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Akkaw Baler!

As I read my travel bucket list note, I noticed Baler wasn’t on the list. Maybe because the pictures I see on the internet doesn’t appeal that much to me. I also don’t have close friends who have been to Baler to tell me what it is like in Baler. So this trip was like a lets-just-see-what-this-place-has-to-offer trip. I did not make an itinerary. I was too lazy. For this trip, I don’t want to stress myself. I’m tired of getting disappointed. I don’t want to expect anymore. I just want to relax. But I still prepared a checklist of places we’ll visit. We’ll just have to decide which places to go first and which to go next when we get there. And the plan worked out well.

Pictures could not tell you how wonderful a place is. You have to be there yourself and experience it to appreciate it.

It is difficult to write about something when you have so many things to tell. When you want to find the words that could wrap up all your thoughts, emotions, and experiences into one. So let me break it down like this…

How To Get There.

We flew from Cebu to Clark at sunrise. Such a lovely time to start a lovely trip.

At Diosdado Macapagal Airport, we took the jeepney going to Dau terminal. We then took the UV Express bound for Cabanatuan which costs 160php.

It was a comfortable one-and-a-half-hour ride until we transferred to a D’ Liner bus at Cabanatuan terminal that took us to Baler. The trip costs 176php. It was pretty cheap. We spent 4 hours and a half sleeping, wondering and appreciating the endless scenery of lush green mountains and rice fields.

Where We Stayed.

We stayed at Secret Spot, the resort I’ve read in We Are Sole Sister’s blog. We paid 4000php for our 4days/3nights stay. The place was located farther from the big resorts. The perfect place to really relax and mingle with locals. At that time, there were only 2 other guests at the resort which we hardly see hanging around so it feels like we have the resort all to ourselves.

It is also located right next to the station of Freedom Surf School. The best surfing instructors we ever had in Baler.

What To Do.

On our first day we hired one tricycle for 300php and we visited nearby sights (Ermita Hill, Lukso-Lukso, Fish Port, and Diguisit Falls). We started the tour at 3pm. All of these sights don’t have any entrance fees.

On our second day, we visited the Baler Museum, the Mother Falls and the Millennium Balete Tree.

The museum is just located at the heart of the town of Baler. We took a tricycle that costs 15php/person. That’s the minimum price for every tricycle in Baler. Pretty pricey but it’s my favorite ride.

The entrance fee of the museum is based on tip only.

The tour for the Mother Falls and Balete tree costs us 800php because those two sights are located in a much farther area. It took us 1 hour by tricycle to reach the drop-off point to Mother Falls plus another 30-minute trek to the falls. If you are going to hire a tricycle for this trip, make sure the driver is a registered guide because when you reach the checkpoint to the falls, they will require you to hire a guide. I recommend kuya Marwin (contact #09486831182), our driver/guide.

We had to endure the bumpy tricycle ride on a one-way road going to the drop-off area of the falls. You have to be a pro driver to drive a rocky road like that. We have to stop every time we came across a car/tricycle.

The trek was fun. I really enjoyed crossing rivers, walking on big rocks and wooden bridges. And it looks like I’m not the only one enjoying it because the two little guys in our group (Ichi and Von) were happily singing to the tune of One Day. Every time I listen to that song, it reminds me of Baler.

Reaching the falls was very rewarding. Its cool waters washed off the exhaustion from our feet.

I almost lost track of time. If it weren’t for Von, we wouldn’t have noticed it was about time for us to leave and move to our next destination.

We reached the Millennium Balete tree after 1 and a half hour from Mother Falls. It was beautiful and huge. We paid 10php each for the entrance fee and we gave our guide/photographer a tip. I find our guide really funny. He would tell us where and how to pose.

On our third day, we visited Ampere Beach and Dicasalarin Cove. Kuya Marwin transformed his tricycle into a single motorcycle because this trip is not advisable for a tricycle. It costs 500php. We started the tour at 9am and ended at 12noon. It was really, really hot that day. We sat for more than an hour to reach the picturesque view of Ampere Beach.

After our visit to Ampere Beach, we drove straight to the the beautiful white sand beach of Dicasalarin Cove. It wasn’t an easy ride. It requires an experienced driver to go up and down the scary steep curve roads of Dicasalarin. The entrance fee is very pricey. We paid 300php each plus 50php for the parking fee.

Where To Eat.

We tried different restaurants in our every meal. We went to restaurants which were recommended by the locals.

Bay’s Inn. My favorite is their watermelon shake. We went there twice and I ordered their watermelon shake twice. This is also my favorite restaurant because of its cute interior.

Kusina Luntian. I love the laid back feel of this small restaurant. It gained popularity because it was featured in Ang Pinaka.

Bayler View. We were brought here by the strong aroma that comes from their exhaust fans.

Yellow Fin Bar and Grill. It is also one of the recommended restaurants by the locals. I love their sisig.

Rolling Store. The restaurant popular to local surfers/instructors because aside from the cheap dishes, the instructors enjoy a discounted price every time they bring people to eat in the restaurant.

Gerry Shan. Almost all the locals we came across would mention this restaurant. We never listened until our last day. We thought the food served was just the ordinary dishes but we were wrong. It is an eat-all-you-can restaurant that served the fresh seafood we’ve been looking for during our whole stay in Baler. This is popular to surfers and tourists alike.

Yolly’s. I will not recommend this restaurant. The service was very slow I almost lost my temper and the shrimp and lobster served was not fresh.

They have their cool version of taho. Cool because of the cup used.

And lastly, the popular suman.

Who You Will Meet.

As we walked down the street, a stranger called after us, “Ate take a picture of us”. I looked back and smiled and then continued walking. They again called our attention. This time they shouted, “Where are you from?” And we answered, “…from Cebu” and smiled.

Wherever we go, people tried to start a conversation with us. They allowed us to take a picture of them in whatever they were doing and they jokingly said “We’re going to be famous”, “You will be seen in the internet”.

This was when we witnessed how they do the pamumukot.

When we start a conversation with them, they never stop talking. Even when for them our vowels are like “aeiouuuu”. We easily gained friends.

Jomar – the kid who we met catching dragonflies. He can also go from getting fish from the net to getting shells from the sand.

Ken, Ichi, and Von – the kids who we found hanging out at the cottage in front of our room.

The Freedom Boys – the surfer kids from Freedom Surf School who we met on our 3rd day in Baler. We enjoyed spending our last night in Baler on a campfire with them. They tell us so many stories and jokes and they taught us some words from Baler: Akkaw and Wapang.

Ryan – the caretaker from Secret Spot who was so kind and so nice to us. He even built us a camp fire and gave us a boat ride for free!

Best thing to do – Surfing.

Saving the best for last! I’ve only been to two surfing trips. The first one was in Pagudpud where I almost lose hope in surfing because I could not afford to stand up on the board. And this time in Baler. This is the best surfing experience I ever had and I think I will start a surfing career in the future, hahaha. I’ll give the credit to our instructor Dingdong from Freedom Surf School. The first two days of surfing almost bored me. I got contented to surfing for half an hour on small waves until Dingdong and his gang brought us to the beach near Isla Virginia Resort where the swells are bigger for beginners like us. The 1 hour turned to half day. It was really fun. They even taught us some tricks like backside surfing and walling. I just love the experience. We’ve tried different surfing instructors each morning and the excitement was nothing compared to having being taught by the instructor from Freedom Surf School.

They were not only good surfers.

They are also artistic.

NOTE: Surfboard rental costs 200php for an hour. For a half day rental it costs 400php. The instructor costs 150php/hour.

BONUS: One time our surf instructor allowed us to switch our surfboard with a paddle board.

I’ve been to top tourist destinations in the Philippines, but my experience in Baler beats them all. Maybe it’s not just about the place alone. Maybe it’s also about the locals you meet. They make you see things in a different perspective. In a way close to their own. And you feel so connected with the place. You don’t feel like you are a tourist. You feel at home.

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