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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrBaler is a beach area municipality sitting on the eastern coast of Luzon in the Philippines. Therefore, instead of scantily-clad sunbathers, expect to see pro, amateur, and many beginner surfers dotting the water and riding the waves.
This destination in the Philippines is about 6 hours away by bus from Manila and is a hot spot for yuppies and college kids looking for downtime and just wanting to hangout.
HistoryThe settlement in Baler was established by Franciscan missionaries in 1609, and later on changed hands in administration to the Augustinians and then the Recollects in 1658. However, the Franciscans were back at the helm, starting 1703.
23 years later, Baler was hit by tromba marina , a huge wave which struck Barrio Sabang and forced survivors to relocate. Among these survivors were members of the local clans, the Angaras, Bijasas, Bitongs, Lumasacs, Carrascos, and Pobletes. Of these families, it is the Angaras who have risen to power and national prominence. Although the most notable personality to have come out of Baler would be former Philippine President, Manuel Luis Quezon.
Throughout the war years, Baler served as a location of bases for different Filipino, Spanish, American, and Japanese troops.
AreaDespite being the capital city, Baler is actually the smallest municipality in the province of Aurora with a total area of 11,240 hectares. Typical of the Philippines, the area here features hills on one side and the coastline on the other. Specifically, a portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range sits to the west of Baler while the mighty Pacific Ocean lies to the east.
What to Do
SurfBaler has been most synonymous to surfing in the Philippines and this is largely thanks to the town being the the actual site where footage from the Vietnam War movie, Apocalypse Now, were shot. If you see the film, remember that the surf scenes there were not shot in Vietnam but rather in this small coastal town in the Philippines.
After the movie crew had packed up, some crew members left their surfboards and so started the surf culture in the Philippines. Pre-teens picked up the boards, taught themselves how to surf and soon became the first surf instructors in the country.
Now, Sabang Beach has become a busy area from October to April with the North Swell coming in, and along with it bringing tides of tourists, mostly local, eagerly paddling out to ride the waves. Other spots are at Cemento Beach, Charlie’s Point, and Lindy’s Point. Of these, Sabang Beach hosts the most surf schools and hotels and is also the most frequented by beginner surfers.
Beginner surfers may also enjoy the waves at Charlie’s Point which is also where the surf scenes from Apocalypse Now were shot. It is also frequented by advanced surfers aside from Lindy’s Point.
Surf schools charge around ₱350 ($7.70) for an hour of surf lessons and this already includes board rental and the instructor fee. For those who can go without an instructor, board rentals cost about ₱200 ($4.40) per hour, ₱400 ($8.80) for half day rentals, and ₱800 ($18) for a whole day.
BeachesAside from riding the waves, tourists can also enjoy the area around Baler by beach hopping.
The first stop can be the beach at Dicasalarin Cove. It is owned by the Angaras and requires a pass worth ₱300 ($6.60) from Bahia De Baler. Guests at the hotel get the pass at a cheaper rate at ₱100 ($2.20). The good thing about this cove is that only few people drop by. It might be the extra pass that costs almost as much as an hour of surfing lessons or it may be that the road to the cove requires a 4x4 vehicle. But those looking for a quiet spot on the beach that’s different from busy Sabang Beach would surely enjoy their time here.
The other stop is just outside of Baler Dinadiawan White Beach in Dipaculao. Much like Dicasalarin Cove, Dinadiawan is a quieter beach area unlike Baler’s Sabang Beach. To get there, it takes about 2 to 3 hours from Baler but the place is immaculate. The white sand rolls smoothly to meet the water, and the huts on the beach just shelter beachgoers from the heat of the sun.
TrekkingAnother fun site around Baler would be Ditumabo Falls in San Luis Baler, also known as ‘Mother Falls’. Getting to the falls, tourists will have to get to the drop-off point via a tricycle and pay ₱500 ($11) for the ride. From there, registration is required and then begin the trek through the slippery route.
This experience is refreshing to say the least with surrounding greenery and some dips in the river. Of course, it all caps off with a shower under the falls.
AccommodationWhen all the activities have been exhausted, tourists will find comfort in the idea of being able to plop onto the bed and fall into a deep slumber.
Costa PacificaOver the years, accommodations in Baler have improved thanks to the surf area’s growing popularity and appeal to mostly local tourists. Now, it has the impressive Costa Pacifica Resort targeted for the upper-end market with its modern tropical design. The rooms are breezy and spacious with rates starting at ₱5,000 ($110) for a room for two. The place is very hard to miss being the largest structure on Sabang Beach.
The other favorites would be Aliya Surf Camp, Bay’s Inn, and Bayler View Hotel.
Aliya Surf CampAliya Surf Camp is another Angara-owned property in Baler. It has recently been renovated to include a pool at the hotel’s beachfront. With groups in mind, Aliya’s cheapest room would be their Standard Room that can accommodate 3 people at most. Staying here should set guests back by ₱2,100 ($46). Their most expensive room would be the Deluxe Family Room which rents out at ₱4,900 ($108) and can fit 7 people. The hotel also offers surfing lessons for a fee of ₱350 ($7.70) inclusive of board rental and instructor fee. They also have a surf shop where guests can buy rashguards, boardshorts, surfboard wax, and even actual surfboards.
Bay's InnThe next option, Bay’s Inn, offers a mix of fan rooms and air-conditioned rooms so they likely offer the cheapest options among the favorites. For ₱700 ($15), 2 people can spend the night at their double bed, fan room while they can pay ₱1,050 ($23) to stay at a single bed, air-conditioned room. Surfing lessons with the same inclusions as Aliya’s also cost ₱350 ($7.70) per hour.
Bayler View HotelThirdly, Bayler View Hotel is one of the older hotels on the shores of Sabang Beach. Their rooms are slightly more expensive than Bay’s Inn although both were newly renovated and expanded so as not to be left out by the emergence of Costa Pacifica Hotel. They do not offer surf lessons although there is a hut where surf instructors offer their services just in front of the hotel.
Where to Eat
Hotel RestaurantsAll the hotels mentioned offer meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with a couple of merienda or snack options. For example, Bay’s Inn offers delectable Filipino dishes and is preferred by some guests for its convenience and the quality of the food they serve. Prices are higher compared to food on the menu of restaurants at the town center but guests still troop to Bay’s Inn especially when they don’t feel like travelling far from the beach area. They could also take in the ambiance at Bay’s Inn restaurant and enjoy dinner with the background sound of the waves hitting the shore. On the average, salads would set you back ₱80 ($1.76) while pork, chicken, beef, or fish dishes would cost a little over ₱150 ($3.30). Make sure to order early because the place can get packed and many people will have their orders queued up.
Aside from resort food, there are other gastronomic options littered about the town. Some cost more while others cost less. On a scale of the least to the most expensive, the most budget-friendly digs will be found at Ram’s Tapsilog, and Kusina Luntian. Both have different specialties so tourists can opt for one at breakfast and the other for lunch.
Ram’s TapsilogSpecifically, eating at Ram’s Tapsilog is a good way to start a day in Baler. They offer the Filipino breakfast favorite, tapsilog aside from other silog dishes. But what exactly are they? Silog stands for ‘sinangag’ (si) or fried rice and ‘itlog’ (ilog) or egg. The first few letters of the names of the dishes are the letters from other meat products accompanying these two staples. For example, tapsilog is ‘tapa’, or cured beef served with fried rice and egg with some slices of tomatoes and cucumber. Cornsilog will have corned beef and bangsilog will have ‘bangus’ or cat fish. Meals start at ₱45 ($0.99).
Kusina LuntianFor lunch, Kusina Luntian is a top choice because of their “boodle” eating setup. Under the heat of the sun and dragging your feet to grab the best grub with bed buds, partaking in a boodle fight is bound to ramp up your appetite. It’s nothing illegal. It’s just a meal where food and rice are laid out on a whole banana leaf and everyone in the group eats using their hands instead of utensils. Most of the food will be grilled seafood with some seaweed and tomatoes on the side. They also have ala carte orders of other Pinoy favorites like adobo, liempo, and longganisa and cost around ₱65 ($1.43).
Other OptionsAside from these two, other top dining spots are Yellowfin Bar and Grill which have grilled seafood as their specialty, and Trencher’s Kitchenette which offers Bicolano food choices. (Bicol, by the way, is another part of the Philippines also located in Luzon.) Expect spicy food at this restaurant. Both places have meals within the ₱100 ($2.20) - ₱175 ($3.85) price range
CommuteFor people who don’t own a car or for those who are too lazy to drive 6 hours, the most convenient way to Baler would be to take the Genesis Bus Joy Bus. It’s an executive coach bus which costs ₱650 ($14) for a one way trip and departs from the Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao, Quezon City on the corner of New York Street and EDSA.
The cheaper option is the regular Genesis Bus also bound for Baler. A one-way trip should cost about ₱404 ($8.89).
DriveFor those who would rather take a private vehicle to Baler, take the SCTEX and get to Cabanatuan , Nueva Ecija. From there, follow the National Road and look for the signs pointing to Baler, Aurora. This should just be a 6-hour drive and should cost you about ₱3,000 ($66) for fuel and toll fees.
SafetyAlthough Baler doesn't make the daily news, raising security and safety concerns, tourists are always advised to look after themselves and make sure they still pay attention to their surroundings.
Primary warning would be given for those who will be going surfing. Beginners, particularly, are advised to listen to their instructors for safety tips. Although they’re going to make sure to spot the board, there’s still risk of wipeout and getting injured from it. Other outdoor activities in Baler, such as trekking to Mother Falls, will also require caution.
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Author: chaipuyod. Last updated: Oct 28, 2014