For a person who is always in search of good beach with a laid back vibe and surfable waves, Baler, Aurora is the place to be. It’s a place with an endless summer and endless waves
Located 6 hours from Manila, the province was once part of Quezon province (sidenote: according to a traveller, Quezon is the bigger in land mass than Laguna, but looks smaller because it’s actually an “isthmus”: a connection between two provinces.) Aurora is located on the Pacific side of the Philippines where waves can reach a height of 15-20 ft, on a good day.
I have never been to Baler, so when a friend invited me to go surfing with them, I immediately packed my bag and board and reserved a seat on a bus going to Baler. I reserved a seat on the JOYBUS and paid through BDO Php 695 for a single trip. For some, this is already expensive, but for a traveller like me who is accustomed to driving, this is a good deal. Especially since, JOYBUS is the luxury bus of GENESIS Transport which meant, free wifi on board, clean toilet on board, free blanket, pillows and snacks for the 5 and a half hour trip + your chair is a recliner chair (so its actually a good deal!) Upon reaching the bus station, my friend called me up and said that I should ride with them and sell my ticket (I then was able to sell my bus ticket to a lady and she was very thankful because she did not have to be a “chance passenger”.) After I got picked up in the Genesis Bus station, on we travelled to Baler.
5 hours later, we arrived in Bgy Buhangin to meet our hosts, Alvin and Ancel. Both are locals who invited my surfer friend to sleep at their house instead of renting a room in one of the resorts. As soon as I introduced myself to them, they gave me a chair and a cup of coffee, making me feel like I was part of the family.They then told us that prior to our arrival, the waves reached about 15ft (“abot niyog” or up to the top of the coconut tree) and that nobody dared to ride the “tsunami-like” waves except for the locals. Deep inside, I was thinking, “I’m not a pro… and I prefer chest deep waters and surfable waves”
Since Baler is a community where everyone knew almost everyone, the locals then started coming to Alvin and Ancel’s house. I was introduced to Kuya Floro, who accompanied us to rent 2 boards for our companions and buy vegetables in the marketplace. (side note: Saturdays in Baler is called market day. Goods can be bought at a lower price. Case in point, 5 eggplants and 6 tomatoes only cost us Php16.00 while 2 kilos of Bananas cost us Php45.00. BARGAIN!)
After Breakfast, which consists of Bangus, Ensaladang itlog and kamatis and eggplants, we changed into our surf clothes and headed to the farther point of the beach, which was called LINDY’s. Lindy’s is only known to the locals, and it was an honor to be brought there because there weren’t any people and the waves curled better. Here we were visited by 2 local boys, Udong and Troy who helped us unload our boards, build a tent, fried hotdogs. While we wait for a good set, we took out a bottle of booze and started chatting about anything under the sun (we later transferred to a clearing filled with Pandan trees because the heat was unbearable)
By lunchtime, the waves curled perfectly. Everyone grabbed a free board and started paddling. Word got out that the surf was good at Lindy’s and we were later joined by Kuya Ipe and Kuya Larry (who later schooled me how to paddle properly) Some local girls also passed by which triggered the younger ones to show off their long board (skate) skills. By 5 pm, the waves were still curling, but we were all surfed-out. Kuya Floro then told us, “bukas, mas maganda pa ang alon.(tomorrow, the waves would be better)”
We were tired that we just managed to have dinner and drop by the fiesta in Bgy Buhangin. But by 10 pm, we were out, dreaming of the stoke we felt that day and the beautiful surf we will encounter the next day.
The next day was more beautiful. The sun wasn’t out, but the waves was fiercer and bigger. This time, we were at Sabang Beach, in front of Bay’s Inn. While some locals played, some taught those who wanted to learn. I watched the ones who were studying while I paddled to catch some waves. But since there were a lot of people, I only managed to be wiped out every time I tried to ride a wave (side note: I was trying a 7 x 6 ft board when I’m used to an 8 x 6. This made me a bit wobbly and unsteady) I then paddled back to the shore after sustaining a bruise on my left arm and my legs. While I was at Bay’s Inn, drinking my cold beer and eating my banana, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the beauty of Baler. There was the Cobra Reef to the East, the most intense surf spot according to the locals wherein the waves just creeps up on you like a cobra. Then there was Secret to my right (I was facing East) , where the beach really starts and where the waves are clean and people are scarce. I couldn’t remember the other names of the points in Baler but I remember counting 12 in total.
After a quick lunch + merienda at the rolling store and the isawan in front of Mount Carmel College, we packed up, said our good byes to our hosts and to the beauty that is Baler. I vowed to return as much as I can, even contemplating on living there for good (I’m returning on the 12th of October, hit me up whoever wants to tag along with me.)
The beauty of the province was breathtaking and the friendliness of the people made me feel like they knew me for the longest time. Every where you go, people will greet you with a smile and will ask you “susulong ka? (are you going into the water?)” if they see you with a board. The place is full of history that you just want to bask in it and get to know more, to discover more of the beauty beyond the waves and the sea. ( sidenote: I was told by Alvin that before, there was a tidal wave that completely destroyed the town of Baler, and there were only 7 families (some last names still exist in Baler) who survived by pulling each other to the top of the mountain. Up to now, the cross is still visible on top of that mountain to signify the destruction, courage and perseverance of the town of Baler)
Baler is a town with an endless summer. It will give you endless possibilities and calmness that you cannot find in the hustle and bustle of the city. It is not only a place to unwind, but it is also a place to find yourself if you are a lost soul… All you need to do is to wear a bikini, strap on your leash, get on the board, paddle with all the strength your little heart can give, and ride a beautiful wave.
If you are a lost soul, at the end of the day, you will utter, Hakuna Matata. It means “No worries for the rest of your days.” You will definitely find what you’re searching for in this town.
Surf with your heart’s content.
LIVE. LOVE. SURF.
______________________________________________________________________________SOME NOTES ABOUT THIS TRIP:
1) If you are planning on taking the bus to Baler, better to call in advance for a reservation. Call 7090545 for the Joybus ticketing station. You can pay via BDO
2) the bus leaves at 12:30 and 1:30 am. If you weren’t able to reserve a seat, just remain calm, you can still reach Baler via Genesis Bus (also at the same station and same number) but it’s no longer the luxury bus. It leaves every hour starting 2:30 am
3.) From the bus stop in Baler, all you need to do is take a tricycle to Sabang Beach. There are numerous hotels/resorts there namely Bay’s Inn, Bay-ler, Aliyah Surf Camp to name a few.
4) You can learn how to surf at these resorts, but you can also try Charlie Does, a small hut which provide boards, instructors and lessons.
5) the locals are really nice and friendly. Take advice from them on how to paddle properly. They will take care of you the best way they know how. I know I did!
6) Try the rolling store located near the bus stop of Joy bus. This row of stores provide the tourists and the locals affordable meals (I had sinigang + rice + RC for only Php53.00!)
7) Also try the isawan in front of Mount Carmel College. It’s has one of the best isaws I have ever had.
8) Don’t forget to pass by the pasalubong center ( I got myself a hammock for Php 90.00!)
9) If you are a drinker, try their lambanog. But don’t expect soda to be your chaser. Here water is the chaser (water from tap is safe to drink. trust me, I have a case of getting an upset stomach from drinking and eating anywhere.. I did not get sick from drinking their water)
10.) Lastly, ENJOY YOUR TRAVEL. LEARN THE CULTURE. MEET NEW PEOPLE. HAVE FUN and SURF TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT.
HAPPY TRAVEL EVERYONE! TILL MY NEXT ADVENTURE!
* side note: thank you Kaycee Estuita, Angge Bautista and Mike for letting me tag along with you guys. Also, thank you Kaycee for letting me use your photos *with permission of course* since my phone camer just sucked the entire time :)*