For this year’s Maundy Thursday trip with the Maundy Thursday gang, we went to… *drumroll please*
Baler, Aurora! 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!
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 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.
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!
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. =)
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!
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! =)
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 Surf 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!)