The Non-Surfer’s Guide to Baler

What comes to your mind when you think about Baler?

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Surfing, of course.

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Baler, tagged as the “birthplace of surfing in the Philippines”, is a picturesque town 5 hours away from Manila, in the province of Aurora. And now I know that Baler is NOT in Quezon. Neither is Aurora a part of Quezon. More importantly, Aurora is in Central Luzon – REGION III.

Anyway… now that I got that out of the way… ^^

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My 3 days 2 nights trip to Baler was totally worth it. It was worth the money that I spent (which was not that much) and the 14-hour bus trip (from Baguio to Baler).

It was one of the most enjoyable yet relaxing trips that I’ve ever had. Not only is Baler oozing with sublime natural wonders, breathtaking sceneries, and rich history; it also boasts of unforgettable and toothsome food, plus a plethora of thrilling adventures and activities.

Thanks to the annual Korean Thanksgiving Day (추석), I got a 5-day holiday from work, from September 14 to 18. At first, I wanted to join another one of those group tour packages to Baler. However, my travel buddy suggested that it would be better for us to DIY this trip. So we did. I guess, in a way, it was much better because we were able to customize the trip based on our preferences, mood, and condition. Lol.

Prior to the trip, I contacted Aurora’s local Tourism Office to ask for some contact information of one of their “Tourism Accredited Tour Guides”. My friend’s coworker told her that most tricycle drivers in Baler offer a tour of the famous attractions at a reasonable price. However, just to be safe, I decided to go for the “accredited” ones. Unfortunately, the tricycle driver who I got in touch with was giving me a not-so-reasonable price for the 2-day tour. So my friend and I decided to just haggle with a trike driver when we arrive in Baler.

After weeks of deliberating, we decided to book an air-con room at the Surfer Girls Lodge which is located along the famous Sabang Beach in Baler. The three things that we considered in choosing our accommodation were price, distance from the beach AND a decent and private bathroom. I’m not very fussy when it comes to accommodations – I could endure sleeping on the floor – all I want is a decent bathroom. That’s it.

The room was pretty decent and better than I expected. The only problem was we were the only guests then and some parts of the lodge were under construction so the service was not prompt. They didn’t even have a proper front desk so we didn’t know who to call or talk to when we needed something. The TV was not working and the air-conditioner didn’t give us the coolness that we were expecting. An electric fan would’ve been better. Other than those, it was very convenient and we had a lovely view of the beach.

The best thing about this trip was the fact that we went to Baler during the “lean season”, we were able to fully enjoy the tourist spots and attractions without the hassle of making our way through throngs of people just to get a decent picture. No queues, no annoying crowd, and no photobombers. In fact, in most tourist spots and attractions in Baler, it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves. We could linger in those places and admire their beauty because we were the only ones there.

My friend and I decided to take the Genesis Joy Bus from Cubao to Baler. We left Cubao at around 12:30 A.M. and, surprisingly, we were already in Baler before 5 A.M. We immediately took a tricycle to Surfer Girls Lodge. Just as expected, the trike driver offered us a “tour package” where we could visit 9 tourist spots and attractions in Baler. We got his number and we said we’ll text him once we’ve decided.

Since we were the only guests at Surfer Girls Lodge, they let us check in (super) early without any charges. After showering and resting for a bit, we contacted Kuya Jim (the trike driver) and embarked on our marvelous journey around (and near) Baler.

 

FIRST STOP: BALER 400 YEARS MONUMENT AND SIGN

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I think there should be a spot like this in every city. The five big letters spelling out the word BALER is a must-visit spot in the itinerary. It’s so much fun to pose beside it, behind it, in front of it and even on top of it. The glaring sunlight affected the quality of our pictures, though.

SECOND STOP: HANGING BRIDGE

If you know nothing about me, you should at least know that I LOVE LONG AND HANGING BRIDGES. So far, the hanging bridge in Baler was probably the longest and the one that “swayed the most”. Lol. It was not exactly “scary”, but it gave me a proper fright. It was quite thrilling, to say the least.

THIRD STOP: ERMITA HILL

When I Googled “tourist spots and attractions in Baler”, Ermita Hill came up on top of the search. I was definitely curious about this place. Kuya Jim gave us a little history lesson about it. On the night of December 27, 1735, a tsunami (Tromba Marina) engulfed the town of Baler in sea water and the few remaining survivors were able to find sanctuary in this piece of land, which stands 40 meters above sea level. Aside from its historical relevance, it also gave us a magnificent view of Baler Bay, Dima-Dimalangat and Aniao Islets.

FUN FACT! “In 1798, when the pirates raided and invaded the coastal areas of Tayabas and Baler, the survivors escaped and hid in the forest of Ermita. According to stories, the pirates failed to track down the locals because they saw a shining light from the mountain. It is believed that Sta. Isabel, the Patron Saint in the area, saved the people from the pirates.” (source)

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We saw this “LOVE LOCKS” area right across Ermita Hill and YES, I took a picture. ALONE.

FOURTH STOP: DIGUISIT FALLS

This dainty waterfall is located along the highway, just a few steps up on the side of the road. The climb didn’t look that daunting, at first, but I was wearing the wrong pair of shoes and some of the rocks were too slippery. My friend and I decided to enjoy the “mini” version of the waterfall. The climb up the “bigger” one was too steep and difficult so we just settled for this one.

FIFTH STOP: DIGUISIT BEACH AND ROCK FORMATION

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At this point of our trip, the sun was shining so brightly and it was burning my skin. I didn’t want to complain, though, because I didn’t see the sun for about three weeks while I was in Baguio.

TIP! Make sure you are wearing comfortable and not slippery footwear before you visit this place. I thought my sneakers were good enough but I underestimated the slipperiness of those rocks! Not only were they slippery, they were also sharp. I slipped and fell once and I sustained a minor injury. BE EXTRA CAREFUL! Those rocks might seem dry and harmless, but they’re not.

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We also found out later that day that the best time to visit the Rock Formation is early in the morning because it’s still low tide and you can climb up the rocks for those “grammable” shots.

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We found this “piece of heaven” right beside the Rock Formation. It’s just a small swimming pool but we had it to ourselves and it was overlooking the ocean. We decided to come back there in the afternoon and enjoy it some more.

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Since we couldn’t take the scorching heat anymore, we decided to go for some shake or halo-halo. Kuya Jim brought us to this place called “Fermina’s Snack House”. We only ordered halo-halo but they also offer a variety of “merienda snacks”. I wouldn’t recommend this place, though. The snacks were affordable, but their halo-halo only had, like, 5 ingredients and the banana in it was terrible. I couldn’t even chew it coz it was too tough. The ice in it gave us a much-needed refreshment, though.

Moving on…

SIXTH STOP: Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon Ancestral House and San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Church

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I enjoy visiting old houses. I don’t know why. There’s something eerie yet fascinating about them. I was a bit disappointed with Doña Aurora’s Ancestral House, though. I thought it would be bigger. But then again, that house might have been the biggest house in Baler back then.

The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Church was closed. We just took a picture outside its magnificent and huge doors and then we left. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of churches. ^^

SEVENTH STOP: MUSEO DE BALER

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It is ideal to visit Doña Aurora’s Ancestral House first before coming here. You will be asked to pay P30 for the entrance fee there and you can just show the receipt before you enter Museo De Baler.

According to my research, this local museum “houses several historical artifacts that link it closely to the Philippines’ first and longest colonizer, Spain”. (source)

The only thing that I enjoyed while I was in this museum was the fact that it was empty. My friend and I were the only visitors on that day. So once again we had the museum to ourselves. ^^

We were both icky and sweaty and hungry after that busy morning so we told Kuya Jim to take us to the BEST restaurant in Baler. He gave us two options. One was a famous place for its “ihaw-ihaw” and the other one is an all-you-can-eat restaurant. My brain was not properly working then so I forgot which was which. He ended up taking us to the all-you-can-eat restaurant.

If you want to know another thing about me, I am not the kind of person to take to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. However, at that point, I just wanted to put something in my mouth and curb that empty feeling in my stomach. I was also starting to get prickly and irritated because of the scorching heat. The buffet was okay. But it wasn’t worth my P200. The vegetables were not cooked well, imo. It’s called Gerry Shan’s Place and I read lots of good reviews about it online.

After finishing our late lunch, we decided to take a break back at our lodge. We told Kuya Jim to come back at 4 P.M. and take us back to the swimming pool at Diguisit Beach and Rock Formation. Of course, we didn’t wake up before 4 P.M. LOL. I felt bad coz Kuya Jim was always on time. He was never late. Anyway, we left the lodge at around 4:30 P.M. already.

Unfortunately, some kids were already at OUR swimming pool when we arrived. We didn’t have it to ourselves anymore. However, they must have started swimming early because, after about 20 minutes, they just left. Since I cannot swim, I don’t usually enjoy swimming pools coz I would just “walk around” it.

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But, like I said earlier, this one has the slight effect of an “infinity pool” overlooking the magnificent ocean. AND WE HAD IT TO OURSELVES. That is the most important thing. Haha! I looked it up and this pool at the Diguisit Beach and Rock Formation is owned by AMCO Diguisit Resort. There is an entrance fee of P20.

It’s a great spot for endless photo ops and jump shots.

After wearing ourselves out, we decided to call it a day.

WHERE TO EAT IN BALER? 

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Baler Surfer Grill! We were lucky because this was just a stone’s throw away from Surfer Girls Lodge.

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Their GRILLED BULALO was TO DIE FOR! It’s a must try! They will tell you that the serving of the Grilled Bulalo is only for ONE person. But do not believe that. I think they meant ONE VERY HUNGRY SURFER. My friend and I shared one order and we didn’t even finish it. We WERE hungry, okay.

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And their unique “grill” is soooo cool!

I super loved Surf and Chill’s cucumber lemonade too! I even came back for it the following night. Lol.

EIGHT STOP: MILLENIUM TREE (BALETE TREE)

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I super enjoyed this one! I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

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The Millenium Tree was bigger than I expected too. So, yeah, it definitely exceeded my expectations. Also, I didn’t know that we could actually GO INSIDE the Balete tree! I thought we would just take pictures outside! And we even climbed up the tree.

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I highly recommend you to hire one of the guys loitering around the entrance. These guys were “trained” and they knew the best spots and angles so they could take the pictures for you. Kuya Jim told us that we can just give them a tip of P20, but we were satisfied with the guy that we hired so we gave him P50.

NINTH STOP: MOTHER FALLS (DITUMABO FALLS) 

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Located in San Luis, Aurora, Mother Falls is our final stop for this 3 days 2 nights trip to Baler. Before we could experience this majestic waterfalls, though, we had to endure a 45-minute hike while the sun showered us with LOTS of Vitamin D.

If you are used to hiking, it would probably only take you 30 minutes or less. It took us longer because, well, we’re not that fit. I’ve only been to 5 waterfalls so far, but this has the most difficult and physically exhausting route. We had to go through some “mini falls”, huge boulders, slippery and sharp rocks, muddy ground, rickety and man-made wooden stairs, and river crossings.

So after what felt like an episode of The Amazing Race, we finally arrived at the splendid Mother Falls. We wasted no time at all. Kuya Jim told us that the water was not that deep and that definitely made me oh so happy~~~

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He was totally right. We were able to come within a foot of the breathtaking waterfall and the water was just chest-deep. I had an amazing time at the Ditumabo Waterfalls.

The cool and crystal clear waters were refreshing and relaxing at the same time. It was so worth the hike.

 

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We wanted to have lunch when we went back to town, however, we came across this unique and dainty clothing store/cafe called MY FRENZ FASHION PLACE. Don’t cringe yet. This place sells clothes, shoes, bags and Singaporean food! I guess that’s what drew us to it. We ordered an Ice Kachang and some Kaya Toast.

We ordered an Ice Kachang and some Kaya Toast. The former was too sweet for me but I needed the “coolness” to beat the heat. The latter was DIVINE!!!!!!!! I totally loved it!!!

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Our next stop was the PASALUBONG CENTER.  

We actually had no idea what Baler’s special delicacy/product is. We quickly found out that it was this PAKUMBO snack. It’s basically just a sweet treat made of dried coconut. It kinda reminded me of “bukayo”. It was pretty cheap so I bought more than a handful to give to my friends and coworkers back in Baguio.

 

We headed back to the lodge afterward and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the famous surfing spot in Baler – SABANG BEACH – which happened to be a few steps away from our lodge.

Since I cannot swim, all we did was fool around and “ride the strong waves”. Well, at first, we were playing “catch me if you can” with the waves. But we were “wiped out” a couple of times so we decided to just calmly “ride the wave”. LOL. It was low tide so the shoreline was long and the water was shallow. When we got tired of riding the waves, we just took a walk along the beach. There was no other word for it. It was truly captivating.

After that adventure-filled tour of Baler and Aurora, we showered and took another nap. Haha! That’s actually what I loved about this 3 days 2 nights vacation in Baler. There wasn’t much of a hassle, no crowd, no queues, and we were able to take it slow and just relax whenever we wanted to. We weren’t like running here and there and visiting one place after another as we blindly follow an itinerary.

MUST-TRY BUFFET RESTAURANT IN BALER!

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HUNGRY SURFER’S DINNER BUFFET. We took a walk along Sabang Beach on our second night to look for a good resto. We came across this vintage looking restaurant called HUNGRY SURFER’S. When we sat down to order, we saw that it was a bit pricey; the price range was like from 150 and above.

Luckily, their dinner buffet just started AND it was only P200 per head! I know I’ve said a while ago that I’m not a “buffet person”, but the Hungry Surfer’s dinner buffet was totally worth ALL the calories and carbs! I especially liked the “Pinaputok na Isda”.

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I know that we weren’t able to visit ALL the tourist spots and attractions in Baler, but I felt like the ones that we visited were enough. They were totally worth it and pretty much unforgettable. Especially the Millenium Tree and the Mother Falls! If I could, I would definitely go back to those two places.

I don’t know why but it was my goal to take a picture in all the tourist spots and attractions in Baler doing this modified tree pose (yoga pose). ^_^ I only managed to do it in three spots though. #pardonmypuson