All Of A Sudden, I Spent A Weekend In Baler
It's the weirdest feeling ever. One day, I'm heading to a place that's 6 hours away from Manila, in a van with strangers. We start out our journey at the crack of dawn. The ride will not even let me have at least two hours of sleep. I open my heavy eyelids and realize that we're going through a zigzag road. Only the silhouettes of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range was my consolation. Several hours later, we're in the nape of the Philippines. "Hello Baler," I remember saying in my head.
Going to Baler wasn't one of my travel plans this year. My high school friend and I were supposed to go to the popular Anawangin Cove in Zambales. We were all set for the camping weekend. But before we could fly to Manila last June 2, the travel agency that we booked notified us that the tour was canceled due to the tide condition. According to them, taking their guests to the island would be a big risk considering that they will only be utilizing bancas or small boats.
So they gave us three options: avail the Calaguas tour, the Baler tour, or simply reschedule the Zambales tour. Rescheduling was definitely not an option. We are only in Luzon for 4 days and we can't afford to extend our stay. Availing the Calaguas tour wasn't a wise option too. It's a 12-hour ferry ride from Manila (since it's basically located in the Bicol region already) and we will only be there for 2 days and 1 night. The only option we were left with was to go on a Baler tour. And so we went.
L - Shower Falls R - One of the many "baby falls" (as what the locals fondly call it) you'll see along the way
During the first day of the tour, one of the places we went to was the Ditumabo Falls in San Luis. With only several minutes of sleep, my friend and I trekked 1.5 kilometers to see the falls. It's been so long since the last time I did something like this, so it was an activity that I genuinely enjoyed despite the long and arduous walk. There were a lot of people that day because it was a weekend. Also, it wasn't only my tour group who went, but there were actually 11 vans full of tourists. The place was basically packed that it was a challenge to snap a good picture.
Our tour guide was a guy who's probably in his 40s, and he was friendly and accommodating. He told us that the mountains surrounding the falls are part of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range — a group of mountains that I first learned from my Sibika at Kultura book back when I was still in grade school. When he knew that we were bisaya (someone who speaks the Bisaya dialect), he introduced us to his fellow tour guides who were also bisaya. It was a very Filipino thing to do haha!
After eating a hearty lunch, settling in our room, and taking a well-deserved nap, we went to the Sabang Beach. The big waves in Sabang is one of the things that Baler is known for. Unfortunately, the waves weren't big when we visited maybe because it wasn't high tide yet. It was smaller than the ones I saw in La Union last year. Nevertheless, it was nice seeing both the locals and tourist enjoy the water and the view.
Baler Hanging Bridge
The next day, we saw more of Baler's tourist spots. One of them was the hanging bridge. I'm not sure if the bridge can still be used. None of us in the group tried to walk on it. Also, our time there was limited to 15 minutes only so there wasn't enough time to validate if the bridge is still safe to walk on or not haha. This is one of the reasons why an organized group tour is not the best way to explore a place.
went up to ermita hill and saw sabang beach from there
Ampere Rock Formation in Dipaculao Beach
Dicasalarin Cove as seen from the PAG-ASA Weather Station
We also went to Ermita Hill, the Ampere Rock Formation, and the PAG-ASA Weather Station. One thing we wished we could've done was to go down to the Dicasalarin Cove and take pictures. It's so breathtakingly beautiful when seen from above. Sadly, it wasn't part of our itinerary.
The Quezon Ancestral House where Manuel L. Quezon and his family once lived. Lol those two took so long in taking photos. I snapped this photo anyway.
The tour ended with a quick stop in The Quezon Ancestral House and theMuseo de Baler. Inside the Quezon's house were old photos hanging on the wall of Aurora Aragon Quezon and her husband Manuel L. Quezon, who was the first president of the Commonwealth of The Philippines. Old plates and clay pots were also laid out in the house's dining table. The house isn't really the exact one that the Quezons lived in. The old house was dilapidated so the government had to do some restoration work and made the new one look as close as how it was before.
Inside the Museo de Baler were artifacts and paintings of the locals. There was even one corner dedicated to the 2008 Filipino movie entitled "Baler." Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis were the lead stars. I think the collection that interested me the most was the group of paintings of the Spanish soldiers and priests (photo above).
Our weekend in Baler is something my friend and I will never forget. It's something we will always bring up in future conversations. Partly because it wasn't a place we expected to visit and the spots we went to wasn't how we pictured it. Mostly because of all the hilarious moments we had. For the longest time, I think I haven't laughed as much and as hard as when I did during that weekend. I'll spare you guys all the details of our misfortunes haha.
Baler is a place that you should visit not through a tour group. There are a lot of places that are worth visiting and there are also some that are worth skipping. Traveling with a tour group doesn't give you the freedom to miss some of the spots that don't appeal to you or go to other places on your own. Well, that depends on the travel agency you booked with. Aurora Province, in general, has breathtaking places that are best visited without a tour group.
So why did we not do it DIY style? Honestly, one of the main reasons was my friend and I had a lot of things on our plate prior to the trip. So we didn't have enough time to really think it over and do a lot of research. Another reason was we really expected to be in Zambales that weekend.
When the tour got canceled, we could've passed on the offer to go to Baler and instead go to Vigan or Tagaytay on our own. But we were so stressed by the fact that Zambales wasn't going to happen. Also, doing last minute research on how to go to Vigan or Tagaytay, for example, will stress us out even more. We didn't have much time to book a place to stay or research about where to go. We were already in Manila. So the next best thing to do was to avail the Baler tour.
Nevertheless, I'm still glad and thankful that I was able to spend a weekend there with one of my high school BFFs (who I basically know my entire young life). If you're in Luzon and you want to visit someplace different with a laid back, small town kind of vibe, consider going to Baler in a DIY trip kind of way 😊