by Danny Tariman
“We woke up to a beautiful morning, with the sun shimmering just above the horizon fronting our hotel by the beach We are in Baler!”
Thus I texted my friend upon waking up on our first morning in Baler.
It was a romantic sight – the seas sparking in golden yellow matching the hue of the skies just few minutes after breaking of the dawn.. How wonderful! I am captivated as I start the day communing with the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving.
It was a wonderful, fun-filled experience in Baler with my family.
Traveling to Baler
As what my family normally does, we do our homework before we go on a trip – we research the place, the interesting places to visit, the native delicacies and food that we can taste, and of course, the roads to take.
The places to visit in Baler was quite easy to know. We noted too, that there is one cove which is not in the usual itinerary, perhaps maybe because the road going to this cove is a bit – no, not a bit, but very – challenging. I will talk about this later.
Our food adventure was easy to plan too – with all those blogs about Gerry Shan’s eat-all-you-can that is truly very easy on the pocket.
The road travel was a bit tricky to plan, though. Checking on Google maps, the easiest road to take is via Cabanatuan-Bongabon route. It says travel time is under 4 hours. But thanks to the blog of Carlo Lorenzo, we were warned that the mountainous route via Bongabon is rocky, muddy, and bumpy. So on his advice, we took the Tarlac-Sta Rosa-Pantabangan route, and presto, we made it in 5 ½ hours from Sucat, Metro Manila!
We passed by NLEX and SCTEX, exiting at the “end of SCTEX” – Tarlac City. Note that the highway doesn’t end anymore in Tarlac City, as the “end of SCTEX” is the beginning of TPLEX (the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway). We almost missed it, as I was looking for the end of SCTEX. I had to pull back a few meters from the turning ramp. The landmark for exit should be the “Tarlac City Exit”.
From the expressway, just follow the road signs along the way. We were also guided by my children’s GPS-enabled smart phones which were truly a big help navigating through the roads we were passing for the first time.
Our first stop was the Centennial Tree, this is about 15 minutes before you reach Baler town. This balete tree is believed to be some hundred years old. The diameter of the base root can be hugged by a human chain of about 50-60 persons! But don’t just see the outside, as you can actually go inside the root system and have photos taken inside! That is how big it is!
A teenage boy (with ID) offered to take photos of us family. It was a good decision to let him take our pictures as he knows the angles and the tricks. Using a mobile phone camera, he took a panoramic shot from the base to the tree top. The result: a family photo showing the entire tree. As if it was not enough, he took another trick. We positioned for a photo shot on one side while he was taking a panoramic shot. While in “pause”, he instructed us to move to the next space, and when we were in place, he resumed the shot. Wow, in one photo, one background, we were in 2 different positions.
We went to the town proper and had photos with the statue of Manuel Quezon. The exact location of the statue is believed to be the location of his Quezon family hut – yes, it was made of native palm leaves and bamboos. In the same complex, we went inside the Museo de Baler where a number of artifacts were displayed.
We moved over across the street and visited the old Baler Church. The interiors show the age of the church but because of repainting, church exteriors does not have the looks of a historical landmark. Next to the church is the house of Doña Aurora, the wife of Manuel Quezon, in whose memory the name of the province is taken. Inside the house you will see old native house interiors. It was good experience, my children had an idea of how a kitchen looks like in the past.
I had a taste driving off-road when we drove to the base station of “Mother Falls”. It was a short 20-minute drive which started on a dry dirt road, then about 200 meters into the path, I was driving on a rocky track. I feel like driving a 4×4. But thanks be to God, our Isuzu Crosswind beast was able to take the rocky path safely.
The falls is a 30-minute leisure trek from the base station passing through smooth paths, river beds, and bamboo foot bridges. Upon reaching our destination, showing in front of us is this majestic, cascading body of water – the “Mother Falls”. The water is very cold and chilly, my body had a hard time adjusting to the almost freezing pool. I was a thrilling experience!
We also visited Ermita Hills which has a commanding view of Baler town proper and its famed Sabang beach on one side, and on the other side the view of the Baler fish port and the tip of Diguisit rock formations. It is good to visit and take photos of these awesome rock formations too. The Diguisit Falls is also another stop. Just park your car beside the road, and you can easily climb the foot of this falls. I had a very refreshing facial wash in this falls.
One of the highlights of our trip is our visit to Dicasalarin Cove. The view is just awesome! Simply beautiful and majestic! The blue skies meeting the emerald-color sea. Don’t miss to take some photos at the lighthouse which stands tall at the right side of the cove. You have to climb over 150 steps. Once you reach the place, you will again be mesmerized by the view of the cove from another side.
Driving to the Dicasalarin cove is another experience. The road to the cove is narrow one-way track. But don’t worry, attendants at both ends have radios to ensure that you wont meet another vehicle along your way. The story doesn’t end there. The road is very steep climb to the hill with U-turn so tight. You can’t afford to drive on the 2nd gear. Some blogs says that you should drive a 4×4 but we were able to drive on our Isuzu Crosswind automatic without much difficulty.
The beach at the cove is a lot clearer than the beach in Sabang. We were not able to swim here at Dicasalarin beach as the blogs we read before going to Baler discouraged swimming or did not even mention swimming; and so we didn’t bring with us our swim wear. I would say it is safe to swim within the limits. The water is crystal clear and the sand is creamy white sand.
The best part of our food adventure was eating at Gerry Shan’s restaurant. The place is almost in front of Mercury Drug store in Baler. It has at least 20 courses at the main bar, 3 pots of steaming soup at the soup bar and about 6 for desserts. Come in early as tourists flood the area by noon. It was a gastronomic experience for just Php195.
We had our breakfasts at our hotel as it comes free with the accommodation.
Other Things to Remember
Don’t forget to pass by the public market. Nice place to buy fruits. It is very, very cheap. You may buy your souvenirs at Nana Pacing’s – right beside the bus station in front of the public market. There is also a souvenir shop in front of Museo de Baler.
One more tip: you can rent a scooter in Baler which you can use to move round. It comes with helmets too. We found this out from a couple whom we have met in Baler. It was nice and easy.
So there you are, plan your trip. Your next stop should be Baler!