2007 was the time of my life. That year I volunteered as a full-time missionary in this province of Aurora. Met & served good people whom I eventually considered as family. And got amazed with its enthralling natural wonders. That’s when I fell in love with the place, particularly with Dipaculao & the province’ capital – Baler. Back then, we only have a very little time to explore Aurora. So I promised myself once my mission is over, I would definitely keep on returning here.
Seven years passed, past forward to 2014, I already made 3 memorable visits. First was on summer of 2009 while I was working in a call center. And the second time was spent welcoming the new year of 2014. Every visit is always unforgettable. And this summer, for my 3rd comeback, I brought some folks with me.
Baler, Aurora is getting more and more attention to tourists today. Before, you will have to go through a very long rough road to get to Baler. D-Liner is the popular bus that brings people from Cabanatuan to Aurora’s capital. It’s not an AC-ed bus so you’ll have to deal with dusts and bumps along the way for several hours. And local people got used to it. And for me its actually an adventure. When I was missionary I wore a black nametag on my chest and by the time we get to Dipaculao from Cabanatuan, it already turned white. With dusts.
Today, there’s also an additional bus line that travels from Manila to Aurora, the Genesis bus. IDK if Genesis is already existing in Aurora route way back 2007 because I never got the chance to ride on it. Well, maybe. But today, you may also notice that the roads have been already improved, making the journey more convenient for both locals and of course, for travel enthusiasts. Baler also was also able to open several establishments over the course of 7 years. Now they got there NE Mall & Jollibee, even Mercury Drug Store! Wireless Internet connection is now also widely accessible. And there are now more hotels that can cater hundreds to thousands of visiting tourists.
For many, Baler is just a preferred place for surfers. But for me, its a haven of kind & hospitable people, an all-in-one place for all your mother nature cravings (hills, falls, oldest tree, hanging bridge, clear rivers, remote white sand beaches, surf-able waves) and a home away from home. Thanks to people of Dipaculao Branch whom I served before. They made Aurora my second home.
10 things about Baler, Aurora
1. GETTING THERE. The easiest way is through Genesis bus. It travels straight from Manila to Baler, Aurora for around 6 hours. We assembled at Genesis terminal in Cubao around 2AM and left around 3PM. We arrived at Baler proper by 8AM. Along the travel, you will pass by beautiful views of Nueva Ecija, Make sure you sit beside the window. There are 2 stop overs. If you want some adventure, you can alight at Cabanatuan and transfer to a D-Liner bus and prepare for some amazing cool breeze, a few bumps and blissful morning sunshine. Plus a chance to meet local Aurora peeps. They usually ride D-Liner and not Genesis when they go to Manila or Cabanatuan. Cabanatuan is actually their nearby version of Manila.
2. ASIA’S LARGEST BALETE TREE. This is our first stop. The Millennium Tree. The tree is said to be of 600+ years old according to tour guides and is also claimed to be the largest in Asia. There’s actually nothing controversial with the tree, except that its really looks old. And creepy. We got inside and explored the center trunk. And what really surprised us is that tour guides are equipped to handle different camera devices like camera phones, digicams & DSLRs. Haha. Btw, this Balete Tree is not actually situated in Baler, but in a nearby municipality called Maria Aurora. Baler tryc drivers know the place so you just have to ask them to take you there.
3. THE WAY, THE TRUTH & THE TRYC. Getting a group of trycs is the easiest way to roam around Baler if you didn’t come with a private vehicle. Its really fun too! You can’t feel closer to the nature by just sitting from an air-conditioned car. Baler tryc drivers are honest and accommodating. They wouldn’t ask you for a very pricey fare. But just try to get their trust as well. It is also smart to make agreements with them about your routes and talk about the price before travelling. Just in case, para walang gulatan. Hehe.
4. IN-BETWEEN MOMENTS. Don’t get too caught up with your next itinerary. Try stopping to a beautiful scenery along the way. And capture awesome moments. Going back to Baler, we stop over a bridge connecting the municipalities to get hold of the lush green landscape around us, definitely certified Maria Aurora tourist asset.
5. BALER CHURCH. The Baler Seige (or Siege of Baler) is a tragic, heroic and valuable historical piece of Baler that transpired in Baler Church. Filipino revolutionaries laid siege to the church manned by colonial Spanish troops for 11 months. The story is portrayed by a mainstream film released in 2008 entitled Baler.
When we get to Baler Church, they were holding their Sta Cruzan. Sakto. The parade’s very colorful. After everyone went outside, we were able to get inside the church.
6. DONA AURORA HOUSE. Facing the Baler Church is a replica of Donya Aurora house. Donya Aurora is the country’s first lady and wife of Manuel L. Quezon. Its is said that she and her daughter was assassinated while on the way to open a hospital dedicated to her husband. The province is actually named in memory of her. This replica house is open to visitors at no cost.
7. CHILLIN’ AT SABANG. Sabang Beach is the nearest beach in the town proper. This is also why surfers go to Baler. It may not be the beach to people looking for white sand (though there are white sand beaches nearby and to other parts of Aurora), but for adventure seekers looking for some quick surfing fix, this is the place. And yeah, this is my first time in Sabang. And the waves are lovely, perfect for travelers who wanna try surfing for the first time. Some of us did. Its almost growing dark when we reached Sabang. We stayed there ’till night and had dinner at the famous Surfer Grill located along the Baywalk Area.
8. THE FALLS OF ALL FALLS. Ditumabo Falls or commonly known as Mother Falls, being the largest in the area, is a highly recommended and an accessible side trip. There’s like an hour of easy trek along the way. The trail is more of walking than hiking so its friendly for those who are really not into trekking. Plus, you can get to enjoy a wide lush of green terrain around you.
You can get to Mother Falls by just asking a tryc driver to drive you there. We started walking at around 1030AM and reached the Falls at around 1130AM. It’s summer so its not surprising that the trek and the place is packed with travelers and visitors like us. Nevertheless the experience is totally refreshing!
9. PACKING THINGS UP. Our 2-day trip wouldn’t be possible without the help of Ate Juvy’s aunt who owns the transient house we stayed. During summer, it’s normal that most beach-front houses or cottages are full, even other nearby. So we really appreciate the fact that we were able to settle in a beautiful transient house just 5-mins away from the town proper during this peak season, given a very short notice.
10. ONE LAST ITINERARY. It was not really part of the plan. But while buying for souvenirs and stuff, we came across the Museo de Baler situated in the town proper as well. This local museum contains historical artifacts and pieces significant to Baler history.
One final note!