There are many sights to see in this very serene place. Being here reminds me of epic local tele-novelas set in the countryside. Rolling plains cradled in between rugged landscapes, lush valleys slowly awakening to the soft breeze coming from the highlands. A seashore being kissed by the grayish salt water. A walk along Sabang beach in the morning or in the late afternoon would make you forget all your worries. You can just walk, walk and walk, forgetting time and sense altogether.
For those not so familiar with this place, several years back, the movie ‘Baler’ (co-starred by the alluring Anne Curtis-Smith and Jericho Rosales), you will definitely get acquainted with her. For history buffs, Baler has a lot more to offer.
|Kuya Reynaldo, our very amiable tour guide 🙂|
Arriving at the town, my friend and I had a tour around Baler’s tourist spots. Tricycle tours are at a standard rate of Php 800.00, we recommend for you to look for tricycle drivers who has the Transport Sector as Tourism Frontrunners ID. Though according to our trike tour guide, anyone can take you on a tour but they can charge more than the regulated rate.
|Baler Town Hall|
Baler is a place rich in history. A visit to the Museo de Baler one will discover its rich cultural heritage.
|Baler’s (film) lead star wore this costume. It has been donated to the museum.|
Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon hails from this town. A monument was erected in his memory located in front of the museum. You can also find a replica of the presidential car he rode in. It is encased in glass enclosure adjacent to the museum, beside the Casa which also serves as a souvenir shop.
|A replica of former Pres. Quezon’s Presidental car|
I have actually been longing to see another old church. But to my dismay, I did not know that the original church is no longer in existence. Everything is new including the reconstructed house of Aurora Quezon, wife of Manuel Quezon, which you can find right across the churchyard. The surrounding plaza, the church, the ancestral house etc. are within walking distance of each other and are all marked by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (formerly NHI). It was another feast for my eyes and food for my mind as I really love imagining what the place was like when all of the original structures are still standing. The church would definitely be magnificent. I am sure I will be staring in awe in front of it again. The old houses would have large windows, overlooking the busy street down below. Men are wearing hats and women are donning their best skirts while church-goers eagerly awaiting their turn to get into the church to pray. But then, now, I could only do as much as imagine what that era was really like.
|View of Baler Church from Aurora Quezon’s house|
We also visited the largest Balete tree of its kind in Asia which you can find in the nearby town, in Brgy. Quirino, Maria Aurora. This gigantic tree is mesmerizing and really daunting up front. I have to stay a few meters back so I could capture its enormous frame in my camera. It is more than 600 years old. So old that its branches are all tangled up. You could crane your neck all you want to but still it would not be enough to see the top when you are inside.
Being a town near the sea, natural disasters can happen anytime. Ermita Hill is home to this kind of memory. In 1735, a tidal wave almost wiped out the area. The survivors moved on to higher ground. In memory of this tragic part of history, a reenactment through a virtual panorama was built. Ermita Hill Park somehow reminds me of Baguio City.
|Ermita Hill Park|
|Baler Bay from Ermita Hill|
Not far from Ermita Hill Park, are the Diguisit Islets. Good thing it was low-tide during that time. A little bit of island-hopping is possible (actually more on coral-hopping, if there is such a thing ). The receded sea waters revealed a seabed teeming with sea life. It is such an amazement to see this up-close. Not so far from where I stood, the low-tide created a shallow pool which is a perfect playground for little children. I had been tempted to wallow in the water with them.
Beautiful rock formations have been carved out by the sea for as long as we can imagine. Even though the sun was high up, I was captivated by its natural beauty. I quickly took photos around and rested a little by sitting on a flat-faced stone I found. Then we stopped by an area in the road overlooking the sea. Capturing the scenic view, I have to remind myself to breathe. It was so beautiful.
Right after, we visited Caunayan Falls. According to Kuya Rei-An of Aliya Camp Surf, there are actually 8 falls. No one was in the area when we arrived. Enjoying the opportunity, I took shots of the beautifully cascading waters from the falls. I could definitely sleep here. Yeah, right on the lake pool. Hehehe.
At late afternoon, we were getting hungry and a snack down town was an inviting idea. A fork in the road, I saw a sign reading Baler Airport. I recalled my countless visits to different airline websites if there is a place in their destinations listed as Baler. I know there is none. Curious, we asked Kuya Reynaldo to drive us to the airport.
It turns out this is now being used by local aviation schools. One of the caretakers told us though that back in 2006 Seair used to fly here directly from Manila. However, due to expensive tickets (at a whopping P 3000 back and forth) and slow demands, the trips were permanently cancelled. But I am thinking with backpacking growing slowly but surely in the country, and a strong local tourism promotion, bringing back direct air travel to Baler can be beneficial to all sectors.
Unlike the other fish ports I have seen, Baler fish port is so quiet. Only several boats were docked. We enjoyed the afternoon here and took more photos as well. Does anyone know what NAMRIA mean? It stands for National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.
|With our imagimary travel buddies 🙂|
And of course, going to Baler is not complete without learning how to surf. Watching experienced surfers are pleasing to the eyes. But to be actually the one doing the surfing is pretty nerve-wracking! Well, we had to at least try. Chie and I did not go here just to simply watch them. We have to do it to believe it that we can really do it.
We had our instructors from Aliya Camp Surf School. You cannot miss this resort since this is by far the most attractive of the resorts along the Sabang beach front. At night it appears to have been plucked out of Station 1 in Boracay Island and was accidentally planted in this quiet part of the country.
|Had to eat before the big event!|
|Aliya Surf Camp @ night|
We met Rei-An (Chie’s instructor) and mine who is Boy 2. Both are very kind, and gladly, very patient in teaching us. Seeing the big waves, I almost chickened out in trying but feeling their confidence in us, we had to at least try it. We said, why not?
Slowly being pushed by Boy 2 towards the sea, I have found myself face to face with gigantic waves. So humongous that the Empire State Tower Building would appear miniscule beside it, its lips seeming to open like a giant’s mouth ready to swallow me whole. Okay, okay I am overreacting. But for first-timers like me, all the waves are alike, to me they were walls made of water. A challenge I need to overcome as soon as I can. Because for sure, if after five attempts I was still unable to stand up, with my super-woman ego badly bruised, I will definitely be going home deflated.
Taking a deep breath and relaxing myself, Boy 2 guided my surf board and found myself facing the waters. I constantly hear his gentle reminders about the hand and foot coordination, when I should stand-up and how to balance my body on board. However, the staccato beating of my heart drowned his voice. Not even the rushing of the waves could beat it.
Right on queue, Boy 2 shouted at me to get ready, ‘1-2-3, stand-up!’ And I found myself placing my hands beside my torso, my right foot angled, just leveled with my hips. I could feel the coming wave swelling up underneath my surfboard. Gently rising then quickly flowing towards the shore. As if in a slow-motion, black and white movie, I am seeing myself as I stood-up, not tearing my eyes away from my feet, from my feet and nothing but my feet. That epic feat lasted for about four seconds. But to me it seemed like an eternity.
Reaching the shore, I could not help but be amazed at what I did. It was an accomplishment: a dream of my childhood being realized in the tumultuous present. I thought Ate Chie would hit me at the head for constantly asking her ‘Did I really just do that?. I could say from the smile on her face that she was proud of me, as I am proud of her big-sister accomplishment too :-D.
|The wanna-be surfers suddenly got hungry while waiting for the big waves|
The Beauty of Baler definitely deserves much appreciation. On our way back home, I unconsciously commented that somehow, I hope that the slow life in our provinces would stay as it is. Unchanged, but willing to accommodate all the curious travelers that would come their way.