Baler 2013: In GPS we trust

For this year’s Maundy Thursday trip with the Maundy Thursday gang, we went to… *drumroll please*

Baler, Aurora!ย Travel took all of 16 hours (8 hrs each way) and took us to rather interesting duct-tape-less areas (inside joke), but man, the waves were so worth it. Sabang Beach was such a chill place! We’d love to come back soon!

Makati to Baler: 8 hours.
Here be the Grand Map: Makati to Baler in 8 hours.

Actually, until Saturday morning the plan was to spend Maundy Thursday in Potipot off Zambales. I love how flexible this group is! So we made a few phone calls to Baler and made last minute re-arrangements with the van, and voila! That’s how we found ourselves on the road at past midnight, just a few hours after getting off Wednesday duty. Amazing.

Prepping for the trip was a bit tricky — our van driver was unfamiliar with Baler, and so were we. So we had to spend a little extra time studying the route and printing out maps. Our contact from Baler emailed me step-by-step road directions, and ย I plotted it on Google Maps. That map can be found here.

The Makati contingent left PDI at midnight. I initially thought we’d be too early for our 1 a.m. call time at McDo Quezon Ave for the QC contingent, but the traffic on Edsa was INSANE. Took us an hour to get there. We entered NLEX past 1, and it was already moderate-to-heavy northbound. From NLEX, we proceeded to SCTEX, and by 3:30 a.m. we were out. After three and a half hours — our trip has just begun.

We headed east along the Santa Rosa-Tarlac Rd — smooth flowing given the hour, but then when we started looking for the Zaragoza-Aliaga Rd, things started getting a bit ‘The Road’-ish. Haha. The semi-rough road and all-too-dark houses sure woke everyone up. Sharing Stephen King-esque plot possibilities at 4 in the morning in the middle of nowhere? This is why I love this group.

(It was at this point that I discovered how handy my phone’s built-in GPS was. [I carry a Samsung Galaxy SIII] Never used it before, but I now love it to bits!)

We followed the Carmen-Cabanatuan road, turned left at the Felipe Vergara highway, followed the Pan-Philippine highway before heading into the Pinagpanaan-Rizal-Pantabangan Road. Admittedly, I got a bit excited when I saw bits of the Pantabangan dam in the almost-morning light. The beautiful full moon to our right + Pantabangan dam to our left = perfect pre-dawn hours. (When you get caught between the Moon and Pantabangan dam nga naman…)

The road started winding a bit, especially when we started going up the mountain. At some point it got so chilly that we had to turn the van’s aircon off and open the windows. It was also foggy in some areas. We were carefully zigzagging through the mountain when sunrise caught up with us. It was beautiful.

Canili River Reservoir in the early morning light
Canili River Reservoir in the early morning light
Sunrise on the highway.
Sunrise on the highway.

This was a somewhat long-ish stretch, during which everyone started waking up. Onboard banter: Always priceless. When we entered Maria Aurora, we knew we were getting close. After getting a bit lost and looking for alternate routes on account of closed roads, we finally made it to Sabang beach. It was 7:30 a.m.

Our contact was from Baler Surf. Due to the short notice, we were unable to get into any of the beachfront resorts, which were already packed for the day. Good thing Baler Surf set up a tent for us on the shore — complete with bean bags! Thanks guys!

Here be the group. Also somewhere in this photo: Bean bags. Thanks Kim for taking this photo! :)
Here be the group. Also somewhere in this photo: Bean bags. Thanks Kim for taking this photo! ๐Ÿ™‚ Standing, L-R: Jayvie, Andrea, Me, Jaycee, Alexis. Sitting, L-R: Ana, Abi, Almi, Mayi, Cy, Ian, Schatz.

After resting for a bit, we headed out to surf. P350/head for an hour of one-on-one surfing instruction, inclusive of instructor, board, sunblock and a bottle of water. Not a bad deal for first timers. =)

Define walang kadala-dala. I've surfed a few times before, in La Union and Real, Quezon and they always turned unpretty! Haha! Here's me before x number of wipeouts! Thanks Marie for the rashguard!
Define walang kadala-dala. I’ve surfed a few times before, in La Union and Real, Quezon and they always turned unpretty! Haha! Here’s me before x number of wipeouts! Thanks Marie for the rashguard!
The Baler surf crowd. Chill, laid-back, easy community.
The Baler surf crowd. Chill, laid-back, easy community.
The only photo I have on top of the water. The rest of the time I'm under. Haha. Beside me: Almi and Abi in what seems to be a surfing tango. Experts na kasi =)
The only photo I have on top of the water (right). This lasted for a splitsecond tops. HAHA. The rest of the time I’m under. Haha. Thanks love for managing to take this photo! =) Beside me: Almi and Abi in what seems to be a surfing tango. Experts na kasi =)
Andrea's turn. Girl's a natural!
Andrea’s turn. Girl’s a natural!
Surf's up! As I've said -- Andrea's a natural! =)
Surf’s up! As I’ve said — Andrea’s a natural! =) Also: I TOOK THIS PHOTO IT IS MY GIFT, etc.

We were shacked up in front of Bay’s Inn, where we also ate our lunch. After surfing, we tried our hand in beach volleyball. Let’s just say nasunburn lang ako at nabugbog hahaha. Sorry team!

Team Sunburn! Thanks Kim for taking this shot!
Team Sunburn! Thanks Kim for taking this shot! =)
Eto pa. Team Drawing. Naghahamon ng gulo mga to eh.
Eto pa. Team Drawing. Naghahamon ng gulo mga to eh. Salamat pa rin kay Kim sa pagtyaga sa pagkuha nito hahaha.
Camwhore sa tabing dagat muna. Hehe.
Camwhore sa tabing dagat muna. Hehe. L-R Schatz, Ana, Me, Kim, Almi, Jayvie, Jaycee, Lex, Abi, Mayi, Cy, Ian, Andrea. Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the composition of this photo HAHAHA.

It was a relatively chill beach. I expected more people, but I guess the rest of them peeps were scheduled to arrive Friday and stay til Easter. On my wishlist: A proper public shower room for daytrippers like our group. Get to it, Baler! But other than that: Beautiful place! We’ll be back — hopefully staying for a longer time. =)

We left the beach around 3 p.m. We didn’t want to get stuck on the long and winding road by nightfall — and how right we were. On the way back we took (by mistake) the other route to Cabanatuan, the Nueva Ecija-Aurora road. We missed a turn to go back to the Pantabangan-Canili-Basal-Baler road, and soon we found ourselves plowing through rough terrain up and down and around the mountain. Lesson: Just because it’s on the GPS, doesn’t mean it’s a huge paved road. Ok we know that now! =)

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: The Nueva Ecija-Aurora Road is not for the faint of heart.

Good thing we left early — we were able to get out of that stretch by past 6, just as the sun was setting. Would’ve been crazy scary to negotiate with the uneven terrain in the dark! Not to mention there were a couple of spots where there was actually NO ROAD. In one, we had to cross a fucking river. Hahahaha what in the world. Along the way, we passed a couple of sedans — and trust me when I say that wasn’t a good spot for sedans AT ALL, and one of them was driven by college kids who waved at us to ask for DUCT TAPE. Hands down the scariest portion of this trip.

Anyhow — by 8 p.m. we were already having dinner in Chic Boy Cabanatuan. On the way back we decided to skip the whole Zaragoza-Aliaga stretch, and by midnight — right on the dot — we were back in Manila. How’s that for a Midnight-to-Midnight trip? #teenagedream

PS: Andrea’s account of this trip is up on her LJ.

Particulars about this trip:
Van rental (24 hours, Manila-Baler-Manila): P6,000 van only, excluding fuel (we spent P3,000), toll (around P700, both ways) and food of our super bait driver Kuya Jaime via Sprint Travel and Tours – 0906-5784917. We rode a Nissan Urvan, and it was just ok for 13 pax traveling with a cooler.

Baler Surf offers one-on-one surfing lessons and more! Actually, we called Bay’s Inn first to ask about their daytour packages, and they were the ones who referred us to Baler Surf when we said we were planning to go surfing. Call Ria of Baler Surfย at 0920-9829998 for inquiries. Thanks for accommodating us despite short notice! =)

ALSO: I’ve been told JoyBus in Cubao has Cubao-Baler-Cubao trips that leave Cubao at midnight and reach Baler at 6 a.m. The next time we’re doing Baler, we’re totally trying that soon. =)

BONUS GIF: (That I hope you can view. It moves!)

This GIF moves.
This GIF moves.

Published by

kate

is sometimes mistaken for a panda.

10 thoughts on “Baler 2013: In GPS we trust”

  1. wow, super detailed! i love it! will definitely be useful to many people. ๐Ÿ™‚ ang galing din talaga nung midnight to midnight, parang rockstar on tour lang, haha! we’ll be young forever! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Loved your write up! Especially the part about the river (LOL)! We just came back from Baler a couple of weeks ago & stayed there a few days. Surf was “ok” (????) however I really didn’t like taking the Jellyfish (cough/choke) out of swim trunks especially in the morning when I think the tide is coming in. The one thing we really liked was taking the trip to Ditumabo Falls. I mean my God what an amazing almost Jurassic like place. I was amazed at the water temperature. It felt like 10 degrees C with the power of that waterfall blasting it around as if we were in back of a Jet Engine. The other part we liked was seeing that 600 year old Balete Tree. It’s huge & believe it or not you can actually go inside of it! At any rate, we will go back during the “Ber” months to see what the surf is really like. One fellow told us 14 feet high & that’s really good for some great surfing. So, thanks for your write up, it was great.
    Best regards,
    Fred

    1. Hi Fred! Thank you for visiting! We hope to return to Baler to visit the falls and the Balete Tree as our previous visit did not allow for that. What a chill place no? ๐Ÿ™‚ Safe travels and hope you enjoy your return to Baler.

      1. More than welcome Kate! Too, next time we go there we’ll also explore Casiguran where my girlfriend was born 38 years ago. The beaches are said to be very nice with some great fishing beyond the them but you know, I really want to explore Baler more. we met this fellow at the falls who I think (????) takes care of the Hydroelectric facility at the base & he told me there are other Waterfalls up from the one we went too that are bigger & better & “that” I really can’t wait to see. Just have to get in shape for it but Lord what a place. Only things per se missing were the Dinosaurs!

        All the best,

        Fred

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