous for the Siege of Baler in 1898-1899 between the Philippine Revolutionary forces and Spanish troops during the Philippine Revolution and Spanish-American War) The original structure was destroyed in the Battle of Baler in 1945 between the Philippine Commonwealth troops and the Japanese Imperial forces during World War II)
  • Quezon Park – (The birthplace of President Manuel L. Quezon)
  • Dicaloyungan Picnic Zone
  • Ermita Hill
  • Aniao Islets
  • Cemento Beach
  • Dicasalarin Beach

 

 

Videos:

 

 

Posted by: Anna Stiva
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Photo source:
Top photo – mkcompasstravel.com/package/baler-tour-package-surfing-2d1n/
Map – by Google Maps
Other photos – courtesy of Alvin Bermillo for Expatch
Reference:
Travelling, eating, sleeping and more – “Philippines” by Lonely Planet
Surfing tips and other activities – www.e-philippines.com.ph/philippine-tourist-destinations/baler-travel-surfing-and-tour-packages/where-to-go-surfing-spots-in-baler-aurora/

 

Video reference:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=L01tvDHzuQg
www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqlA3YitA3E

 

 

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