Beyond the beach and the waves, Baler has a lot to offer. It brings out the adventurous and the brave hidden inside a person.
I saw on television and in various photos about the beauty of the province but I wanted to experience it more, experience it personally. So I told my friend, who was already in the province that I wanted to visit the Balete Tree and one of the waterfalls located in the province.
Again, on a Friday night, I packed my surfboard and my backpack to head to the province. This time, I was aboard Genesis Bus line with my new-found companion Aika. Donning on my earphones, songs slowly lulled me to sleep. I was then awoken by the heat, 6 hours later, through the window and I saw that I was already in Aurora.
Upon arriving at the market place, we were greeted by the warm smiles of the locals. We then rented a tricycle (Php 15.00 each) to Bgy Buhangin. Upon arriving to the town, I was greeted by warm hi’s and hellos of the locals I already befriended from my previous trip. It was around 8.30 am at that time and after buying sopas (soup) and bread for breakfast for Php 19.00, I silently sat on the sidewalk and watched the locals play on the streets (my favorite moment was when I saw a father teach his baby daughter (as in around 1 1/2 year old baby) how to balance and ride a longboard skateboard)
After breakfast, Kaycee informed me that she will make my dreams come true. We will be visiting the Balete Tree and Caunayan Falls which was the nearest waterfall found in Aurora. (Mother Falls has a 20 minute trek– so we will visit Mother Falls when we have a longer vacation) Like a giddy kid who received an early Christmas present, I flashed the widest grin and laughed.
BALETE TREE and the AMAZING SPIDERMONKEY BOY
En route to the big Balete Tree, we had to pass a very rough road. With our spirits high, we ignored the bumpy ride, took in the amazing view of greenery, mountains and low growing papaya trees, and headed towards the tree. Then Ancel pointed out to me “nakita mo yung malaking puno na yun? yun na yung Balete tree” (you see that big tree? That’s the Balete Tree)
Upon reaching our destination, I was overwhelmed by the height and width of the tree. Because I have a fear of heights, I wanted to climb the tree and to overcome my fear. So I entered the main entrance, took off my slippers and climbed the intertwined branches that became the stairs to the top. I admit, there were times that I froze but I kept moving forward, slowly climbing and not daring to look down.
Upon reaching the spot where Alvin was seated, I thought “okay this is not so high” but when I looked out, I saw that I was crazily high above the ground. I heard KC shouting “ppicturan ko kayo. Tracy ito ang gusto mo ah!!! Hope masaya ka na! ” (I’ll take a picture of you guys. Tracy this is what you wanted and I hope you are happy) I grinned like a happy kid, and I was frozen in time and space. I then asked the tour guide kids how to go down. They said “ate, pwede jan sa labas pero delikado. So aakyat pa tayo ng onti pa para bumaba” (We can go out through the outside branches but it’s dangerous. So we have to go up a few more feet so that we can go down)
the snake like branches of the labyrinthian-like balete tree
Going down was harder because you couldn’t see through the maze of the intertwined branches. I just had to trust my instinct and my guide, Bulong, on which branch to step on and how to twist and turn inside the maze. When we got out, I thanked him, gave him a tip and asked him a few questions.
He told me that the tree was around 500 years old. It was about 50 feet with 2 flags marking the 2 highest points (Upon looking at the photos, I found out that we reached 45 feet high above the ground). A total of 60 people measure the entire width of the tree and there was a time when the owner of the land wanted to cut down the tree.
the boys with the amazing spidermonkey boy
When everyone was able to take in the majesty of this big tree, we took a few photos and videos of the kids who made the tree their own personal playground, thanked our guides and traversed the rough road to our next destination: Caunayan Falls.
CAUNAYAN FALLS (EL PI) and the DURIAN FOOTBALL GAME
Before we were able to reach the falls, we had to park our car on an empty lot because we had to traverse another rough road uphill. We then paid Php 20 pesos for the parking and trekked the muddy path up the mountain. Upon reaching midway, one can hear the gushing water and feel the cold breeze, “we must be near”, I told myself. A few minutes later, we reached our destination.
Upon paying the Php 10.00 entrance fee and the Php 100.00 cottage rental fee, we went down the steps towards the falls. I could not explain the feeling every time I see a waterfall, but this one is as simple as can be. The water was blue and cool and it wasn’t as rocky as the other waterfalls I have been to. Kuya Floro informed me that this is the nearest waterfalls, but there are others as well like Mother Falls and True or Falls (yes there is a waterfall called True or Falls)
Taking in the view, we unpacked our supplies (Emperador light, Skyflakes and tuna). After coercing (jokingly) for me to kiss a smooth rock, I dipped in the shallow but cold and clear waters and just enjoyed the feel of the water on my hot skin.
I got drunk in El Pi so most of what happened next was just a blur, except for the fact that I used a durian fruit as a football and kicked it down the muddy road.
one of the durians that we snacked on. the other became a football.
After a quick lunch (+ nap for me) we packed our boards and went to Lindy’s. I was still too groggy but I could hear the thunderous noise of the waves. I then told myself “I will not surf today.” When we arrived at Lindy’s, everyone unloaded their boards and I sat on the hot concrete. I knew I couldn’t surf because the waves were gnarly. I overheard Alvin say “nagpapakilala nanaman ang tunay na Baler”( the real Baler is introducing itself again). While I was sitting on the sea wall, I took photos and videos of the crazy waves. I could see the local pro-surfers have a hard time getting in and catching a wave because it was really pounding them hard.
After a quick nap, I woke up and decided to play in the water. Kaycee, Aika and I created a game that we will walk towards a wave and run away from it when it got too close. This game continued till we had to go home.
This trip had to be cut short because of an emergency but with my 12 hr stay in Baler, it was magical.
They say that a true traveller can always hop on the bus and is always ready to conquer the place that his heart yearns for, ready to leave behind the heavy, polluted and incestuous city. He seeks not to look for whatever is lost but to calm the jittery nerves and to satisfy the soul. He foresees the unexpected in every travel but is ready for the adventure the unknown has to offer.
I always look forward to weekends spent in Baler. It’s a quick getaway from the craziness I have to endure in the city. I find solace and comfort when the waves touch my feet and with the sound of the waves pounding. I find comfort being away from the partying and the douchebags I meet along the way. I look forward to being in the town that does not know my past and embraces me wholeheartedly. I look forward to the province that I get to shed whatever walls I make and pretensions I build.
Here, with the 500 year old Balete Tree and the gnarly waves, I am home.
**thanks for the non-pixelated photos Kaycee. promise, I will bring my camera on our next trip**