Thursday, April 19, 2007

Aurora: More summer fun in Baler

The waves were strong yesterday morning when we woke up. It was perfect for surfing! For breakfast, I ordered the Big Surf Special at the restaurant which was a choice of sausage, ham or hotdogs with hash browns, toasted bread and scrambled eggs. It came with coffee and juice as well. But I was expecting a bigger serving of meat though. Anyway, we left the hotel at 9 a.m. to go around Baler.

Our first stop was the Church of Baler, a national historical landmark, because it had been the site of the last stand of Spanish forces in the country. As the Siege of the Church of Baler marker mentions, a Spanish garrison of four officers and fifty men was besieged in the church by Filipino forces from June 27, 1898 to June 2, 1899. The had refused demands for surrender for nearly a year and only did so when an emissary of General Rios dropped a newspaper from Manila inside the court of the church to let them know that for many months the Spanish flag was no longer waving in Luzon except that of Baler Church. The fortitude of the garrison was praised by President Emilio Aguinaldo in a public document issued on June 20, 1899.

In front of the church stands the Aragon House, the birthplace of Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon, wife of President Manuel L. Quezon. It's not the bahay na bato type but the small wooden ones that you would expect from a remote fishing town. If travel is difficult today, imagine how it was then. I never knew that Doña Aurora and President Quezon were first cousins since their Molina mothers were sisters! Also don't forget that Aurora province was named in her honor which is why it's very important to preserve this house.

We then drove to the park a few meters away which was the birthplace of Quezon. Aside from an NHI marker and a statue, they had erected a replica of the nipa hut of the Quezon family. Also in the park was a museum but we didn't enter since we had to rush to San Luis, our next stop, to visit Kaunayan (Cunayan) Falls in Brgy. L. Pimentel.

Our original plan was to visit Ditumabo Falls but it was closed due to a government project which I hope maintains the beauty of the falls and its surroundings. Anyway, the trip from Baler to Kaunayan Falls was about 30 minutes. As we exited the national highway, it was rough road again but not that far. Since we had to pass through private property to get to the falls, there was a PHP20 "toll" collected close to the falls. At the falls, each person is charged a PHP10 entrance fee.

Kaunayan was not that high. But the clear water was so enticing for a swim. After exploring the streams around it, I decided to go for a dip. The water was cool, close to cold in fact, and perfect for the hot summer day. And the water wasn't deep so you could stand directly below the falls with ease. After a little over an hour, we decided to make our way back since we wanted to try out one last thing.

There are a few just a few popular surfing areas in Luzon. And Baler is one of them! So we tried out surfing. We had arranged for an instructor to give us lessons at 7 a.m. but he didn't show up which was a pity since it was already low tide by the time we got back. But despite the fact that the waves weren't strong, we still asked the tourism staff to arrange tutorials for us even just for an hour so we could give it a try. The rate was PHP300 per hour inclusive of board rentals. They have daily rates too which would be cheaper if you planned to learn surfing the whole day.

Well, it wasn't easy. Balancing on the board was quite difficult at first. And given that we only had an hour, we didn't get to stand. The waves also didn't have enough force to push the board up. But it was still fun! And we plan to come back for longer tutorials.

We had to rush since our plan was to depart Baler by 2 p.m. So after freshening up, we had lunch again at Bay's Inn, which was pizza and breaded garlic chicken this time. We took a different route back to Manila, the one via Pantabangan which was suggested to us since the buses pass by there. But we felt that the road we took the other day was a bit better. Ever since the typhoon which damaged newly-concreted parts of the Bongabon route, the government had stopped concreting that road and focused on this other route. So maybe in a few more months, the drive via the Pantabagan would be a bit faster and more comfortable since the road was wider. But for now, it was longer!

From Baler, we passed through Maria Aurora which is the only Aurora municipality without a coastline. We passed through a lot of rice fields. But the longer drive was as we went up and down the Sierra Madre mountains, again on rough road. On this side, the mountains seemed higher and it was refreshing looking at the picturesque views of lush forests. But this route had more signs of human habitation than the other one and if measures are not undertaken to protect the forests in this area, we might lose it in the next few years. It was sad looking at patches of mountains charred by "slash and burn" farmers. In fact, some parts were still smoking. If the DENR is really doing its job, it should educate these people and implement the law by prosecuting violators since this practice is rampant all over the country.

At the provincial boundary, we were greeted by a lake which seemed to be created by a dam. We actually thought this was part of the Pantabangan Dam but Pantabangan was still far away. The next town after Maria Aurora was Alfonso Castañeda which is already part of Nueva Vizcaya. We wanted to make it to Pantabangan before sundown so that we could check out the Pantabangan Dam. And we got there just in time to take photos of the picturesque lake created by the dam. By the time we exited the dam area, the sun was gone.

We had a late dinner in Cabanatuan City and arrived in Manila at 11 p.m. More photos in Multiply.


  1. Anonymous19.4.07

    wow, grabe i wish i can travel as extensively like you! btw, what do you think of a batanes tour around 20k sya for 3 days? is the price fair enough?

  2. hi ivan! i'm glad that you've been able to go to baler too. visited there a few months back. seeing your pictures, grabe. speechless talaga ako about baler. di ko ma-describe feeling ko nung nandun ako at nakita ang ganda nya. ibang klase ang scenery at landscape. ang seafoods, sobrang mura. and did you notice the certain glow in the faces of the people there? the long and bumpy ride is all worth it. baler has left an indelible mark in my soul and i hope to go back soon. ingat lagi and salamat sa lahat ng kwento mo. malaking tulong pag nagttravel ako :) you're also an inspiration. hope i can share my adventures like you do.

  3. Anonymous21.4.07

    Wow, you went surfing? That's one of the things that I really wanna learn and become one of my hobbies. :D

  4. Hey, I know you. You are the guy "who travels". LOL ! Anyways, good post Ivan.....

  5. Anonymous23.4.07

    Beutiful! I didn´t have the chance to tour our country like you did, so for sure, this will be my next tour.

    About the cultural heritage, well, I think it´s about education and dedication to one´s roots that could promote preservation. I wish there would be more concern from those in power/the school system.

  6. Anonymous23.4.07

    hi, i was wondering if you have any info, as to where to stay, how to get there.. how much you'll be spending.. i've been to baler before but that was with other people and i'd really like to go back. thanks. =)

  7. Hi April, I suggest you stay at Bay's Inn (042) 209-4312. Also contact the Aurora Tourism Office at (042) 209-4373 for more information.

  8. Hi Ivan,

    First Congratulations for winning the PBA. Thanks for sharing your travels :)

    btw, have you tried Siargao surf?

    I know what you mean how hard it is to stand on a board-- tried it in Palawan.

  9. Wow! I didn't know you could surf in Baler. Very very cool.

    Hope we can exchange links! I added you on my blog already. Happy travelling! :D

  10. Ah, these are my favorite kind of trip: abundant nature and bodies of water :)

  11. Anonymous7.8.07

    there´s good info in spanish, english and tagalog at this blog of a greatgrandson of one of the 33 spanish survivors of the siege of Baler

  12. Anonymous7.8.07

    there´s good info in spanish, english and tagalog at this blog of a greatgrandson of one of the 33 spanish survivors of the siege of Baler

  13. Anonymous8.10.07

    wonderful stories about philippines,
    i will be there soon and would like you to ask if its possible to stay somewhere on san ildefonso peninsula on the pacific coaST side or do you have to go back every evening to baler?
    my e3mail is

    greetings from austria

  14. You can contact the Aurora Provincial Tourism Office at; (63 42) 209-4373;

  15. Anonymous20.4.09

    hi ivan. we're planning on taking a 4 day trip up north. any suggestion on where to go? read your blog about baler and im interested to visit that place kaya lang i was having second thought kasi we're planning to bringing our own car. i dont think any of us have any experience driving sa steep at sharp curve na road. personally, i think i dont even want to try especially if the road is beside a cliff. is it better if we travel by bus? looking forward to your suggestions and insights to make this trip memorable. thanks.

  16. Ysera25.4.09

    Next time, stop by the gigantic balete tree said to be 600 years old in Maria Aurora.. And also the beautiful Digisit Bay.. There are also two small waterfalls near it. And... I was able to stand within the hour on my first time surfing!!

  17. Anonymous25.6.10

    Aurora is undiscovered paradise!



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