It took us five hours to cross miles of flooded and jampacked Manila streets and travel through kilometers of zigzag, uphill roads just to reach the beach town of Baler, Aurora.
Day before the trip, I was starting to think that it wouldn’t push through because of the terrible Manila weather. We had a hard time finding a taxi that we thought we wouldn’t make it to our meetup time in Quezon City. Alas, our Baler roadtrip commenced, and it was a pretty exciting weekend.
You can skip to the end of this post and see my Baler travel guide, complete with itinerary and summary of expenses. But you can also read on to know more about our high jinks in detail.
To make things easier for us, we joined a tour organized by Dreams and Destinations Travel. There were four other people in the tour, and I kind of felt sorry for them because there were nine of us. (Thankfully, soon they were laughing at our jokes, too!)
We left stormy Manila at exactly 1:00 AM on a Saturday. Ideally, we should have slept all the way through, but it was a bumpy ride. It was really zigzag roads that kept us awake. Okay, his driving skills, too. Our driver was probably an Formula 1 racer in his previous life or something.
We arrived at our first stop a few minutes before 6:00 AM–the great Balete Tree! The Millennium Tree was more breathtaking in real life. I knew it would gigantic, but I didn’t know that it was so big that people can go inside the tree.
Even though it was extremely early in the morning, there are quite a handful of tourists already there.
Contrary to popular belief, the balete tree can be found at the Balete Park in Maria Aurora, Aurora, and not in Baler.
What got me really excited to see this natural wonder is the fact that it’s the inspiration for the great balete tree in the Trese komiks. If you haven’t read that wonderful graphic novel, I’m not gonna spoil you, but you should definitely read it. It was pretty cool to see the tree in real life.
According to legends, there was a tsunami that engulfed the whole of Baler eons ago. Only one family survived the disaster, and only because they climbed atop Ermita Hill to not be devoured by the giant waves. The place was named after them, and there were even statues that depict their uphill journey.
When we arrived we were the only ones there. It seriously looked like the place where clandestine lovers meet up. But we were lucky to have visited early in the morning so the place was not crowded. Even though it was a rainy day, we still had a good view of the sea.
We stayed for less than thirty minutes and proceeded to have breakfast near the Museo de Baler. There’s a row of carinderia open in the early morning and we just randomly choose one to have breakfast.
Immediately after, we proceeded to Diguisit Falls. I was surprised to see that it was right next to the street. Well, we needed to do a little trekking, but it’s still pretty close by. You can even see it while you’re sitting comfortably on the backseat of your car.
It takes less than 10 minutes to climb to the falls, but we were unprepared for it. I had to take off my slippers because it made the climbing more difficult for me. The water felt great on my feet, even though I had to struggle against the slippery stones. We didn’t know it then, but it was just a warm up for the trekking we’d do later that day.
It’s just a small stop, but still, try not to miss it when you visit Baler.
Just a few minutes away from Diguisit Falls was the Lukso-Lukso Islets. We had quite an ample time to explore the place, but we only stayed for like 15 minutes.
Lukso-Lukso Islets are three little islands found at the southernmost point of the province and just a few minutes away from the town proper of Baler. The place was huge, and it’s just next to the road, too. We even saw it from atop Ermita Hill!
Excuse my face, but Shiela brought out her fish-eye lens and the photos turned out really nicely.
Museo de Baler
We went back to town for Museo de Baler. Some people on our trip opted out on this one even though it’s already included in the tour package. They either stayed at the van or roamed around the plaza and ate dirty ice cream.
But I’m all about museums and maximizing everything I paid for, y’know?
The museum was located at this beautiful two-storey, old building near the plaza. It was quite small, but it presents the beautiful history of the province of Aurora. You can finish exploring the place 30 minutes tops, and don’t forget to have a picture taken at the minimalist Baler the Movie background. I’m not sure if it was meant as an Instagram-worthy wall, but that’s what happened when we visited.
Our next stop was the Aurora Masion, which was a couple of streets away from Museo de Baler. When our tour guide said Aurora Mansion, I was inspecting something like Malacanang of the North. I was surprised when he lead us to a bahay kubo-like house.
It was the house of Manuel L. Quezon’s wife, Aurora. Of course, it has already underwent numerous renovations, but it hasn’t lost its charm.
There were paintings displayed inside, but it still looks like a normal house.
My favorite part of the house was President Quezon’s little library. I love old books, and President Quezon’s bookshelf induced some serious jealousy in me.
At around 10:00 AM, we were done with more than half of our itinerary. Our driver suggested that we had an early lunch instead of going to the Mother Falls on an empty stomach. We weren’t that hungry yet, but we didn’t really have a choice. Bringing food to the falls didn’t seem like a good idea.
Originally we wanted to have lunch at Gerry Shan’s but their buffet dining starts at 11:00 AM. We didn’t have to wait so we opted for Yollie’s Seafood Restaurant, which was just next door. Our second choice deserves some praise though, because we had an extremely filling and delicious lunch for cheap.
They had all kinds of viand (not just seafood!) that we had a hard time deciding what to get. Stan, Pao, Elzer, Joan, and I ordered a huge grilled pusit for sharing. Even though there five us sharing, we had a hard time finishing it! Everyone got to try it, too.
I highly recommend their laing, kaldereta, tuna belly, grilled pusit, and paco salad! Oh, and lots of rice, too.
I’m just happy that my friends were kind enough to let me try their orders, too. That’s basically my definition of #SquadGoals. Hehe.
Ditumabo Falls (Mother Falls)
After eating like queens and kings, we headed next to Ditumabo Falls, or commonly called Mother Falls. I heard it’s where Apocalypse Now was shot, but I haven’t even seen Apocalypse Now so let’s not dwell on that.
We had to ride a tricycle then trek for about 20 minutes before we could reach the falls, but all the trekking was worth it! (By the way, if your tour operator tells you that only tricycles can enter the jump-off and vans cannot, don’t believe them. We had to ride a tricycle but when we reached the parking lot it was full of parked vans.)
I was extremely unprepared for the walking. It was that time of the month for me, and trekking while its drizzling wasn’t my idea of a perfect day. But the views were amazing and I had amazing company. I couldn’t let the day go to waste.
After more than twenty minutes of navigating our way through a slippery and rocky path, we were welcomed by the amazing view of the waterfall. It looked scary! I felt like I’d die if I stand under it. In fact, it would be too foolish to get too near.
I didn’t get to swim that day so I made a vow to return and feel the icy cold water on my skin. My friends seemed to have a great time swimming, and I was sitting on one off the giant rocks, sulking. I’m coming back, I swear.
I think we spent more time trekking back and forth than actually staying at the falls. But there’s nothing else to do but swim. Unfortunately, the weather was getting worse, with the rain not abating. So the icy cold water plus the chilly weather didn’t allow us to stay too long. I guess I need to come back on a sunny day.
Check-in at S.M.A.R.T. Beach House
After a long day of jumping from one tourist spot to the next, it was finally time to go our hotel. We had no sleep and extremely tired, so we pretty much slept all the way from Ditumabo Falls to our hotel. Or maybe it was just me. I slept like a log.
S.M.A.R.T. Beach House is a beachside hotel at Sabang Beach. It has a pretty convenient location, and we only needed to walk a little to reach restaurants and surf shops.
While my friends washed up or went swimming at the beach, I got married to my bed and only woke up when it was time for dinner! Haha. Hey, I’m not good with this no-sleep thing, so forgive me for not having enough energy to watch the sunset or live my life to the fullest. Sometimes, sleeping on a comfy bed on a Saturday afternoon is my favorite kind of YOLO-ing. Yes, even if I traveled five hours just to reach that bed.
Dinner at Baler Surfer Grill
Only five of us had the energy to go to dinner that night. We walked leisurely with no place in mind. We were hungry and we ended up eating at the first place that caught our attention, which was this yellow Volkswagen turned into a grill:
I’ll rave about it on a different blog post, but just know that the place was awesome! Pictures cannot do it justice. You just have to visit it and try everything. It’s my most expensive meal during the entire, though.
(Read my full review: Where to Eat i Baler, Aurora: Baler Surfer Grill)
Sunrise at Sabang Beach
Surprise, surprise! There was no sun. Because of the weather, the clouds were obscuring the sun and we didn’t get a proper sunrise.
We woke up at around 5:00 AM, and Stan and Pao had already toured around Baler. There weren’t a lot of people at the beach, and it absolutely looked perfect. Despite not really seeing the sun rise, the view still looked pretty amazing, right?
Once it was light enough, we went back to our hotel to eat breakfast. It wasn’t inclusive of the tour, but I had been craving some silog meals since the previous day. The two boys were also kind enough to buy us pandesal, which only lasted for like five seconds.
We had an early start, which was what we preferred for the long day ahead of us.
Surfing at Sabang Beach
Right after breakfast, we went back to our rooms to be ready for the main reason we went to Baler–surfing! Up until that point, I still wasn’t decided to surf, but it seemed like a pity if I wouldn’t even give it a try.
I think Stan and Elzer were all chummy with the hotel staff that we got a discount for the surfing lesson. I blogged all about our surfing experience on my previous post. Katie was the only one who didn’t surf, but she was there in the water with us, cheering us on as we fall from our surfboards.
Photobombing our official photographer
No trip is complete without a fail jump shot.
There were supposed to be no waves in August, but because of the tropical storm, we were lucky enough to have an amazing day for surfing. I think it was good that we went there during off-season, because the waves during surfing season would probably devour me.
The view was fantastic that day and made for some really good photos. But of course, I prefer posting the weird ones.
Buffet Lunch at Gerry Shan’s Place
Our van picked us up from the hotel quite early. Since we washed and packed up right after surfing, we were ready to go even before 11:00 AM. We didn’t mind the early check-out, though, since we were eager to arrive in Manila as early as possible.
After picking us up from S.M.A.R.T. Beach House, we asked our driver to drive us to Gerry Shan’s Place. We were free to choose wherever we’d eat our lunch. This time we were just on time to be one of the first customers that day. Buffet was 200 per person, which was quite cheap considering the quality and taste of the food they serve. And believe, we loved everything.
They start serving at 11:00 AM, and it’s best to arrive early because the best dishes run out fast. We were crying for sisig, which was beyond great, and we waited for them to replenish it. Unfortunately, we had to leave even before they could serve sisig again. Yes, you can be assured that the food they serve are freshly cooked.
I highly recommend the sisig, papaitan, kare-kare, and crispy shrimp. They serve unlimited iced tea, too.
Gerry Shan’s Place
Address: Quezon Street, Barangay 2, Baler, Aurora
Baler Travel Guide
Here’s our weekend itinerary in Baler. On our next visit, we plan to do more surfing than exploring. Yep, we enjoyed it so much that we plan to go back and surf some more.
|1:00 AM||Departure from Manila|
|6:00 AM||Balete Tree in Maria Aurora, Aurora|
|7:30 AM||Ermita Hill|
|8:00 AM||Diguisit Falls|
|8:45 AM||Lukso-Lukso Islets|
|9:30 AM||Baler Museum & Aurora Mansion|
|10:30 AM||Lunch at Yollie’s Restaurant|
|12:00 PM||Ditumabo Falls|
|2:00 PM||Check-in at S.M.A.R.T. Beach House|
|2:30 PM – 6:30 PM||Sleeping, Resting, and Swimming|
|6:30 PM||Dinner at Baler Surfer Grill|
|5:30 AM||Sunrise Viewing at Sabang Beach|
|6:30 AM||Breakfast at S.M.A.R.T. Beach House|
|7:30 AM – 9:30 AM||Surfing at Sabang Beach|
|9:30 AM – 11:00 AM||Chill out before check out #rhyming|
|11:30 AM||Check out|
|12:00 PM||Lunch at Gerry Shan’s Place|
|1:30 PM||Buy pasalubong|
|2:00 PM||Bye, Baler!|
Baler Expenses Summary
Being an awful budget planner, I challenged myself not to spend more than 4,000, and I did it! It was really the food allowance that cost us the most.
| Baler Tour Package|
(Inclusive of transpo, tours, entrance fees,
|Food Allowance||PHP 800|
(Emergency expenses, pasalubong,etc.)