Monday, October 29, 2012

A Weekend in Baler, Aurora Province

I was at Baler (Aurora Province) last weekend with peers and this was something we had planned like a week ago. Sadly on the day of our travel to Baler, our good old country is being soaked with heavy rains by the typhoon Opel. We pushed through anyway, with the hope that the weather will  be good by daybreak, since reservations were already made.

We left Manila around 2AM Friday, on a rented van. There were 11 of us, including the very reliable driver. We snoozed while cruising the North Luzon Expressway. When we got to Cabanatuan, it was still raining and heavy rains continued to pour at dawn as we traveled through the mountainous areas of Aurora, with  the twisties and cliffs and all.  It was a bit scary, really.

We got to Baler around 8AM and it was still raining. It's such a bummer to be at the beach on a stormy day! It's like the storm chose to follow us and do it's water dumping at Central Luzon. We spent the rest of the day  eating and driving around town, and had a little drinking spree before going to bed. It continued to rain after midnight. But when we woke up the next day, hallelujah, the sun was shining  and we finally got to do what we intended to do in Baler. 

So Here are some pictures by me and friends Patrick, Don, and Rina. Click on the image  to enlarge. ^_^

In our two-day trip, we had our late lunches at Gerry Shan's Place located along Quezon St., Brgy 2. I'm giving my two thumbs up for this restaurant for their P185/head buffet. That includes bottomless iced tea and around 20 different dishes to choose from. There's spaghetti, salad and dessert too! Perfect for the bohemian traveler. The breaded squid, sisig and kare-kare are my favorites!

We stayed at AMCO Beach Resort at Barangay Sabang. It's a pretty decent place for the budgeted vacationer. It has air-conditioned rooms and hot shower. A room with two single beds is just PhP900. If you're a group of three, you can share a single room. Just ask for an extra mattress for PhP150.

Baler is known to be the birthplace of Philippine surfing. Surfing lessons is just PhP350 and you can enjoy your new-found skill for an hour. I didn't try to surf but I think I would if we went to the beach late afternoon instead of morning. I don't want to be dark-skinned for the Holiday Season. ^_^

A safety reminder: In beaches where the waves are high and spontaneous, never try to swim to chest-high waters (unless you have a surfboard attached to you). The undertow of the waves will pull you to even deeper water. You can get exhausted and even drown before you could escape back to shallow waters. It almost got me!

I like the fiberglass murals at the facade of the Baler Museum and that's not the only cool thing you'll find. I love the few Ming Dynasty porcelain bowls and terracotta vessels taken from different shipwrecks.

You'll also find a just recently made collection of portrait paintings of  personages from the historical Siege of Baler (1898-1899), interpreted by artist Sherwin Paul Gonzales. Also you'll see costumes and props used in the 2008 movie Baler that starred Anne Curtis and Jericho Rosales.

Take the time to visit Baler Church and give thanks for the safe travel to Baler and for a safe trip back home. This historic church is where the Siege of Baler took place. The current structure was built in 1939 while  preserving the interior of the original structure built in 1611. Today, by the looks of it, you wouldn't think it's a very old church.

Across the Baler Church is the house of former first lady Doña Aurora Quezon, wife of the first President of the Republic of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. She has done so many humanitarian projects. In her honor, the province of Aurora was named after her, after her assassination by a communist rebel group. If you have time to spare you can go inside and snoop around. I wish they've put a lot of thought in restoring this house. I just didn't like the very fake-looking wood veneer finish of the exterior. 

Next to Doña Aurora house is a glass garage that housed this awesome 1936 Chrysler limousine. This was the official car of the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. I'm not really certain if this car can still be driven.

Actually Aurora has a lot more to boast. Like the Ditumabo Falls, the famous gigantic balete tree, and Ermita Hill. But we weren't able to go to these places because the access roads was closed due to damages caused by the storm last Friday. 

Well  at least we were blessed with good weather for one day in Baler. We headed for home in the afternoon and we got the chance to see the breathtaking mountainous landscapes of Aurora. We encountered roads that are almost completely covered by landslide mud and boulders. We realized that we actually took a risk in driving up the mountainous areas on a stormy day.

We got to Manila around 9PM and had dinner together before heading home. It was a tiring day but worth every kilojoule of energy.  ^_^ 

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