The Allure of Baler (1 of 3)

Master photographer George Tapan would often invite people to have a photo shoot in Baler. He held two workshops last year in the area (which I missed). I’ve always been curious about Baler ever since. 

Baler is a top destination for hard-core surfers who love Cemento’s Cobra Reef but remains relatively unknown among Manila’s travelers. We just decided to go there 2 weeks before the actual Baler trip and we were able to reserve a room easily during the peak holiday season (December 29-January 1).

But what is it about Baler that keeps people (surfers, photographers and travel enthusiasts) coming back to it? I was smitten by Baler’s allure and we all fell in love with it.

OAP | Baler, Aurora, Quezon Series:

Where is Baler?


Baler is in the East Coast of Luzon, facing the Pacific Ocean. This part of the country seems to be among the least explored, and Aurora is just starting to be discovered by Manileños.

It is the perfect road trip for us since it is only 6 hours away from Manila. Surfers would often leave at 12mn and arrive in Baler in time for the early morning surf in glassy weather condition.

For families with kids, we recommend traveling during the daytime so when you leave at 5 in the morning, you’ll arrive just in time for lunch and check-in. You have to condition and excite your kids to wake up this early.

I was surprised to find out the roads are 80% paved already. The days of super rough, bumpy roads are over, which often deter the road trip travelers.

The winding path through Pantambangan Dam is beautiful! It is like a winding race circuit cutting through the Sierra Madre Mountains, with the Pantambangan Dam watching over you. (TIP: Travel during the daytime to appreciate its beauty.)

 

What to do in Baler?

Definitely, Surf!

Most beginners would start in the beach break of Sabang Beach. Advanced surfers love Cemento’s Cobra Reef. Other surf spots would be Charlie’s Point, Linda’s Point, and the secret spot at the mouth of Baler River.

Learn how to Surf! πŸ™‚

Surfing Lessons start at P400/hour with instructor already. You can learn from Charlie Does in Bahia Baler by Alex Angara and Mahdox Surf School by the top Baler Surfer – Engr. Rommel Rojo or simply Okoy, as he is known in the surfing community.

Baler was the place where parts of the Apocalypse Now movie was shot during the Marcos era. There are a lot of references to that movie, and you’ll understand why the surf shop is named Charlie Does.

A Surreal Avatar Experience!

This huge Balete tree is quite unique because you can enter it for that surreal Avatar experience. It is claimed to be the largest Balete Tree in Asia and is 600+ years old. It is a photogenic place for group shots, fashion photos or an eco-editorial shot.

Only thing is, it is located in the town before Baler –Maria Aurora. Also, it is at the center of a political controversy between the Angaras (incumbent pushing for Aurora’s toursim) and the Ronquillos (who own the land) so, sadly, no one maintains it for now.

 

Play with the kids in the sand.

The boys had a great time playing along the beach because it’s a bit cold and windy, and the waves were crashing on the beach, one after the other.

During this time of year, the undercurrents are very strong, so I would not recommend swimming with your kids then.

Honor the 7 families who survived the great tsunami on December 27, 1735.

Nemi Merinda created this monument to honor the families who survived (which included the Angaras).

The families were able to climb Ermita Hill, which is the highest point overlooking Baler Bay.  A Shrine in Ermita hill was dedicated to commemorate the incident.

Relive the Manuel L. Quezon Days!

A popular sightseeing spot in Baler is the place housing the vintage cars used by Manuel L. Quezon (1937 Chrysler Airflow) and General Douglas MacArthur (1937 Cadillac Cabriolet).

President Manuel L. Quezon (19 August 1878 – 1 August 1944) is honored in the new P20 bill by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, where he is described as:

“Popularly known as the ‘Father of the National Language,’ Manuel L. Quezon is the second president of the Philippines and the first to be elected through a national election. He worked tirelessly to gain recognition for the Philippines as an independent nation. During his term, a national language for the Philippines was adopted and our women were given the right to vote. Quezon is the first Filipino president to hold office in Malacañan Palace by the Pasig River in Manila.”

Baler, Aurora, Quezon is his hometown, so this is a great opportunity to have a close encounter with his history and the legacy of his wife Doña Aurora.

Take home a Baler Weave!

We are fans of the woven products in Baler, especially the designed hats and fans. Drop by the pasalubong center behind the Baler Market to take home a Baler weave.


Diguisit Rock Formations

Baler is a haven for eco-tourism adventure because of the different rock formations, hiking trails, waterfall destinations, and secluded coves that are accessible only by rough roads.

We decided not to go there during this trip because it is not advisable to take the kids there. We’ll go back to Baler to feature the different nature-tripping spots with our traveler friends.

TIP: The Best Tour Guide in Baler is Charles “Mac” Ritual +63 909 683-1363.
If he is not available, ask for tour guide recommendations from him. He is an adventure tour guide from the Baler Tourism group, , and he’s also the tour guide of VIPs like George Tapan. πŸ™‚

Where to Eat in Baler?

Surprisingly, home-cooked food is relatively good in Baler. Here are our favorites:

The Rolling Stores of Baler beside the church in town are the most popular among surfers because you can have a home-cooked meal for under P100 only. Our favorite carinderia stall is Shane’s Eatery beside Triple B-Mae Foodstop.

Bay’s Inn Home-Cooked Food! We love Bay’s Inn because of its old-school comfort food dishes — quite affordable at P150 (average)/person, and it is in the center of Sabang Beach with a great view of the surfers in action.

Appetizers, Soups and Sizzlers | Fish, Shrimps, Squid | Chicken, Beef and Pork | Vegetables, Salad and Noodles | Sandwiches and Pizzas | Sizzling Plate Madness, Fried Chicken Value Meals, and Pancit Palabok Merienda Meals | Hot Beverages, Softdrinks, and Seasoned Fruit Shake | Corkage, Hot Drinks, and Cocktail

Gerry Shan’s Chinese Place serves the best Chinese food in the area, especially the spicy squid. We had our Media Noche feast for 10 people for only P200/person! It is located along Quezon St. in Baler town. You can call them at 63 948 6616-848 for reservations/catering in Baler.

Gerry Shan Menu FrontGerry Shan Menu Back

Bahia de Baler’s Bar and Grill is the most expensive (around P200 per dish). The All Day Breakfast Meals (P150) are very good. It is the best place to have dinner because of the live band there every night. πŸ™‚ It is located in the center of Sabang Beach (near the shore) and near Bay’s Inn.

 All Day Breakfast, Appetizer, Soup, Pasta or Noodles | Chicken, Fish, Vegetables, Pork, Other Seafoods, Beef | Sandwiches, Fruit Shakes, Frosties, A. SizzlersBeverages and Liquor 

Overall, the food has a long way to go in Baler, but I love the unadulterated home-cooked Pinoy food goodness.

Where to Stay?

Bahia de Baler 2 is the best place to stay for us since it is located in the center of activity in Sabang Beach. It is a 3-storey boutique inn with a mini-zoo at the back, a decent cafe (Cafe Rossa) beside it, and free Wifi in the lobby.

Bahia de Baler 1 is also a good place to stay. It is just a 1-storey place with a huge open garden in front. It is located in the non-happening side of the beach and is ideal for couples or families who want a little privacy.

Bahia de Baler
Buton Street, Sitio Labasin, Brgy Sabang, Baler, Aurora
Contact:  Camille Pedreno
Email: camille@bahiadebaler.com
Mobile: +63916 770-1980, +63928 687-5424
Websitewww.bahiadebaler.com 

We stayed in Room 209 with 3 single beds and 3 complimentary breakfast (P2,700). There is cable TV and an inconsistent hot & cold clean shower. Towels, basic toiletries and complimentary breakfast at Bahia de Baler Grill are included. Our veranda was facing the back, so we did not enjoy it that much.

We would recommend the following rooms that have verandas facing the beach:

Room 205 – 1 double bed, 2 complimentary breakfast (P2,500/night)
Room 207 – 1 double bed and 1 single bed, 3 complimentary breakfast (P2,800/night)
Room 305 – 2 double beds, 4 complimentary breakfast (P3,500/night)
Room 307 – 2 double beds, four complimentary breakfast (P3,500/night)

George Tapan’s favorite place to stay in Baler is Bay’s Inn. It is a quaint place located near the beach. Both Bay’s Inn and Bahia de Baler are owned by the Angara family.

BAY’S INN BALER Lodging and Restaurant
80 Sitio Labasin, Brgy. Sabang, Baler, Aurora 3200
Mobile: +63 907-7005734 (Ask for Pia or Weng)
Email: baysinn_baler@yahoo.com
Website: baysinnbaler.multiply.com

In front of Bahia de Baler 2 and very near the beach will rise Bahia de Baler 3. The 15-month project will start this year and will end in 2012. The Angaras partnered with the Discovery group to operate Bahia de Baler 3.

When is the Best Time to go?

In 2012, Baler will be the talk of the town among Manila Tourists. We often prefer to go to places in the Philippines when it is relatively undiscovered, so the best time to go to Baler is now in 2011!

The Aurora Surfing Competition in Baler usually happens from February 12 – 15, which kicks off the Aurora Foundation Day celebration, which culminates on February 19 (a fixed date). This is the best time to go and see the best Aurora Surfers compete against each other.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Baler with someone special seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? πŸ™‚

OAP | Baler, Aurora, Quezon Series:

 

Live an Awesome Life,

Anton 
Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
Call or Text Me: +63917 5683-627 (LOVE-OAP)
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Full Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. We paid for all our meals and accommodations. I’m not related to, connected with or compensated  in any way by the Angaras or any of the establishments featured in this blog post.

P.S. Fuel management is crucial when you go to Baler. Gasoline goes up to P55/liter in Baler so we refueled just enough to get past the Pantabangan Dam / Sierra Madre Mountains.


56 thoughts on “The Allure of Baler (1 of 3)

  1. Hi Anton. Coincidentally, Baler has been the location of our last 2 family vacations. We went there first on July of last year and fell in love with the place. We were there last between Christmas and New Year for 4 days. I love taking pictures of surfers and my kids all surf so we can’t wait to go back. The last time we stayed in Bahia which was excellent but the second time we stayed at Aliya Surf Camp Resort a little further down Sabang which is cheaper and had the advantage of being right on the beach. It is still a work in progress but already is a rising star among the places to stay there. Besides the places to eat and the usual sites to see, I strongly recommend a drive to Casiguran. It will take about 2 hours each way but the scenery is fantastic. The road are newly paved with except in some hilly portions halfway. By the way, I saw you in Bay’s Inn one evening but you left before I got a chance to say hi. Hope to catch there again some time soon.

  2. OH MY GOSH ANTON! Just reading this makes me miss Baler so much!! I’m coming back SOON sa January 14! Had nothing but praises for Baler in my blog..loved, loved, loved the place! It’s so rustic and peaceful. And everything’s so cheap. We stayed at Aliya Surf Camp owned by another Angara (Roy Angara), Bay Inn’s quite expensive kasi, but we were always there just to eat. πŸ™‚
    Btw, hope to see you in Mercato Centrale this Sunday. I swear I will wake up early just to head on over there! πŸ™‚

  3. thanks for posting. was thinking of visiting aurora because we got some peanut butter (from aurora) last christmas and hubby loves it! now i know where to stay, what to do and that it’s kid friendly!
    keep on traveling (and blogging)! we’ll follow your lead πŸ˜€
    happy new year to you, rache and the boys!

  4. hey anton! yes, baler is super nice! and i was so lucky to see you guys there.. unfortunately when i turned around to ask for a shot with you ( may fave blogger ΓΆ), you were already out in the rain returning to bahia!

  5. I'll prepare a detailed driving instructions separately. But basically you travel via NLEX then SCTEX all the way to Tarlac exit. Go to Nueva Ecija — Cabanatuan — then into Baler.
    Anton

  6. Hi Joey,
    Sayang I missed you sa Bay's Inn. Sige we will try Aliya Surf Camp Resort next time we are back.Β 
    Thanks for this comment! I can't wait for my kids to surf too πŸ™‚
    Anton

  7. Hi Anton,
    Very nice to know you had a good time in Baler! This was our holy week destination years before since we have relatives there.
    I would also recommend the suman festival. Suman in Baler is just awesome! I always ended up with two bags full every time I go back to Manila.
    Thanks for posting!

  8. Hi Anton,
    Great post about Baler! I have never tried doing the road trip thing but I’m sure it’s worth it! The bonding time and comfort.:) I have been to Baler for like 3-4times since 2008 and just commuted (Direct by Genesis bus around 14hrs; by Bus to Cabanatuan and van from Cabanatuan to Baler around 9-10hrs total). It’s really a hidden surfer’s paradise and a real treasure for new places to see.
    I hope that the Aurora government will take care of the place and develop it in such a way that the purity and freshness of the place is kept.

  9. Hi Anton! I was so thrilled about this post of yours. You see, it’s my cousin (John Dee Bustamante) and his wife (Pia A. Suaverdez-Bustamante) who own and manage Bay’s Inn. Pia is the grand-daughter of Sen. Angara. They’ve worked so hard to make Bay’s Inn what it is today. Did you happen to meet them personally? Did you try their fried chicken? It’s so good! πŸ™‚

  10. Thanks for sharing on the commute. What are the bus lines that goes to Cabanatuan and what's the name of the van company? Do you have the contact numbers?
    A lot of people are asking how to go to Baler via road trip or commute. I plan to provide a detailed info after the series.
    Yes, I do hope the Angaras are reading these comments πŸ™‚
    Anton

  11. No I never met them unfortunately πŸ™ not sure if they were there in Bay's Inn last New Year.Β 
    I was not able to try the chicken! I tried it in Bahia de Baler but not in Bay's Inn. Will try it next time.
    Anton

  12. Hi Again, Anton! It’s not fried chicken. Garlic Chicken pala. My bad. I’m sure it’s also served in Bahia De Baler Bar & Grill because Pia manages that too. Bay’s Inn is so known for John Dee’s Garlic Chicken, the resort of the “rival political clan” even attempted to “recreate” the recipe (but to no avail). Hehehe!
    It’s been so long kasi since I’ve been there. 2003 pa ata. The Bar and Grill wasn’t there yet. But even then, Bay’s Inn is a favorite Friday and weekend “hang-out” place for people — turistas (mapa-foreigner or not) and locals alike.
    I remember my cousin taking us to this spring where the water is soooo cold and fresh. We set up a picnic there too. It was the best picnic ever! My cousin, who’s a foodie, really went all out in treating us and making sure to highlight Baler as a definite tourists’ spot.
    (Sayang talaga you weren’t able to meet the Bustamantes. They were there. We saw each other on Christmas day and they left soon after for Baler.)

  13. As someone who’s been to this place so many times (and still manages to get lost on the way there) I wish I’d written a post like this about this truly awesome place! But this will definitely do!
    Baler is the best!

  14. I will definitely go to Aurora Province.. this 2011.. I’m excited.. Is it ok to stay there alone for 4 days? How much would be the budget? Thanks a lot..:)
    -Cory

  15. Have you ever tried Baler in February, during the Aurora day festivities? If you haven’t, please do. It would be a different experience.

  16. Yes, you can stay there alone. Bed space could be as low as P300/night and your good could be P100/meal in Rolling Stores + transpo na lang and you'll get a budget. Siguro budget P5,000 for one week.

  17. I’ll take note of these details on our adventure to Baler this coming weekend. πŸ™‚ I can’t fully remember the bus name that goes to Cabanatuan while the van, we do not have a certain contact. There are usually vans at the Cabanatuan terminal waiting for passengers (it’s better that you go in 8-12 people per group so that you won’t wait for other passengers..unless your small group is willing to rent the whole van.).
    Thanks Anton! πŸ™‚

  18. Not bad at all, the roads are rocky but even and most of them are very short near the bridges.
    Live an Awesome Life,
    Anton Diaz
    Founder, http://www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
    Call or Text Me: +63917 5683-627 (LOVE-OAP)
    Follow Me Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube
    Latest Blog Post on Our Awesome Planet: Chef Tatung's Private Dining

  19. Hi Sir Anton.. Thanks so much for the info. My friends and I will go to Aurora this Feb. Would you recommend a place where we could stay in (Range would be 200-300 per person/ night) ? We are 8 in our group. Thanks a lot. Heard that there are nipa huts as low as 250/night good for how many persons. A friend of mine told me this when she went to Aurora. But I still want to know additional info. Thanks a lot.

  20. sir, nakalagay po sa link ninyu/address sa dulu ay “baler-aurora-quezon.htm”
    depo kami parte po ng quezon. aurora province lang po kami.

  21. Great Blog Anton, this gives first time traveler to know about Baler’s Beautiful town… I’m looking forward to visit your home place this April with my whole family for surfing and some adventures…
    Immanuel

  22. hi sir anton…just read your blog…i think i need ur help and suggesyions…we’re a group of 6 and pallning to go to baler in early april…where do u think is d best place to stay, yung budget place pero ok naman…and if u have a tour guide to suggest para makasama namin…thank you and i hope u can help me… πŸ™‚

  23. Hello Anton,
    I learn that a lot of people want a cheap place to rent for a few days.
    I have a newly built transient 3 story building infront of Premiere Hospital in Baler. Just in case you need more rooms. It is available right now specially this coming Aurora Foundation day.
    They can contact us on my cp# 09209380264 or email us at edshie_1962@hotmail.com.
    Thanks & regards,
    Edshie San Pedro

  24. Hi Sir, there is another excellent beach north of Baler, about one and a half hours drive towards Casiguran. Small town called Dinadiawan. 80% paved road. The sea is more flat and the beach is white. There some resorts newly opened, we stayed at Dinadiawan Beach Resort. Tip: Bring food.

  25. Great feature on Baler! πŸ™‚ I’ve been to Baler for around 4 times. We always go there for a quick weekend getaway and for surfing. It truly is a secret paradise! The next time you go to Baler you should definitely visit the go to Ampere Beach (awesome rock formations!) and the Ditumabo falls (locally known as the Mother falls). The Mother falls is just amazing!

  26. Hi Anton. Thanks for visiting my hometown. It’s always a delight reading articles about my small town. I have a blog called batangbaler (www.batangbaler.net). I hope to meet you when you get back here.
    This link might help people looking for directions to Baler –> http://visitbaler.com/how-to-get-there/
    Some Beaches of Aurora –> http://batangbaler.net/the-beaches-of-aurora/
    Some watefalls –> http://batangbaler.net/aurora-waterfalls/
    And a correction on the tidal wave monument/statues. It was not designed by Nemiranda but by a local artist named Donnell Gomez. The sculptures were executed by fine art students from UP.
    Thanks again.

  27. we plan to go there by April this month. Would we still be able to catch some good waves for surfing by then? or may suggestion ka where else sa Pilipinas, pwedeng mag surf by April?
    San din ba sa Pilipinas ang best place for Scuba diving?
    THANK YOU
    Len

  28. hi, very informative details.. went to baler last week. it was a 6hr drive from manila, nlex exit sta.rita, cabanatuan, talavera, llanera, pantabangan, canili, ma aurora baler route. roads were ok except for the several humps at canili dam and the unpaved roads at ma. aurora. we stayed at bay’s inn. ATV rental was ok for its price. good food too. definitely going back soon…
    elwin

  29. Hello Anton,
    Thanks for this wonderful guide. It’s been a big help for us in deciding what to do and where to stay in Baler. Looking forward for trip next week. And we will let you know. Thanks!!!

  30. Hi Anton,
    We(me, my wife and two kids age 9 and 4) are planning to go to Baler at the end of April. My kids love water either pool or sea, so my question are:
    1. Where to stay?
    2. Beach that is friendly to kids?
    3. Places to see and explore, still kids friendly?
    Thanks
    Cons

  31. Hi guys! transient house in baler aurora where you, your family and/or friends can stay near sabang beach. lots of rooms! from 300 to 500 per pax. non aircon and air conditioned rooms are available. family rooms, king size, queen size, single or double size bed, WI-FI , dining area , cable t.v, videoke , kitchen , grill area , very spacious and safe parking area , etc .. we also have tour packages. call or text 0922-9-771-772 / 099999-07-688 / 0918-256-91-11 / 02-710-01-79 for inquiries or room reservation !

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