Saturday, October 6, 2012

Baler

Province of Aurora
P H I L I P P I N E S


Let Us Surf & Wander in Baler!

By: Marion Erika Macapagal



Boredom. Who in this world have never felt bored at one point in his life? Stress. The truth is we deal with it every single day. So how do you deal with them? What do you do every day to make your life busy yet happy and satisfied? In my case, I want to spend the next 60 or 70 years of my life (if that is how long I will live in this world) as if everyday is a blessing that I should be thankful for. And for me, the best way to appreciate it is to enjoy life to the fullest.

Perhaps the most effective way to whisk off stress and to get rid of boredom is to find a hobby or a sport that would stimulate your mind and body. Trying out things that you have not done in your life is a good idea too. Or, simply creating your own Bucket List and challenging yourself to accomplish them one by one. Tell you what… I got a hundred of things to do in my own list! And, on top of the list is to explore the beauty of the world.

Today, let me share our travel experience and introduce you to one of the many beautiful and lovely places here in the Philippines - BALER.






Baler is located some 230 kilometers northeast of Manila and is a municipality in the Province of Aurora. However it depends on the season according to the locals, it remains as one of the best surfing spots in the country. Bigger waves can be enjoyed during the “-ber” months until January and February. That is the main reason I chose Baler for my September adventure.

It only took us a few hours travel from Manila before I got to fly again with my surfboard. Yiheee! “My surfboard” refers to those one that are for-rent. I do not have my own surfboard yet, but I am positive that I will have one eventually.



Why Baler and On Getting There


When King Aguilar, The BP photographer, had his photoshoot in Baler few months ago, he posted pictures of this place. I got mesmerized by the beauty of Baler as captured in King’s photographs so I immediately told everyone that the Group should visit it too. Unfortunately, our Group’s calendar is already full of pre-planned activities for the coming months so Baler will need to wait for its turn then. But because we got so overwhelmed last month (August) with water sports like surfing and kayaking in La Union, I told Clue that I really wanted to go to Baler. Thank God, she said yes!

For information on how to go to Baler, please click on this link: http://www.aurora.ph/transportation.html#land


Day 1 (Saturday, Sep 15, 2012)

It was raining hard when were about to leave Manila. And due to floods in Mandaluyong, where Clue lives, she got stranded for few hours. I, Ella and Clue arrived at around 9:15 in the morning in ES Transport Cubao Terminal. We waited for a few minutes for Clue’s sister, Eiffer, to arrive. Finally at 10:00 AM, we left going to Cabanatuan. The only trip going straight to Baler is scheduled 7:00 AM, so we had no choice but to take another ride going to Baler when we reached our stop in Cabanatuan.

The not-so- good weather forecast and cancellation of classes in Metro Manila did not stop us. But I was praying as hard as the rain that the Lord would keep us safe and that he will make a miracle that day or on the following day. Typhoon Karen was already in the Philippines Area of Responsibility and it was expected to bring heavy rains and thunderstorms especially in the northern part of the country. Baler was one of those would-be affected area.


We arrived in Cabanatuan City Central terminal at around 1:00 PM and to our surprise, the weather was good! The sun was hidden but there was no rain either. Clue asked us whether we would go for a van or for an ordinary bus going to Aurora. Since we were already near to those ordinary buses, we went ahead loaded our bags, and got ourselves a spot in the back of the minibus. 



All of us were not expecting that the trip would take that long. Because of several stop-over, not too comfortable bus ride, and the heavy rain, we all got so exhausted. It was already dark when we arrived in Aurora. I felt sad that time because we were not able to surf that day as planned. But as I was looking around, I felt like God talked to me through the signs I saw. A big tarpaulin said “Maligayang Paglalakbay” (Happy trip) and another big sticker I saw inside the tricycle when we were on our way to Sabang said “No Fear”. It made me smile and I thanked Him for that soft and sweet reminder.



Though exhausted, what captured my attention in that long travel was how friendly and warm the people were. The bus conductor, who helped passengers in loading and unloading their baggages all throughout, was so nice. He gave us the correct directions and even advised us on what to do and what to tell the tricycle driver and the locals so they won’t be taking advantage of us as tourists.


We finally arrived in Sabang at around 7:30 PM. We looked for June Samano, owner of the home stay that Clue had learned from the blogs when she was researching for this trip. He and his wife welcomed us. We rented an airconditioned room for PhP 1,500. It had two queen-size beds good for four persons. Mr. Samano was so kind to let us stay until 6:00 PM of the next day without additional charges. The usual check-out time is 12:00 NN or 2:00 PM. We needed to extend because we were already so behind of our itinerary.



Starving and in tired bodies, we unloaded our bags, took a quick rest and headed off to Bay-ler View Hotel for our dinner which was just a few steps away from our room. I was excited to take a seat when I saw the place. The ambiance was great and the staffs were very friendly and accommodating. Look at these pictures, you’ll see how hungry yet how happy we were.



After the food fiesta, we wanted to end the day with a glass of frozen margarita but they ran out of ice. Too bad but I guess that was a sign so we could go to sleep early and be prepared for the following day’s adventures.


Day 2 (Sunday, Sep 16, 2012)


It was almost a perfect Sunday morning! We woke up at around 5:00 AM. The sun was still shy to totally come out of the clouds. The beach was just a few steps from our room, which was very convenient for us. Since we wanted to start the day early, we went out for a morning jog by the beach. 









More and more people came out to stroll by the seashore as the morning got brighter and brighter each second.



After our morning jog, we ate breakfast overlooking the beach.


BP Clue

BP Marion


Ella & BP Marion lovin' the breakfast








That light meal, was it really light? Haha! Just enough to get us through the day, I guess. After that sumptuous breakfast, we changed our clothes to our swimwear and went off to the beach for the much awaited surfing experience. 




Surfing

Everywhere I looked, I noticed surfboards arranged in line. Along the way were signs pointing to the area where you surfers can register and pay for the surfing lesson. 


We met Kuya Ryan & Kuya Marjem, our surfing instructors. It was an hour lesson and we did it by two’s so that a pair could take pictures while the others were on their surfboards. I and Eiffer were the first to ride the surfboards with our respective instructors teaching us the right way to balance and all those stuff. Just look at the pictures and see how serious we were to learn this sport. Haha! We had fun even after stumbling and rolling off our surfboards! 


Eiffer and BP Marion




Ella & BP Clue


The first timers: Ella & Eiffer





BP Marion and BP Clue's Surfing Exhibition







Touring Around


Museo de Baler
(Baler, Aurora)




The supposed all day tour was cut into a half day tour. We didn’t know that those places written in the itinerary were actually different towns in Aurora. We thought we would just be strolling around Baler only to find out that those attractions are far from each other! Good thing my surfing instructor Kuya Ryan offered us a tour package. He became our instant tour guide.

After surfing and swimming, we changed our clothes while Kuya Ryan was waiting for us in his tricycle. Then, we headed off to our first destination- Museo de Baler.










Caunayan Falls
(San Luis, Aurora)


There are many known waterfalls in Aurora. Kuya Ryan told us that the nearest one from where we were is the Caunayan Falls. We asked him to bring us there. I thought that when he said “near” it would be like just a few minutes ride from where we were.

My butt was already complaining but we haven’t reached our destination yet. There was a rough road too. But everyone seemed enjoying the ride, and that’s what mattered to me.

We needed to pass three attended gates before we had reached the waterfalls. The access road to Caunayan Falls crosses private properties thus a fee amounting to PhP 20 per vehicle needs to be paid at each gate before entering. When we saw the waterfalls, we were like kids! We jumped into the water. 

Eiffer, BP Clue, Ella & BP Marion


BP Clue's beauty queen pose


BP Marion: umbrella model?

Planking ala BP Weng & Chons

Eiffer: "I'm strong!"




Balete Park and The Unexpected Climb to a 600-year Old Tree
(Maria, Aurora)

Seeing the big arrow sign pointing to the Balete Park triggered my imagination. 6oo-year old Balete tree? Interesting! Kuya Ryan did his best attempt to describe it but actually seeing it made us exclaimed “Wow!” It was an old huge tree that certainly amazed me. To be honest, it also freaked me out because of my imagination of kapre and maligno that must be residing in that big tree.


The surrounding place was so quiet when we were there. It is not a usual park. The Balete tree is circumferenced by a spacious fence and that was it!






I am not sure if Balete Park is their hangout place but two teenage boys, Genesis & Jasper, approached us and led us to an entrance going inside the giant tree. Whoah! It’s like a cave with a pretty wide space inside! The two boys also shared instructions on how to climb it. Clue and Eiffer climbed. Ella was too excited to climb too; and so not wanting to be left behind, I was forced to follow them. I am not actually afraid of the height or the challenge to get to the top since I have been climbing mountains for couple of years now. It was just that, what I was wearing that time was a swimming outfit and I thought it was not appropriate to climb wearing it, as I would need to stretch my legs wide open (kalerkei!) But I climbed anyway and it was a total fun.

The view on top of that 6-story-building high tree was very nice.



Before we left, we gave the boys PhP 50 each as our way of thanking for the small adventure. Before heading to another town in Aurora, we had our lunch in a carinderia. For PhP 50 and we were full!

Balete Boys: Genesis and Jasper 



The White Cross in Ermita Hill
(Casiguran, Aurora)




Wherever you are in Baler, you'll see a big white cross on top of a mountain. It is more visible during night time because it is lighted thus becomes bright against the dark surroundings. Kudos to the people who built this sacred structure. Its being on top of a hill seems to remind everyone that God is always there to watch over us and that He is above all things.

One needs to climb some 200 steps to get to the top and reach the white cross. Though it was tiring for me, it was worth it! Once in Ermita Hill, you have a greater view of Baler. It is a perfect place overlooking beaches like Sabang and Cemento, nearby islets, and neighboring towns. It is also a place suitable for meditation and peaceful recollection.







Sabang Beach Before Going Home

We had few hours before check-out from our hometel so we decided to spend that time swimming and strolling by the beach. I, Ella & Clue swam while surfers were busy playing roller coaster with the big waves. Eiffer decided to stay in our room to relax. I wanted to have another surfing session but I felt like the time was not enough.




What captured our attention the most while we were battling with the waves was a 6-7 year old kid who was surfing like a big man in his long and big surfboard. This kid was so adorable! People around us were also enjoying. We laughed, played with the waves, and cheered for those surfers who were like flying with their surfboards.




When already satisfied, we packed our things up and readied for the trip home. As it was already 6:00 PM, we decided to treat ourselves with a delightful dinner at Bay-ler View.




3 Major Reasons I Should Go Back

Surfing
The kind-hearted people
Beautiful sceneries


I hope that you can join me next time!

Also, I would like to invite you to join 
The BACKPACKERS’ invitational and friendship climbs. 
Visiting this website regularly and checking on “NEXT ADVENTURE” 
located at the right hand side of this page 
and contacting us (contact information at the “Contact Us” page) 
will bring you closer to having adventures with us.

Thank you for reading!

~ BP Marion

_________________



Sharing our original Itinerary:

Day 1 (September 15, Saturday)

7:00 AM ETD Cubao bound to Baler
1:00 PM Lunch in Baler
2:00 PM Check In
2:30 PM Rest
4:00 PM Surfing and Beach
6:00 PM Dinner
7:00 PM Bed Time

Day 2 (September 16 , Sunday)

5:30 AM Jogging at the Beach
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Start of Baler Tour
5:00 PM End of Baler Tour
8:00 PM Check Out and Dinner
9:00 PM ETD Baler Public Market to Cabanatuan
1:00 AM ETA Cabanatuan Bus Terminal
4:00 AM ETD Cabanatuan to Manila

The Revised Itinerary:

Day 1 (September 15, Saturday)
10:00 AM ETD Cubao bound to Cabanatuan
1:00 PM Cabanatuan Central Terminal
1:30 PM bound to Baler
7:00 PM Sabang, Check In
7:30 PM Dinner
9:00 PM Bed Time

Day 2 (September 16, Sunday)
5:30 AM Jogging at the Beach
6:30 AM Breakfast
7:30 AM Surfing
10:00 AM Start of Aurora Tour
3:00 PM End of Aurora Tour
4:00 PM Swimming & Socials
6:00 PM Check out
6:30 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Baler Centro Van Terminal
11:00 PM ETA Cabanatuan Bus Terminal
2:30 AM ETD Manila


Expenses:

Fare
                Bus from Manila to Cabanatuan – 185
                Bus from Cabanatuan to Baler – 175
                Tricycle going to Sabang – 50 (good for 4)
                Tricycle going to Van terminal – 50 (good for 4)
                Van from Sabang to Cabanatuan – 250
                Bus from Cabanatuan to Manila – 185

Home-stay room – 1500 (good for 4)
Surfing – 350 (1 hr session)
Tour (1 tricycle) – 800 (good for 4)
Caunayan Falls Entrance – 60 (per vehicle)
Balite Park – 100 (we gave this to the two boys who helped us climb the balite tree)
Food – 500 (this depends on your food preference)

Total (per head): 2,300
  
Hotel & Home-stay contact information:

June Samano Homestay
Address: #84 Buton St., Brgy Sabang, Baler, Aurora
Contact #s: 09297163292 or 09081042043

Bay-ler View Hotel
Address: Buton St., Brgy Sabang, Baler, Aurora
Website: www.baylerviewhotel.com
Contact #s: 09192863105 or 09273638735
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