My “Haler Baler” Part 2

M: “What did you do last weekend?”
A: “Hmm, I went surfing.”
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As I start writing this blog, I sit by the shore while watching my friends surf on the great waves of Sabang Beach on a Sunday at 1:54p.m. It was heartbreaking to just sit here as I had to “accommodate my visitor”.
This time with another set of friends, I finally had another chance to go back to one of the best tourist destinations and the beginners’ surfing capital of the Philippines, Baler. It is located in the province of Aurora, some 230 kilometers or 6 hours away from Manila.
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This getaway with my boyfriend and 6 of my church friends was only planned a week ago and I can say that this trip went really great… I am biased because I was the one who organized it. ūüėÄ Thanks to TripAdvisor and travel bloggers for the help! √ú
It was a budget trip. We made an estimate amount of expenses to 3,000Php. I collected all the money from each of us while we were waiting for our breakfast food. In this case, only one person would hand out the money every time. Believe me, it made our lives less difficult. Haha!
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At first planning, we considered having it backpackers style and taking the Joy Bus from Cubao to Baler… until I found an affordable van to rent for our two-day trip in OLX. 13,000Php for a new Toyota Hi-Ace GL Grandia (no plate yet) and a nice driver (with a backup), the toll fees and the diesel. Luckily, he’s also familiar with the places to visit in Baler since he had already been here more than¬†5 times. I thought it was good deal so I took it when I talked to him the first time over the phone. ūüôā He’s even considerate to wait longer than expected for 2 of my friends and to take us to my friends’ houses nearby our meeting place to get the USB for the night’s music in the van and a bottle of Danzka Vodka. Hehe. ūüėČ If you’re looking for a van to rent to serve you on your weekend getaway, you can call/text the owner-slash-driver, Glenn Ricafrente, at 09163986497 / 09238100835, for the rates. He also drives to different points of Luzon (airport, Ilocos, Batangas, Baguio, Bicol, etc.).
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You can also hire a trike on your entire stay for 800Php to bring you to the tourist spots in Baler. These trikes are accredited by the municipal hall and DoT.
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Our first group picture.
We arrived in Baler at around 7:00 a.m. on our first day. We headed to Bayler View Hotel (where I stayed on my first visit here) to take our first meal of the day but chose to eat at Yellow Fin Bar & Grill instead which is located just a few steps away from Bayler View. The menu was just the same but with half of the prices of food in Bayler. We ordered the famous TapSiLog, ToSiLog and PorkSiLog for only 65Php each.
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We then went to the transient house that¬†we reserved which¬†was¬†located just a few walks away from the beach. It was recommended by our couple friends who stayed here last April. The generous “Ate Lilian” owns this bungalow with 3 bedrooms (2 air-conditioned and 1 fan with 1 extra foam bed each), 1 kitchen (with utensils and gas stove), 1 big bathroom, TV with cable and 2 refrigerators (though¬†one of them wasn’t working, hehe). The original rate of this big¬†house for rent is 6,000Php but we got it at only 4,000Php, checked in at around 8:15 a.m. and checked out at around 4:00 p.m. (Normal check-in and check-out times are 2:00 p.m. and 12:00 n.n.) I guess we’re just lucky that there were no guests to book the room. They have other transient houses–air-conditioned and fan–for rent from 3,000Php. Even karaoke for “frustrated singers” at 500Php. They also sell a gallon of drinking water for 40Php. If you’re planning for this surfing trip in a group, you may consider this for accommodation. You may reach Ate Lilian¬†at 09276484987 / 09399390870 or visit their Facebook page Lilian Baler Transient houses.
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imageAfter half an hour of settling our things and freshening up, we started our tour. Our first destination was the Ermita Hill. It was a 15-minute drive from the town that gives the tourists a really great view of the Sabang Beach. Just to add a little history of this spot, back in 1735, the whole town of Baler was washed out by a tsunami and only 4 families, including Sen. Angara’s, were able to survive when they went up to this hill. Ohhh… They’re the lucky ones.
 
When we got there, aside from the tourists, it seemed like it was a Boy/Girl Scouts Day. We found artworks of the cute kids using stems, leaves and stones. Very creative.
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We decided not to go to the end of the 200-step stairs which was the cross situated¬†in a grotto on top of the hill. Instead, we headed to the town proper to have our Heritage Walk. These 5 historical spots are literally a few walks away from each other so you won’t have an excuse to miss one.
 
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The late President Manuel L. Quezon’s vintage car.
 
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This is a backdrop that you can use to take pictures. They also have props on the side like Facebook “Like” sign and Instagram frame.

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Museo de Baler. There’s no entrance fee but please be¬†nice¬†to leave a few bills as a donation to maintain whatever you see inside the town’s museum. Remember, we can no longer bring back those days… ūüôā
 
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We walked to the Baler Catholic Church and offered a prayer.
 
One of the most visited spots is the Ancestral House of Aurora Quezon. You’ll see photos, furnitures, utensils and other old stuff. Sarap maupo sa sala. Preskong-presko!
 
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Students practising their dance moves under the scorching sun in front of the Baler Municipal Hall.
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There are wooden letter displays of “Baler” placed near the Municipal Hall intentionally for picture-taking so we took time taking good shots by group, couple and individual.
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Lunch time, finally! A few days before we left, I searched for restaurants where we could eat during our stay. I found this Gerry Shan’s Place Chinese and Seafood Cuisine which offers eat-all-you-can buffet with bottomless Iced Tea for an incredibly low, low price of 199Php. Good steal! We headed there after our town tour, but since it’s already past 12:00nn, the place was already crowded so we didn’t bother to wait for free seats. We looked for another resto and ended up in Hungry Surfer by Bay’s Inn. FREE lunch! Haha! It’s a friend’s birthday and to make it extraordinary, we celebrated it early in Baler. Sweet. Thank you, Rai!
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We took the table outside which gave us a perfect, nakakaiyak na¬†view of the Sabang Beach. We didn’t bother the long waiting time¬†as we had fallen so much in love with the sound of waves and the fresh breeze of air. Ahhhh… I can still feel it.<3
 
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This place was filled with chairs, tables, decorations and hanging frames in bright yellow, blue, and white everywhere. I loved how cool it looked like.
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We ordered one of their group meals for 1800Php: Crab and Corn Soup, Buttered Chicken, Sweet n’ Sour Pork, Crispy Noodles. Ordered Sisig separately.
 
It was a sumptuous meal. We went back to the transient house and we all fell asleep.
 
So we’re now on the main reason why we went to Baler: SURFING. I can finally cross Try surfing off my 100 Things to do in 2014 list! It’s been 2 years since my last surfing experience¬†and I can still recall how great I felt¬†the first time I was able to stand on the board and enjoy the waves.¬†*teary-eyed*
 
It was already 4:00p.m. when we got to the beach and the waves were already a little wild but still manageable. We rented the surfing boards at 350Php for an hour (including the instructor), received a short briefing on surfing and on our rash guards, we headed to the sea.
 
Not quite sure if someone took a photo of me while on the board so I can use it as an evidence but I was able to get up 5 or 6 times! It could have been 10 had I not gotten tired of being like oh so great… Bwahahahaha!¬†Yabaaaaang! :))
 
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This is a photo of me, my board,¬†my¬†very patient¬†instructor, Felix. I really liked him because he encouraged me to do the best that I could when I was about to give up. He smiled and cheered whenever I got to stand up on the board. He even asked me to go on surfing more para ma-video-han daw ako nung isang lalaking kasama namin. Hahaha! He already knew the business. ūüėÄ
 
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An hour already passed and we didn’t notice. Arms, chest, legs and ribs were pained; it was tiring but really fun! I mean, r-e-a-l-l-y! We took a few group shots and swam a little then went back to the transient house to rest and have dinner. We didn’t go out; instead, we ate all the leftovers from lunch. Hehe. Sayang naman kasi. Maraming batang nagugutom. ūüôā Added to our dinner was John Lloyd Cruz as we were watching It Takes A Man and A Woman while preparing and having dinner. Hihi. Walang kupas JLC kahit nasa Baler pa ko!!! ‚̧
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After dinner, the boys and the girls separated ways and had our own sessions. Girls in the girls’ room, boys in the sala with a bottle of Vodka… Alam na what happened to the boys—lasing! :p We ended the night earlier than expected (2AM ang nasa itinerary ko!). Siguro dahil na rin sa puyat at pagod. At least, we were prepared the next day.
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We have completed an 8-hour sleep. It was a good day to wake up to. At 6:30am, we walked to the beach and took some photos. It was one of the most wonderful mornings I have ever seen.

 
On the morning of our last day in Baler, we went to¬†Ditumabo Falls, a.k.a. Mother Falls. One of the best falls in the Philippines, I must say! We had to leave our van in the parking lot and took a trike. A maximum of 3 passengers each trike for 200Php two-way. The road to the falls was not yet developed. It was really rocky… and rocky. Tagtag kung tagtag! I wonder kung ilang gulong at trikes na ang nasira ng daan na yun. When I asked the driver, he just said, “Suki na yang mga yan ng welding shops dito!” So probably, a lot!

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Hey, this is not yet the Mother Falls. It’s just a small falls on the way. Hehe.

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I suggest that you wear trekking shoes/sandals for this trip. Aside from the¬†makatagtag ng laman-loob trike ride,¬†you¬†still¬†have to walk¬†approximately 1.3 kilometers to get to the “falls”. You’ll cross bridges made of bamboo sticks, big rocks, By the way, you can’t bring bottled water (water in tumblers is okay) and wrapped food (Skyflakes, Ensaymada and Mamon in plastic wrappers, etc) in the premises so you can just leave ‘em in the van. They’re too strict when it comes to that as¬†it’s their way of maintaining the cleanliness of the powerhouse. Thank you ‘cos I still want to bring my future kids there and experience the same great feeling of having been there. ūüôā
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We were accompanied by a DoT-accredited tour guide, Kuya Peddie, who’s been doing it for a year and a half. It took us, I think,¬†20-30 minutes to get to the falls. But man, it’s all worth it. It was a very beautiful scene. The water was very cold but tolerable. Kikiligin ka lang pag lusong mo ūüėĬ†I recommend that you go there early in the morning (like 7 or 8) so it’s not yet crowded. No one’s gonna photobomb you. Hoho. We’re lucky to have a friend who has an underwater camera. We were able to have pictures with this beautiful creation. Na-lowbatt nga lang at after one year pa ma-a-upload. Hahaha! I’m not complaining… ūüôā
 
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After swimming, we had a short merienda before we got going. There are stores on the way that sell bananacue na maraming asukal, jumbo hotdog, pichi-pichi na mainit-init pa, lugaw, hard-boiled eggs, buko juice and other¬†beverages in case you get hungry or thirsty. Just make sure you leave the garbages and they’ll clean it up for you. They also sell slippers in case the pair of slippers that you’re wearing gives up on you while trekking.
 
Kuya Peddie said it is planned to be developed in 2016. I hope DoT will push it through so many people can visit the spot. But I also hope that people will cooperate with maintaining the cleanliness and natural beauty of the place. #hopeful
 
Instead of heading to our transient house to change, we proceeded to Gerry Shan’s Place to have lunch. From the Municipal Hall, it is located on the street going to the Baler Public Market and Pasalubong Center.¬†It was only 11:30am and luckily, a lot of tables were still not occupied. We took our table and started the food¬†war. Haha.
 
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There’s a long table on the side where people would line up to get the food. At first, there were a few varieties to choose from but as time passed by, they started bringing out other dishes. Meaning, bagong luto talaga!¬†May chicken, beef, pork, fish, veggies, soups, fried, saucy, grilled, steamed, sauteed, name it! And of course, my favorite, desserts! ūüôā Sulit na sulit! Lalo na sa Ginataang Alimango!¬†If¬†there’s only Gerry Shan’s in Manila! Hehe!
 
If you plan to include this in your itinerary, be there¬†30-minutes before lunch so you can still get a table. Come 12nn, the place is already full. I guess it’s the most sought-after restaurant because you can eat all you can at an affordable price. Forget about Viking’s and Dad’s when you’re here. Hehe.
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After our¬†"Bitay Bukas" lunch, we went to the beach and had another surfing session. As I start writing this blog, I sit by the shore while watching my friends surf on the great waves of Sabang Beach on a Sunday at 1:54p.m. I never thought I had to welcome a “visitor” on a day like this. Feeling meh :
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We had to go back to the house at 3:00pm to pack our things up and prepare for our departure at 4:00.
 
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We dropped by the Pasalubong Center to get a few pasalubongs. Shirts cost from 170Php up. There are keychains, magnets or wallets which you can get 3 for 100Php.

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Nearby the Pasalubong Center is the Baler Central Terminal. If you’re taking the bus to and from Manila, this is where you go.

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Our driver went to the Baler Public Market to get some fish.
The last destination that we went to was the Ronquillo Balete Park. It was said to be the largest and oldest Balete tree (it’s 600 years old). There is an entrance fee of 10Php per head. And you have to wait for your turn before you can get in and take pictures. There are tourist guides-slash-photographers to take the best shots of you with this Balete Tree. Duma-da moves pa sila! “Pagkasabi ko pong ‘go’, ikot po kayo sa likod ko.” Hahaha!
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You can go inside the tree too. According to our guide, there was once a tree inside this balete but was struck by lightning therefore it died. Hmmm… Not sure if I heard it right. Anyway, you can ask him again the story when you get there. Hahaha!

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He’s not the tourist guide-slash-photographer that I mentioned. He’s my friend trying to get the moves. I guess he can earn a living here. ūüėÄ

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And our 7-hour travel back home started…
Baler is a wonderful place I would love to always come back to.‚ô•
I have made a list form of a 2-days-and-1-night DIY itinerary (estimated) and expenses that worked for us (group of 8) on our Baler trip.
 
ITINERARY:
Day 1 – September 27 (Saturday)
12:00am – 1:30am Waiting time
1:30am Р7:00am Travel from Marikina to Baler
7:00am – 8:00am Breakfast at Yellow Fin Bar & Grill Restaurant
8:00am – 9:00am Checked in and took a short rest at Lilian Transient House
9:00am – 9:45am Ermita Hill
9:45am – 12:00 Heritage Walk (Museo de Baler, Baler Municipal Hall, Baler Catholic Church, Aurora Quezon’s Ancestral House)
12:00nn – 1:30pm Lunch at Hungry Surfer by Bay’s Inn
1:30pm – 4:00pm Free time
4:00pm – 6:00pm Surfing and swimming
6:00pm – 7:00pm Free time / prepared dinner
7:00pm – 8:00pm Dinner
8:00pm onwards Free time
Day 2 – September 28 (Sunday)
6:00am – 6:30am Wakeup time
6:30am – 7:00am Walking by the beach
7:00am – 8:00am Travel and trekking to Ditumabo Falls
8:00am – 10:30am Swimming at Ditumabo Falls
10:30am – 11:30am Trekking and travel
11:30am-12:45pm Lunch at Gerry Shan’s Place Chinese and Seafood Cuisine
1:00pm – 3:00pm Surfing
3:00pm – 4:00pm Packed up
4:00pm – 5:00pm Pasalubong shopping
5:00pm – 5:30pm Ronquillo Balete Park
5:30pm – 10:45pm Travel from Baler to Sta. Rita
10:45pm – 11:30pm Dinner at Chowking Shell Sta Rita
11:30pm to 12:30am Travel from Sta. Rita to Marikina
 
EXPENSES:
13,000Php – Transpo (Rented van)
570Php – Breakfast (TapSiLog, ToCiLog, PorkSiLog)
4,000Php – Accommodation
2,450Php – Surfing (350Php/head, instructor and board for 1 hour)
100Php –¬† Museo de Baler (Donation)
1,200Php – Trip to Ditumabo Falls
          800Php РTrike (200Php per trike two-way)
          300Php РTour Guide
          100Php РGreen Fee (10Php/head)
1,592Php – Lunch (199Php/head)
140Php – Ronquillo Balete Park
          90Php РEntrance Fee (10Php/head)
          50Php РTip for the guide/photographer
860Php – Dinner
300Php – Miscellaneous
—————
24,212Php TOTAL (3,026.50Php each)
 
Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip!¬†ūüôā
Credits to the owners of the photos. Mag-upload na kayo, please? :))
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