Baler on a Budget

I was in for some adventure this past weekend with my co-nurses. Our destination: Baler, Aurora; the country’s surfing capital. I am never sporty but I always have this thirst for trying new things so when opportunities like these arrive, I am not one to stay home.

We left Manila Doctors Hospital scratching away the sleepiness from night duty at 6:30 AM. One reliable source told us that the Genesis Joy bus bound for Baler will leave at 7:30 AM. When we reach the Genesis Bus Terminal in New York, Cubao, our dear vehicle was already gone! Apparently, the source wasn’t as reliable because the departure was 7 AM.

We then took a bus bound for Cabanatuan and transferred to a AUV that brought us to Baler town proper, the average duration of our road trip was about eight (8) long hours.

I wouldn’t go on much detail but let me just say that we do not have a reserved accommodation So we trailed the lodgings fronting Sabang Beach and found one transient house that charged us PHP 1,300 per night in a room that can accommodate our whole group. Sweet!

It is the tides and surfing that I came here for; so after some hours of procrastinating, our group finally enrolled in a one-hour surfing lesson with MAHDOX SURF SCHOOL. It is quite funny that the name sounds like our hospital coin name; we sure wanted to be consistent. We were first briefed of the parts of the surfboard, some surfing lingo, and then we practiced getting up the surfboard several times I thought I memorized it already. But then again, when it was time to actually surf, I realized I was one conceited kid. LOL

One hour of surfing lessons with trainer and board rental is PHP 350. And man, it was the best experience!

Mr. Trainer would first push the board with you on top of it towards the tides, and when he thinks the tide height is just enough, he turns the board facing the opposite direction and let the wave push the board while the surfer (or wannabe) tries to stand up and look cool. I had a lot of failed attempts at first but I eventually got the trick and enjoyed standing on the board a fair number of times. 🙂

I really enjoyed this experience and thought of pursuing it as a hobby. A hobby, not a sport, are we clear?

Baler is one place where everything is affordable, I’m sure glad it has not yet been invaded by mainstream tourism. I did not expect going on an out-of-town trip would be this cheap. Following is more or less what one should expect to spend money on…

Accommodation

PHP 1,000 to 2,000 per night

Food

Rolling stores (small restaurants) are found all over Baler’s town proper, for only PHP 35 per viand. It is also a must to try Gerry Shan’s Place, also in Baler town, it offers sumptuous eat and drink all-you-can buffet for PHP 185. Truly a great stop after surfing.

Tour

Private AUVs are found everywhere in Baler, almost everyone in town knows someone who provides tour vehicles or they themselves own one. For PHP 2,000 – 2,500; your entire group can go around and experience this virgin place for a day of touring. I recommend going around in AUVs rather than tricycle because it is faster and more comfortable. Just make sure that your driver is also knowledgeable of the places, ours was just mainly a driver: I had to Google all the places we went to because he did not supply much information. My personal favorites were Ermita Hill, Museo de Baler, and Caunayan Falls with its ice-cold and deadly water current.

Transportation

The Genesis Joy Bus is the only bus line with direct trips from Manila to Baler. It has no stop-overs, has a on-board restroom, and a stewardess. You will reach Baler in as fast as six hours for PHP 700. It has only two trips per day though, and it comes with a reservation. If you miss your trip, you can still reach Baler the way we did, Victory Liner bus from Manila to Cabanatuan and then a private AUV from Cabanatuan to Baler. It cost us around PHP 500 but the travel time was long and very tiring.

Going back to Manila was a little easier, there is still the option of Joy Bus and another Genesis bus without the stewardess but with lots of stop-overs: PHP 450.

I had so much fun in Baler, this has got to be by far my favorite local destination. When I got home, I found out that there are still a lot of places I missed, so I’m definitely going back.