BALER, AURORA. Baler is one of the go-to places right now especially for people like us residing in the metro. I guess most of us choose this destination because of its convenience and proximity from Manila. Within just 6 hours of land travel, either through private car or bus, people can already reach the surfing destination and come head on with the province's waves in a breeze. I grew up near the shore and a vast sea is a usual sight for me, that is why views like this grew up on me like a landscape that I breathe on and think about when I feel rather stressed out from living in the city.
Although I frequent the beach when I was growing up, I have never really outgrown my fear of large bodies of water; primarily because of my unusual, wild imagination brought about by those shark and piranha movies and the fact that I could actually drown in those and never be found again! Nevertheless, I am still doing things that could make me fall in love with the waters more and dismiss the fear I have of it, like surfing! The great thing about surfing is it is for everyone! You do not have to be a good swimmer to actually ride and enjoy the waves. It might help that you are since you can relax more and be confident when the waves knock you over but other than that, swimming is a skill that can be dismissed when you are surfing.
We spent our first afternoon in Baler taking a short, introductory lesson about surfing through the Freedom Surf School. Lie belly-down, get your feet with the leash in position, pop yourself up when the waves come in, maintain your balance and enjoy the waves. Fairly simple right? On the shore maybe! Because once you get in the water with your surfboard and paddle your way to position, there is no turning back! You just have to do it! And it is not that easy to take that first ride. There are a lot of things that circle in your mind but the most vital thing that you have to overcome is that fear to take that first step, because once you let go of that fear, just ride in and take that first fall, the rest is history! The depth of the water, the height of the waves and its frequency do not matter anymore, your mind will then shift to the more important stuffs like upping up your game and trying out different ways and techniques for you to get up easily and ride in. You will now look forward to the arrival of each wave, get frustrated at times even and stop only when your body feels tired and worn out. Then you will look forward to the next day so that you can do this again and again. It is a vicious but fun cycle! Yes, we were tired after the session but I definitely enjoyed every bit of it!
We were lucky to be welcomed by the sunny rays of the sun and the nice waves when we went to Baler. We went there a week after Typhoon Haiyan swept some of our beloved cities and most of the locals we encountered said that it was the first time after the Typhoon that Baler saw the sun again. The waves may be big for beginners like me but that fact gave me a sense of accomplishment instead! It is just sad that I am not able to surf the next day since I got sick and stayed in bed for the remainder of our morning the next day.
Other than surfing, we also got to explore the other notable destinations in Baler. We went to Ermita Hill which offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the shore of Baler at a distance. Its reputation rose from it being the refuge of those few people who swam towards the said hill and were spared during a great storm in 1735 which actually brought in a tsunami that washed out their entire community. I was not able to take a photo of the commemoration statue for those who perished and for those who survived but looking at it made the hairs in my body rise as I try to imagine the catastrophe that had happened at the very spot where I am standing. Visit it or take a picture of it if you can.
This is just one of the many breathtaking views I was able to capture during our trip. We just could not pass up the opportunity to capture this amazing view while we were driving to Diguisit Falls. Aahh, look how the mountains, the waters, clouds and waves came perfectly together. It literally stopped us on our tracks.
If you do not have enough time, like we did, to visit all the notable attractions in Baler wherein some of which require a few driving hours and a trek, a visit to Diguisit Falls may already prove to be enough for your group at this moment. The small falls can be reached through a short hike and descent but taking a giraffe stretch of the neck at the bottom of the falls can already offer you a great view of what is in store for you up there. If the hike proved to be tedious for your physique and you need to take in some refreshment afterwards, no need to worry as an ice cream cart manned by manong sorbetero will be waiting for you at the bottom.
For me, I did not bother anymore to take the hike and see face-to-face the falls. I was contented to just dip my feet and wade in the cold waters cascading at the bottom of it. That for me is already refreshing.
Adjacent to the falls is the Diguisit shoreline. Waves here are far better than the ones at Ampere but proved to be more dangerous because of its rocky bottom.
A good and lengthy walk further down the shoreline can take you to this big rock propped up at the end of it. Here is where the Aniao islets majestically stood up!
A 30-minute drive up north to Maria Aurora will bring you to the Balete Park which houses this gigantic tree. I have always associated Balete trees to ghosts and spirits because I have been told that Balete trees are haunted trees. Even though I got a rather eerie feeling upon stepping in the four-cornered park, a sense of awe and wonder swept over me of its immensity. Called the "Millenium Tree" of the Philippines, this tree is the largest of its kind in Asia and it would take 60 adult men, holding one another at arm's length, to encircle its gigantic trunk.
More enchanting is what is inside the Balete tree. Due to its age, the thick roots of the trees have grown above ground such that it already formed caves under different parts of the trunk. People can now pass through and through it. I loved the way the sunlight seeped in through the holes making it a glorious sight to witness when you are at the center ground of the tree looking up.
And of course, what is a visit to a city or a province without visiting their museum and getting acquainted with its origins and history. The Museo de Baler is open from 8am to 5 pm. It has two floors and it displays a mural that showcases the history of Baler and some more artefacts and photographic exhibits that would make you appreciate the province more.
The time I spent in Baler may be limited but I enjoyed every moment of it. Baler will draw you to its slow-paced life, quaint charm, fantastic waves and lovely locals. I know it did for me and it is luring me back again while I was browsing through the photographs I have taken.