Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Take on ......*Baler*

Situated in the mid-eastern coast of Luzon.  Generally mountainous with coastal flatlands.  Covering the Eastern part of Sierra Madre.  Aurora is now becoming one of the local tourist destinations.  Baler it’s capital is a go-to for surfing enthusiast.  We decided to spend our long vacation/holy week in this (un)developed part of the country.  My friends and I planned this trip for the fourth time.  Yes, we had planned this three times but failed to transpire.  We left Manila on a Friday at 3am, and will be enjoying Baler for 3 days.  It was indeed a smooth ride traversing through narrow gravel road with twists and turn through the Sierra Madre Mountain range and couple road mishaps.  And arrived safely at 8am.

The route (Manila-Baler)

Take North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), exit at Dau take SCTEX turn right going to La Paz, and pass by Zaragosa until reaching Sta. Rosa.  Take the road going to Cabanatuan City; go to the route of Pantabangan passing by Bongabon.  There are two routes going to Aurora, first is via Bongabon 1 hour shorter than Pantabangan, but most traveler/locals said it’s not 100% road, you need to cross a river (it’s ok if you’re using a 4x4 vehicle), the other route is via Pantabangan (the dam) 90% road and much safe and car friendly. The first town you will see when you reach Aurora is Ma. Aurora named after the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon and wife Aurora Aragon Quezon, then you will see the archway of Baler.

Day 1
Upon reaching Baler we go straight to Brgy. Sabang where most of the popular beach resort are situated.  We have the itinerary for our trip but didn’t make the necessary reservation for the accommodation.  No luck in finding a room in all the resorts, we head to the New Public Market area where few accommodations are sprouting but with a much cheaper rate.  We got an air conditioned room for only P750/night.  It’s just a tricycle away from the beach area so no hassle.

We unpacked and slept to gain much needed energy for the activities we have for the afternoon.  At 12:30pm  we left and went straight to “Rolling Store”.  It is the best (my opinion) eatery in Baler.  Located beside the Museo de Baler, Rolling Store is a strip of eatery offering home cooked dishes.  They are famous to budget travelers (like us)/surfing enthusiasts/locals. 

Rolling Store
After filling our tummy we then head to Museo de Baler.  The museum showcase the history of Aurora.  Different artifacts excavated from different sites are displayed.  Tribes that occupied Baler are also highlighted.  Beside the Museo, the car used by Gen. Douglas Mc Arthur is displayed.   

Then we went to Brgy Ditumabo in San Luis to see the so called “Mother Falls” or the Ditumabo Falls.  Approximately one hour ride from Baler.  You need to register (without fee) if you wish to hike to see the crystal clear water of the falls.  It’s a one hour hike up passing through rough terrain and river trail but all worth it upon reaching the top.

The Ditumabo falls is a 140 feet high with freezing cold water endlessly gushing and flowing through rocks and surrounded by huge cliffs.  The sound and sight is an absolute heaven to nature lovers.  After the tiring hike we rested for couple of hours before heading to Gerry Shan’s Place for dinner.

Located in Quezon St., Brgy 2, a very popular Chinese Restaurant to locals and tourists.  Gerry Shan’s offer buffet dinner with unlimited flow of Iced tea at a reasonable price.  We got at the place around 8:00 pm and it was jam packed, considering it was a Good Friday.  They have a wide selection of food to choose from.  Grains, Pasta, Pork, Fish, Chicken and Beef.  They also have a salad and dessert station.  Just don’t expect too much. 

Day 2

Visit to the very historical Baler Church and Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon marker after our breakfast.

The Baler Church was originally built by the Franciscan using bamboo and nipa in Brgy. Sabang but destroyed by a tidal wave on 1735.  It was transferred and rebuilt to its present location using stones and bricks.  This is where the late president Manuel L. Quezon was baptized.  And this is where Spanish soldiers was besieged by the Filipino insurgents for almost a year but eventually marched out because of starvation and tropical disease.  It was renovated on 1939 by the initiative of Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon with the help of her family and town people.

The Baler Church is just across the Museo de Baler and in front of the church is the marker of Dona Aurora Quezon.

Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon is the wife of Pres Manuel L. Quezon and was the first lady of the Philippines under the Commonwealth government.  She was an active civic leader leading religious and social activity to educate the youth and people of Baler.  Ambushed in Nueva Ecija by the Hukbalahap together with her daughter and friends.  In her honor the province was named after her.  

We also planned to see the Balete Tree.  An hour ride going to the town of Ma. Aurora.  Signage for the tourist spots are very few so you need to have a map or the best way is to ask direction from locals.  This tree is 60 meters in height and over 500 years old that its roots already grown on the ground and created a cave inside its trunk.  It is so strong that you can hold on to if you want to go up to the top.  For the adventure seeker you will have your taste on their root climbing experience.  This is not advisable to those who are afraid of heights and to those who are on the heavy side (may mga roots na maliit yung butas para lusutan).  Need super leg and arm coordination in this activity.  Very exhilarating but exciting.  After around 20 minutes we reached the top, rest for a while, take pictures and prepare to go down.  You will not be allowed to stay as long as you want to give chance to others who would also want to climb.

Before heading to Brgy Sabang we passed by Ermita Hill.  The hill served as their temporary shelter when the town was hit by a tidal wave on 1735.  The Tromba Marina Sculpture is located below the hill to showcase how the people help each other on their way up just to survive.  On top you can have a view of the Baler coastline and also hike up to the healing cross.

And its surfing time!  This is the sole reason why we chose Baler as our destination.  It’s a must when you visit Baler.  There are many surfing area in different towns, one of which is in Brgy. Sabang, the most popular surfing destination in Aurora that has 6 to 8 ft surf able waves.  For beginners there are surfing lesson offered by the beach resorts,  you will be taught how to paddle, stand and ride the wave for an hour.  But unfortunately after changing to my board short and rash guard we arrived late in the afternoon and it’s getting dark plus the instructors are all tired.  Not to mount our depression we just decided to have an early dinner at Bay’s Inn. 

Most of the tourist spot do not have entrance fee, instead they just have donation box to help preserve and maintain the area.  Be generous after all you will enjoy your experience.

It’s more fun in Baler!!! See you next time!

Over all Experience:

Super Duper Okei  =) =) =) (Cleanliness, People, Food)

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