I badly need sunlight. And while I believe there is an app for that, nothing still beats the real feeling of the heat warming up your skin and the slight breeze of the ocean cooling you out at the same time. Alright I do not just miss the sun’s heat, I miss it particularly in the beach. Fine, I miss the beach and being able to surf the smaller, pretty waves that summer brings on the waters of Sabang Beach at Baler, Aurora. Since I am on an honest streak here, I am also going to tell you that when I just said the word “pretty” to describe the waters at Baler by no means do I mean absolutely. It is a surfer’s paradise for a reason and that reason does not include my penchant for the smaller, boring, beach breaks to surf on (its the girl in me). Surfers come out here most especially during September, October when the monsoon winds bring in the larger, testy waves that can only mean great for them and can just mean plain scary for any other non-surfing person or even to those less-experienced surfer-types (i.e. me). So as a way to muster up my guts (and the skintight rashguard tells me I do have lots of those) in surfing on a non-summer day, I am going to tell the tales of what went on during a surfing trip I had with friends on last year’s summer.
The trip was organized by Istokewa Surf Tours. They usually organize tours during the seasons when the waves are good for surfing so you wouldn’t have to worry about flat waters. The trips are also held on weekends so you wouldn’t have to worry about vacation leaves and/or using your *cough* sick leaves (we all have done it. It’s ok.) to enjoy the waves of Baler.
Travel time to Baler is eight hours which may seem much but if you are a sleepy-head like me, eight hours of travel time on an air-conditioned van is the start of your vacation. We left Manila at around 11pm and woke up to a bit of a gloomy day at the beaches of Baler. While I was expecting the sun since it was the middle of summer, it seems that everyone at the beach didn’t mind the rain and still continued on surfing. Prior to surfing here, I have already surfed San Narciso in Zambales. I remembered it was very sunny and the waves seemed “friendly” and yet when I have gone on to try to surf, it turned out futile and the waters itself proved to be not too friendly for a novice and unfit person like me. Will the gloom of the day bring a more successful ride? I have yet to see.
Surfing lessons started after lunch and we were taught by the boys of Mahdox Surf Shop and Surf School. It is a one-on-one session where they teach you surfing 101 for an hour. Before actually going in the water, they prep you with what you need to know: paddling, standing on board, getting off it, etc.
|Photo courtesy of Istokewa Surf Tours|
|Photo courtesy of Istokewa Surf Tours|
Then comes the fun part: hitting the waves! I will say this again and again with surfing, it is exciting for sure, but before I hit the waters or while I am sitting on the board waiting for the waves to come in, there is always that nerve build-up that is hard to contain which is a mix of fear, excitement and joy. And then when you get to stand up on your board and actually ride a wave, each time longer than the last, it is just a release of that rush and you are left with just pure joy– and maybe a bit of pride in yourself for being able to surf and actually enjoying it. But of course you can never get out of surfing unscathed especially for a newbie like me; I had a minor cut on my upper lip and a lot of scratches on my arms and bruises on legs…Yeah, I am so bad-ass.
|(Photo courtesy of Istokewa Surf Tours)|
Aside from the surfing, I am glad that the tour also gave us time to view a bit of what Baler has to offer. We were able to visit Baler Church— which isn’t that spectacular but has a rich history that makes up for it. It was a famous garrison during the Spanish regime and has been rebuilt on 1939 due to erosion. It was proclaimed a historical landmark by the National Historical Institute on February 2009.
|Photo via Province of Aurora website|
Walking across the grounds from the church, you will notice gold-plated footprints. The footprints are there to depict the walk of the people of Baler to Manila as an uprising from an epidemic that was becoming widespread in the province long ago. We followed the footsteps to see if we can actually reach Manila but of course we did not. I know, we were bummed out too.
It did led us though, to the house of Dona Aurora Aragon-Quezon, the wife of President Manuel Quezon. We found it closed for viewing but the gate is unlocked so we, um, went inside. A couple of tricycle drivers across the street saw us but we were waiting to be reprimanded and none came so we strolled around.
There were some revolution-themed paintings on the house’s “silong”….
We want to go inside the house but this time the door is actually locked so we can’t. We are not professional trespassers, FYI.
On the garage, the Presidential Car of Manuel Quezon was parked. Its a 1937 Chrysler and was so stunning and very well-maintained, I won’t be shocked if it can even manage to go around a few blocks. But maybe not. Still, it was so classy and elegant– they just don’t make those kinds anymore.
Next we went to the Museo de Baler, which is also just a few walks away from the church. Isn’t it nice when everything is just a walk away?
The museum houses photos of famous people that are native to Baler, most notably President Manuel Quezon and his family. You can also learn a lot of things about Baler’s history during the Spanish, American and Japanese colonization as well as about their native people: the Dumangat and Ilongot.
So you see, a surfing trip to Baler is not just about surfing: you get to learn about history, culture and can be one of the coolest, most memorable (and smartest) weekends you can have.
P.S.: As of writing, the 2011 Surf and Music Festival by Aloha Boardsports and Travel Factor will be held in Baler on October 29-31, 2011. So if you are wondering where to go on that weekend, you know where you should be.
text and photos (otherwise acknowledged) by: K