How To Get the Most Out of Baler, Aurora

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


September 6 - 7, 2014

Ah, Baler.

My visit to you was a dreg, in all truthfulness, of what seems like a much grander adventure in Ilocos that never came true. I, notwithstanding, feel no contrition nor any scruple over the turn of events. I am delighted that I've gotten to meet you.

Here is a verse for you:


I care not if the paleness of my skin goes darker
Nor if the suntans never go away
Your tales, your myths, your seas and waters
Are enough to compensate

Sigh.

Well, alright, enough about that. No more dillydallying. Here are the fun activities that one must do when visiting Baler:

SURF

Baler, as far as I can remember, had always been associated with teetering and balancing on waves via a board. If your hectic schedule can only permit a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway and you want to get a feel of surfing the waves, Baler is the place to be.


One-hour surfing lesson costs, as of writing, Php300. I personally recommend Beach Break's Kuya Biboy for your surfing needs.

I learned real quickly, but maybe that's just because I might have the genetic makings of a surfer. Hey, I'm quite excellent at surfing the Net, so why not?

EAT
Along the shores of Sabang Beach are the lines of accommodations which house several restaurants and eateries.

For our lunch on our first day, we opted to dine in Hungry Surfer.




A meal consisting of Sinigang na Blue Marlin...

Garlic Chicken...
and Lechon Kawali....

was more than enough for our group of five and had only cost us Php935.

Of course, when your budget dwindles down, you can just go to the town proper and buy isaw and other grilled pig and chicken offal. Cheap and yummy!

Hungry Surfer also offers a Php200 dinner buffet that starts at 6PM, just so you know. :)

You can also try Aliya's Chips from Aliya Surf Resort which are perfect with a beer, at least according to my companions.

EXPLORE THE TOWN BY BICYCLE
There is a place near Hungry Surfer that offers bicycle rental for Php100 an hour. This is a good way to explore the town and get your daily dose of exercise.

UNLEASH YOUR INNER HISTORY AND CULTURAL BUFF
While you're on a bike, why not head out to Baler Town Proper and visit Museo de Baler?


Expand your knowledge and find out what happened in Baler on 1735 and check out the artifacts and mementos on display.

Also, you can pose for some wacky photos like these:


Then pedal your way across the street, to a replica of Doña Aurora's house.




 There are no entrance fees for these places. Only donations.

You can also choose to hire a tricycle to take you to Ermita Hill where you'll have a magnificent view of the whole of Baler.


Ermita Hill is also a place for devotees. Many Balerianos flock to this site during Holy Week to embark on a long and winding path to the towering cross.


Then there is also the sculpture of the Tromba Marina.

This grand sculpture on the hillside depicts the seven families who were said to be the sole survivors of the great tsunami that razed Baler in the days of yore.

I was so amazed by this artwork. It looked so natural, so at ease against the dirt and rock of the hillside. A must-see.

MARVEL AT THE MILLENNIUM TREE
The 600-year-old Banyan tree in Maria Aurora is so huge and so high, it had trespassed into the realm of surrealism. Instead of being spooky, it appeared, at least to me, fantastical. Like it belonged to Middle Earth, or Encantadia.

Although its grandeur will probably make you feel a bit inadequate, one cannot help but to be filled with a sense of overwhelming awe at how Nature works. It had brought out the existentialist in me, I kid you not.


TREK, SPLASH, AND DIVE
If you're looking for another way to work off those leg muscles, take a trek to the Mother Falls.

Then to help you regain your strength, dive into the ice cold waters from the raging falls.

Go nearer the falling water and an incessant water spray will come at you like there's no tomorrow, swirling winds will gush past and back at you without consideration for your already freezing body. You'll soon realize that the Mother Falls is so epic that it create its own weather system. Like a boss.

There is also the lesser falls of Diguisit which can be found near the Tromba Marina sculpture. It goes without saying that you should visit this one before going to the Mother Falls lest you be left unimpressed.

Then, there is this array of cliffs and rock formations in a beach  in Diguisit, for picture taking.




And of course, cliff diving.

When you're done touring around Baler and its nearby towns, you can just lay down on the sands or let the gentle waves rock your worries away. In other words, be a quintessential beach bum in Sabang.


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And because I really really want you to go see Baler for yourself, here are tips to get you going:

HOW TO GET THERE
Go to Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao, near Kamuning. Genesis is the only bus line the plies from Cubao directly to Baler. You can either ride the more luxurious Joy Bus for Php700, or opt for the more practical regular air-conditioned bus at Php450.

Alternatively, you can ride buses to Cabanatuan and from there, ride a van to Baler.

To go back to Manila, either go to the Genesis bus terminal in Baler Town Proper or go to the Van Terminal and ride a van up to Cabanatuan then hop on a bus to Cubao or Pasay from there.

Reminders:
  • First trip from Cubao to Baler is 3AM for the regular air-conditioned bus.
  • Reservation is recommended if you want to ride the Joy Bus
  • I suggest you ride the van to Cabanatuan if you plan to return to Manila later than 3PM. Unlike in the bus terminal in Baler, which only has trips up to 3PM, buses are available in the Cabanatuan terminal anytime.
  • Van from Baler to Cabanatuan costs Php230, bus from Cabanatuan to Cubao is Php150
  • You may contact Kuya Max, the van dispatcher at Baler terminal, at +63939-229-7493
  • Travel time is about 4-6 hours, accounting for stop-overs and traffic 

ACCOMMODATIONS
There are lots of cheap accommodations in Baler but I recommend La Flor Lodge. We paid Php2,200 for an overnight stay at a room for five. The staff are very friendly, generous and very open to haggling.

We didn't book beforehand but if you're going during peak seasons (-Ber Months), better make a reservation.

Contact No.: +63999-844-1185 / +63905-406-3852

GETTING AROUND
Again, you can rent a bicycle or hire a tricycle for a day at Php800 to take you around Baler and its neighboring towns.

You may contact Kuya Clifford, tour guide and chauffeur: +63916-630-4022 / +63907-142-8747
With Kuya Clifford (rightmost)

SAMPLE ITINERARY (2 days 1 night)

Day 1
02:00 - Meet-up in Genesis Cubao Terminal
03:00 - ETD Cubao
08:30 - ETA Baler Town Proper
09:00 - Check-in / Rest
10:00 - Lunch
11:00 - Stroll in Sabang Beach
11:30 - Suit-up for Surfing
11:40 - Surfing Lessons
12:40 - Swim, Take Pictures
13:00 - Rent a bike, Pedal along town proper
14:00 - Buy dinner (isaw)
14:30 - Back to transient house, rest
16:30 - Swim
18:00 - Dinner
18:30 - Chill at Aliyah's Bar
20:00 - Lights Out

Day 2
05:30 - Wake-up call
06:00 - ETD to Ermita Hill
06:30 - Explore Ermita Hill
07:45 - Tromba Marina Sculpture
08:00 - Digisan Falls
08:30 - Rock formations, swim
10:30 - Millenium Tree
11:05 - Lunch / Trek to Mother Falls
11:20 - Mother Falls, Swim, Explore
12:30 - ETD to transient house, Sabang
13:45 - Clean-up, check-out
15:00 - ETD to Museo de Baler, Doña Aurora House
16:00 - Buy Pasalubong
17:00 - Dinner, Van Terminal
18:00 - ETD Baler
20:30 - ETA Cabanatuan
21:00 - ETD Cabanatuan
24:00 - ETA Cubao

BREAKDOWN OF EXPENSES
  • Bus from Cubao to Baler - Php450
  • Tricycle from Baler town proper to Sabang - Php15/pax
  • Overnight Accommodation - Php2,200/5 pax
  • Food (2 days) - Php600/pax
  • Tricycle rental - Php800/tricycle
  • Entrance fee Mother Falls - Php10/pax + Parking fee Php5
  • Entrance fee Rock Formations - Php20/pax
  • Van fare from Baler to Cabanatuan - Php230/pax
  • Bus fare from Cabanatuan to Cubao - Php150/pax

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Ah, Baler. I will surf in your waters again. I shall return to you very soon.

Cheers to the next adventure!

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