Baler: Surf’s Up, Budget’s Down

baler travel guide

After I wrote my first actual travel guide (see it here), I began wondering if I should try to put together more guides for the places I’ve been, as well as, of course, the places I’m going, rather than just long, rambly posts. Of course, I’ll still be doing a little bit of that – this blog’s not called Be Quiet Kate for nothing – but I figure, might as well share what I know, so any enterprising travelers that happen upon my blog can actually get what they came for instead of having to scroll down paragraph after paragraph of me waxing poetic.

To this end, I’ve decided to divide my Travel category into two: Travel Guides, which contain actual useful information; and Travel Journals, which is just me being my usual motormouth self. Eventually, I’ll come up with Travel Guide posts for all the Travel Journal posts I’ve done last year, so I hope you stick around for that.

Today, I’ll be talking about one of my most favorite trips to date: a weekend we spent in Baler!

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Read on, MacDuff!

How it happened:

Although my friends and I are veritable mermaids who take any opportunity to jump into a clean body of water, we realized we’d never gone surfing. Naturally, when one says “surfing”, one of the first places that comes to mind is Baler, the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines.

This trip actually happened last summer, over a weekend. I previously blogged about it here, but didn’t share a detailed itinerary or our budget. Since summer has officially begun here in the Philippines (holla at me, fellow sun-chasers!) I thought of doing a Travel Guide for Baler to celebrate!

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Every lakwatsera needs a kaladkarin in her life!

How we got there:

My friends and I had the luxury of our own vehicles. There were ten of us on the trip, and two of us had cars, so we just decided to split the gas and toll fees. All in all, we spent Php 500 per person for transportation expenses.

However, extensive research (by which I mean a quick Google search) tells me that Genesis has daily buses to Baler leaving from their Cubao terminal, starting at 3:00AM up to 7:30AM with hourly intervals between each bus, with fare at Php 550.

If this schedule is inconvenient for you, another option would be to take a Victory Liner or Baliwag Transit bus to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, and from there take a passenger van to Baler. The bus to Cabanatuan departs from the Cubao terminal, with trips starting at 8:00AM, and costs Php 185. It’ll let passengers down at the Cabanatuan Central Terminal where you can catch a van to Baler for Php 220.

Lastly, you can also take Genesis’ Joy Bus, which is an executive luxury trip which travels non-stop from Manila to Baler. For Php 750 you can enjoy pillows, blankets, snacks, and the services of a bus stewardess.

Of all the options, having our own vehicles turned out to be the cheapest. Our Php 500 per person was good enough for the drive from Manila to Baler and back, while taking the bus would cost you a minimum of Php 1,000 each.

Where we stayed:

Internet, I would like to introduce you to Kuya Jay Mapindan, the OG of Baler. You’ll learn why we call him OG later.

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Kuya Jay getting a selfie with us

Kuya Jay and his wife are police officers (useful for those particularly worried about safety) who rent out two bedrooms in their house to travelers. Let me tell you, their place is the bomb. The house is located in Brgy. Reserva which is some distance from the town so it’s pretty quiet. The rooms were clean and air-conditioned, the beds comfortable, the Wi-Fi was fast (fellow Instahoes, take note), and we were given coffee, snacks,  ice, and water at no extra charge.

You’d think for all those amenities it’d cost a pretty penny, right? Wrong! We got both rooms for the measly sum of Php 4,000, so we ended up only paying Php 400 each. Practically a steal!

Contact Kuya Jay at (0948) 766 6609.

What to do:

There’s a ton to do in Baler, no matter what kind of traveler you are!

If you’re into history and culture, check out Museo de Baler for only Php 30. Here, you can find a replica of Doña Aurora Quezon’s house, the presidential car used by Manuel Quezon, paintings, photographs, and other artifacts and memorabilia not just from Baler, but from the whole province of Aurora.

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The replica of the house Aurora Quezon grew up in

Taking photos at the Baler marker is free, a little too touristy, but good fun all the same!

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You can also check out Ermita Hill, which is a memorial for the 1735 tsunami which struck Baler with deadly force. Only a handful of families survived by fleeing to higher ground. Today, the site is marked by the Tromba Marina statues depicting the survivors who outran the tsunami, as well as a white cross to commemorate the lives lost. There are also viewing platforms which have a great view of the town and the beach.

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The view from the top of Ermita Hill
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The cross commemorating the victims of the tsunami

In Brgy. Zabali, you can see the famous Baler Hanging Bridge, which crosses the Tibag-Sabang River and is used by locals to travel from one barangay to another.

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For nature-lovers, there’s the Balete Tree Park which houses the the biggest balete tree in Asia. It’s supposedly over five stories high, and takes a hundred people holding hands to encircle it. You can climb the tree, but only up to a height of three meters. Remember, balete trees are famous in Filipino folklore for being the homes of kapre, duwende, engkanto, tikbalang, and other such spirits – so be respectful.

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You can also take a thirty-minute trek to the Ditumabo Mother Falls, the largest waterfalls in Aurora. The water is clear, ice-cold, and utterly refreshing, so be sure to take a dip! You can also climb up onto the rocks at the base of the waterfall and jump into the basin. It’s not a high jump – ten feet at the most – so you should be fine.

(Not too many photos of the falls because we were too busy trekking!)

Or you can visit the Aniao Islets and Diguisit Beach rock formations, which are usually less crowded than Baler’s other tourist hotspots. You can take a boat out to the Aniao Islets if you want, but me and my friends just sat on the beach, taking photos. We also climbed the rock formations and had ourselves a The Little Mermaid “part of your world” moment!

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Of course, what trip to Baler would be complete without surfing? Head over to Sabang Beach for your dose of sun, sand, and seawater. From end to end, the beach is dotted with surfing houses where you can get lessons. The price of the place we went to, Dehins Surf Shop, is usually Php 350 for one hour of lessons, inclusive of an instructor and a surfboard, but –  and here is why Kuya Jay Mapindan is the OG of Baler – our surfing instructors did not stop until all of us could stand, even though we’d gone past the one hour of lessons we’d originally paid for, all because Kuya Jay was apparently their parekoy. Make friends with locals, guys. It’ll pay off.

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Bonus: we ate at the Baler Surfer Grill for dinner!

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Budget:

Gas for two vehicles Php 400 (Php 2,000 total per vehicle; Php 4,000 total)
Toll fees Php 100 (Php 500 total per vehicle; Php 1,000 total)
Accommodation Php 400 (Php 4,000 total)
Groceries:

  • Beer and hard drinks good for 10
  • Chips and snacks good for 10
Php 200 (Php 2,000 total)
Breakfast & lunch  ℅ Kuya Jay’s carinderia Php 200 (Php 2,000 total for one breakfast and two lunches good for 10)
Entrance fees Php 100
Surfing lessons Php 700 (we went surfing twice)
Dinner at Baler Surfer Grill Php 300
Total Php 2,400


Itinerary:

Day 0
01:00AM – 07:00AM Departure from Manila, travel time to Baler
Day 1
07:00AM – 09:00AM Check into Kuya Jay’s homestay, rest / nap
09:00AM – 12:00NN Baler tour:

  • San Luis Obispo Church
  • Museo de Baler
  • Baler Marker
  • Baler Hanging Bridge
  • Balete Tree Park
12:00NN – 01:00PM Lunch ℅ Kuya Jay’s carinderia
01:00PM – 03:00PM Ditumabo Mother Falls
03:00PM – 05:00PM Surfing at Sabang Beach ℅ Dehins Surf Shop
05:00PM – 06:00PM Dinner at Baler Surfer Grill
06:00PM – 10:00PM Drinks, socials
Day 2
08:00AM – 09:00AM Breakfast ℅ Kuya Jay’s carinderia
09:00AM – 10:00AM Ermita Hill
10:00AM – 12:00NN Aniao Islets and Diguisit Beach rock formations
12:00NN – 01:00PM Lunch ℅ Kuya Jay’s carinderia
01:00PM – 03:00PM Surfing at Sabang Beach ℅ Dehins Surf Shop
03:00PM – 04:00PM Shower and change, pack up, check out of Kuya Jay’s homestay
04:00PM – 10:00PM Departure from Baler, arrival in Manila


Please forgive this post’s not-as-witty-as-I-thought-it’d-be title – I was running on four hours of sleep and three cups of coffee when I wrote this. My other Travel Guide posts can be found here!

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