Thursday, June 16, 2016

Baler 2016: Surf, Stroll & Stall

The joy in getting something done always feels way beyond itself. It goes to as far as throwing away the value of that something being either just a small or great feat.
As for this trip, the true accomplishment was getting high school friends to say yes without backing out at the last minute and really actually pulling this off. That and checking Baler off our list. Baler’s been on our minds since before we graduated in college, so one can only imagine how fulfilled we must’ve felt when things finally came through.

But enough of being sentimental. This is supposed to be a fun adventure story.

DITUMABO FALLS (MOTHER FALLS)

A 30-40 minute hike through a trail that involves a stream, a damp concrete pathway and a stuck (I think) dam leads to Ditumabo Falls. Hiking, though a bit hard, was made fun by the relaxing sound and cooling feeling of stream water. Also, we started early, so it really wasn’t that hot yet. 
The falls itself had strong and wide torrents cascading that made for solid viewing. Water was, as expected, ice cold. Swimming for long could result to some serious shivering. 
There was even a mini-falls on the way near the main falls. It was crowded during our visit. We were either sitting or standing side by side other groups, so we didn’t stay long.  

HANGING BRIDGE

Though scary-looking, the wooden hanging bridge was something I enjoyed crossing. It didn’t make me feel queasy but jolly like a kid instead.
It has been built to link two barangays, but because of the nice river view it provides, it now also serves as a tourist attraction. I enjoy bridges. They can take you to two or more places at a time. They can make you feel exploratory.
After crossing though, there isn’t much left to do aside from checking out souvenir items on sale at the stalls or riding a boat back to the other side.

ERMITA HILL

Ermita Hill is symbolic of the catastrophic tidal wave that once hit the town and wiped out parts of it way back the 1700s. In memory of those who died, a structure was erected. In front of the hill, a sculpture of seven persons climbing and scrambling up the hill represents, according to our guide, the story of the seven families who tried to save themselves from the said tragedy. 
Aside from this sculpture, a white cross may also be found atop the hill, but one must take on the challenge of going through 200 steps to see it. Moreover, Ermita Hill also has viewing decks that let tourists get a glimpse of the overlooking beaches around.
As for us, we decided not to climb up the hill anymore. We were already solved after seeing the sculpture and being in the viewing decks.

DIGUISIT ROCK FORMATIONS

The Diguisit Rock Formations, as the name implies, is best known for its rocks and islets. Since it was low tide by the time of our visit, we got to really see the small rocks beneath the water. We also saw tiny sea creatures. 
We then kept walking into the water until we came close with the huge boulders. Even from afar, I could tell they have rough surfaces and pointed ends. 
We didn’t go to the beach proper, though. We took turns taking pictures since it made for a nice photo backdrop. It had that dramatic look to it.

BALER CHURCH

It is nice how, in every trip, either planned or unplanned, we always get to include a church or two in our itinerary. Since most travels take up much effort and risks, it’s an instant chance to give thanks for an amazing opportunity and pray for a safe adventure. 
In a way, there’s also much that one can tell about a particular place based on the story of its church/es. 
As with Baler Church, I’d say I didn’t see anything that stood out for me. Research told me that this wasn’t the original church constructed here, so this one is still fairly new and have yet to make history.

AURORA QUEZON’S ANCESTRAL HOUSE

Little info: Aurora Quezon was Manuel Quezon’s wife. They also happened to be close cousins. Unconventional but yes, it’s true.
As per the ancestral house, it’s still the original house but not really. Some parts of it have been renovated to ensure its stability. Inside it are photos, furniture, paintings, and writings relating to the couple’s family. A favorite display here is the vintage vehicle Manuel Quezon used when he was still president.
It is a typical ancestral home, not grand, not palace-like. There isn’t much to be explored here, but what would leave a mark to visitors is its ambiance inside. This ancestral home reminds me just how houses from before could be so ventilated and comfortable, so homey, to live in despite being small and simple. 

MUSEO DE BALER

First eye-catching thing about Museo de Baler is its façade because it gives off that rustic impression to it which only seems fitting considering what this place contains inside.
Visiting Museo de Baler is like time travelling to the past of the town through exposure to photographs, writings, dioramas, and antique earthenware inside. 
Displayed on the first floor are mostly artifacts like old porcelains, items of clothing, church bells relating to Baler while more abstract paintings may be found on the second floor of this two-storey building. This place is perfect for student field trips. It is seeing these antiques that makes history more interesting and less boring.

SABANG BEACH

The waves were a-calling, and we obliged.    
When people say they want to go surfing in Baler, this is where they go. First of all, it’s important to remember what it’s for. One should not expect anything spectacular as per its view, fine white as per its sand and clear as per its water. But whatever it lacks in all of the above mentioned it makes up for in its waves. 
Sabang’s waves are just the right kind for amateurs who wish to at least be able to stand on the board and, if luck’s on their side, actually ride the waves.
When we got there, we were welcomed by beginners and instructors alike. I was instantly inspired. My friends and I were each assigned an instructor to give us a 10-minute lecture about the basics. Afterwards, we only had to be a few meters away from the shore to ready ourselves and catch some waves. 
I wasn’t scared of the embarrassment of falling off because I could see that most of the surfers were also just beginners. And so I did fall off, many times. Then I got to stand on the board, and then fell off immediately. This was apparently because I wasn’t extending the distance between my two feet enough which would then make me lose my balance. Balance was everything here, but being able to push yourself up was also key. Then I got to stand on my board longer and longer. That first time I did get to follow the waves from start until I was almost ashore felt so gooood. Gratifying even. And it was all I did for one full hour, sometimes even playing with my friends who were also already able to control their surfboard.
Be warned: It could get tiring.

DINADIAWAN BEACH

Dinadiawan Beach was where we capped off our first night and jumpstarted our second day. It is technically not a part of Baler but the neighboring town of Dipaculao. 
The ride to this refuge was zigzagging, so it was a little inconvenient and risky. Good thing the view of the coastline was able to turn our worry into awe. It was hard not to notice the vast crystal green, and sometimes crystal blue, gracing our eyes. At first glance, it was very enticing to look at, what with the sand color complementing that of the water. 
When we went swimming, the waves were strong enough to lift us up and move us, so going farther into the water wouldn’t be a good idea. Also, while the shore looked all sandy, it was actually rocky beneath. Swimming meant the possibility of gaining scratches here and there. But I couldn’t keep myself at bay. I dipped in for some playtime with the waves; what good were they if I didn’t make good use of them myself anyway, right? With everything that I mentioned about Dinadiawan Beach, my heart was happy and contented with it.

MILLENNIUM TREE (BALETE TREE)

After heading out to buy souvenirs and before hitting the road home, we stopped by the Millennium Tree.
It looked more striking physically than in photos. It’s huge, as in huge-huge. Contrary to its name, it’s only 600 years old, leave or take a few. What’s more is locals say that its enormity is the making of many Balete Trees that have sprung and branched out from the original Balete Tree. The roots are long, thick, curving, and branching making the tree so big. It’s so big and wide that 20 persons can actually fit inside it. We just circled around it and took some photos then we were on the road again.
It was a good idea that we took a local tour guide with us. I learned that he has undergone some kind of training plus he’s a local, so he knows his business. The destinations are already beautiful by themselves, but knowing how they have come to be just adds color and interest. Also, talk has better recall than books.

Every destination we visited, except Dinadiawan Beach, was packed. It was a summer weekend then, so that was expected. More than that though, I’ve come to realize that there is only one and the same Baler tour being offered here, so people basically follow the same itinerary and do the same activities. That’s understandable since Baler is just a small town. Beach options are the only thing that differs in every tour.
The trips I’ve been a part of lately have leveled up activity-wise. From simple island hopping activities, we have upped the game by pursuing extremes. We have begun exploring and appreciating places not just by their breathtaking sights but also by how much they can satisfy our want for adrenaline rush. The truth is we don’t really look for these thrills, but they just happen to be available where we decide to go. As for the (kind of) adventure-seeking bunch that we are, we never want to pass up the opportunity ‘cos who knows when we will come back to these places we’ve been and (I know this can be irritating to read. I can think of another way to reword this, but let’s be real here and now), Y-O-L-O.

Being in places like this makes one wish days could stretch.

Published this post today because more than a week of rainy days needs a share of a little sunshine and warmth. :)

Photos by Froiland Pajutan and Charles Cornejo!
Photo edits by yours truly!

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