Time wasted in Baler is time well spent. 😎
I literally went to Baler last weekend to waste time. The past few months had been really challenging. I have a lot on my mind and I knew I needed some time alone. Also, I have been wanting to go to Baler, Aurora for so long and I would take any reason now just to go to Baler. Then, I chance an interesting reason to go to Baler and it was not surfing.
It was an opportunity to experience Baler through my taste buds with the help of Chef Grai at the Circle Hostel Baler. More deets on this in a different post. Plus the rich history and other natural wonders in Aurora province, not just the waves. So I said, sign me up!
The ideal trip straight to Baler is taking the midnight bus from the metro which would take around five to six hours. There are only two options, Genesis bus and JoyBus from Cubao terminal in Quezon City. JoyBus is a luxury coach operated by Genesis, they provide pillows and blankets plus snacks not to mention bus stewards. Think of it as a business and or first class seat but in a bus.
Cubao to Baler schedule and fares as follows:
Regular Genesis Bus: ₱ 450 (USD9)
Sunday to Thursday
12:00 AM (Midnight)
Departure Times: Friday, Saturday at 12:00 (Midnight) based on the volume of passengers.
Cubao to Baler daily schedule:
JoyBus (Deluxe) – 28 seater – ₱ 730 (USD14)
JoyBus (Semi-Deluxe) – 40 seater – ₱ 650 (USD12.50)
***Reservations are only applicable for JoyBus trips. Contact number: +632 551 0842. Can also be booked online thru their partner booking sites.***
Or if you cannot score a seat from those two, you can take any bus to Cabanatuan City. Then to Baler, it is either the UV express to Baler which can cost two hundred twenty pesos (₱220) or another bus ride via Genesis or Aurora bus.
I took the Five Star bus to Cabanatuan City, by the way, the fare was one hundred and eighty-five pesos (₱185) (USD3.50). And then I paid two hundred forty-seven pesos (₱247) (USD5)for the bus ride from Cabanatuan City to Baler via Genesis since I could not wait forever for the UV express to be full.
The town of Baler is situated along the coastline of the east side of Luzon island facing the Pacific ocean, and in between the Caraballo and Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
The town’s name, Baler, is said to have come from the term Balod, which is a species of bird found abundantly in the area. That is according to Noceds San Luga a dictionary that spread out in 1860 and believed by the Institute of National Language.
But according to folklore, it came from an old maiden’s name, “Valeriana“. One time she was walking towards the waterfront when she came across a group of Spanish soldiers. Then they asked her what’s the name of the place, she replied, “Vale“. Which evolved to Baler.
Graffiti art installation near the municipal hall.
Baler Tourist Spots
Since it was my first time in Baler, I opted to check out the tourist spots. I thought I was going to have a hard time going around because I was a solo traveler but Baler is very tourist friendly. Tricycle drivers are actually tourist guides. They even have a laminated list of these spots with their name and contact number. My guide was Kuya Rene, I rode his tricycle to the Circle from the bus terminal. Availing this service could cost four hundred pesos (₱400) (USD8) to one thousand and two hundred pesos (₱1,200) (USD23) depending on the sights that you want to cover. Entrance fees to these tourist spots are not included yet. Kuya Rene was kind enough to entertain my request to have a personalized itinerary due to my time constraints. And if you want to book him as your local guide too, you can reach him at +639183753446.
Museo de Baler
Located in the heart of Baler, is the birthplace of, as for us, Filipino, the second President of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezon. Also, said to be the “Father of the Republic of the Philippines” since the international community did not recognize Emilio Aguinaldo’s presidency. And the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines under the United States of America during 1935-1944.
Baler was under the jurisdiction of Tayabas province at that time. Then, became Aurora as a subprovince in 1951. And finally, an independent province in 2nd of November 1978.
Today, at this spot, is the two-story Museo de Baler. A historical mural in a form of a gold cast is displayed on its facade. It was made by sculptor Toym Imao and commissioned by Sen. Edgardo Angara and the Baler Historical Committee. Inside, it houses artifacts, memorabilia, and installed visual arts likes paintings and photographs that are all significant to the town’s rich history.
Entrance fee is fifteen pesos per person (₱15). It is free fo Baler residents or people born in Baler. Discounts may be applicable for kids, PWD and senior citizens. While in there, I was kind of confused with the province’s name. Since I kept reading Tayabas somewhere. Then it hit me, the province was formerly known as Tayabas which is now divided into two, Aurora and Quezon. Husband and wife. 🤔
Doña Aurora Quezon House
Few blocks away is the replica house of Aurora Aragon – Quezon. Aurora was also a Baler native. But her father, Pedro Aragon was suspected as a member of the Katipunan. He was imprisoned by the colonial authorities then believed to have died in captivity. After that, the young Aurora was taken by María Dolores Molina – Quezon, her mother’s sister and the mother of Manuel Luis Quezon.
Later on, Manuel and Aurora got married in Hong Kong in 1918. And had four children namely, Maria Aurora. Maria Zenaida, Luisa Corazon Paz, and Manuel Lucio Junior. When Manuel Luis was elected as the President of the Philippines, they were the first Presidential couple to reside in Malacañang Palace. Aurora was also involved in women’s organizations while as First Lady of the country.
“Why shouldn’t women be allowed to vote when they are subject to same laws as men?”
Aurora’s famous statement, since she wanted to give Filipino women suffrage. And it was granted in 1937.
Entrance fee is also fifteen pesos per person and same conditions for the others. And to be brutally honest, I just knew that they were apparently cousins but they still got married. Interesting. 🤯
A catastrophic event occurred in Baler on 27th of December 1735. At around two-thirty in the morning, the town was engulfed by a tsunami or “tromba marina” in Spanish. Survivors were believed to have swum to the nearby hill of Point Baja or locally known as Ermita Hill. As per folklore, the hill is called Ermita, short for ermitaño or hermit.
At this site, there are a couple of view decks, overlooking the port and the town. There are also cottages and a campsite. On top of the hill is a crucifix, to commemorate those who have died during the tsunami incident.
Ermita Hill is actually part of the Aurora State College of Technology or ASCOT’s land property. Before, it was managed by the Provincial Government of Aurora. Then turned-over to ASCOT on 13th of March 2017.
Entrance fee is around twenty pesos per person (₱20). Kuya Rene showed me around and what caught my attention was a deep-well-like structure. He then said it was a tunnel passage all the way to the town and was used as an escape route back in the day. However, it was not maintained and preserved well so all that is left was the supposed entrance to the tunnel. I then asked Kuya Rene, “where’s the way to the crucifix?” He said, “follow the paved pathway”. He abruptly added, “that’s two hundred seventy plus steps!” I replied, “well, I think I can do that!”😉
More than just a tourist attraction, this bridge serves as the main link of the young ones of Baler to ASCOT. This was built to make traveling to school be easier for the students due to lack of road network in that area.
If you have been reading my blog for quite sometime now, you’d know that I am afraid of heights. And this hanging bridge was no exception. Yet I managed to go back and forth.💪
Diguisit Beach and Rock Formations
Along Diguisit beach are natutally sculpted rock formations. Diguisit shorline is relatively small compare to Sabang beach. Also, its has an off-white shingle beach. Aside from the rock formations, there are islets too, like lukso-lukso and Aniao / Diguisit islets to some. This area is also known to be a more challenging surf spot in Baler, the Cobra reef.
Few meters away from the beach, is Diguisit waterfall. No major trekking involved as this waterfall is just on the roadside and it is free for all.
Diguisit beach is apparently privately owned and the entrance fee is twenty pesos per person (₱20). There are cottages that can be used for hanging out by the beach visitors. Though, there was something that puzzled me, there was a man made pool right next to a rock formation. Well, fine it is privately owned so they can do anything they want. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Aurora’s Natural Wonders
Aurora province as a whole has a lot of natural wonders. From hidden cove, Dicasalarin cove, still in Baler. More cascading waterfalls like Caunayan and Ditumabo Mother falls both in San Luis, Aurora. And a six hundred years old tree, also known as the biggest Balete tree in Asia. It is said to be sixty-five meters in height, diameter to be twelve – fifteen meters and sixty meters for its crown. It is also dubbed as the Millennium tree in Maria Aurora, Aurora.
I was not really planning on doing the tour before going here since I was solo however, I wanted to see the biggest Balete or strangler fig tree with my own eyes. As per Philippine folklore, Balete tree is mystical, as spirits and elements live inside and lurk around it. So far, nothing supernatural happened during my visit. ️👻
My take away.
I was kind of overwhelmed by the idea of traveling solo plus commuting to Baler at night. So I did my research online, however, crucial info is not updated. Like bus schedules and fares, more so, calling these bus companies. Still, I decided to push through with it. Que sera sera.
I arrived at the terminal before midnight, I was also under the impression that there are buses there and would leave on schedule. Well, what do you know, public transportation here in the Philippines still needs A LOT of improvement. So as for my first solo midnight bus ride, I ended up standing inside a bus bound for Cabanatuan city. After a few, I was able to sit and at least nap a little. Then, because I was the only traveler bound for Baler at three o’clock in the morning, I took a chance and rode another full bus to Baler. This time, I was stuck in a middle seat at the back of the bus. Well, all charge to experience.
Baler’s charm is not just about the waves but also its people. As what I have mentioned, Baler is very tourist friendly, whether local or foreign. Locals have come to love all visitors, they are all welcoming and accommodating to everyone. Specially at The Circle Hostel, there are no strangers! And no wonder some tourist ended up settling in Baler for good.
I certainly had an amazing weekend in Baler. Though it was actually not enough. I will definitely be back here. SOON!