Hakuna Matata -Baler, Aurora

Baler is a municipality found in Aurora, Philippines. It is a 5-6 hour drive from Manila, and it is the perfect place to go to if you want to learn something new and have your adrenalin rushing. I must admit that its beaches aren’t the pristine white beaches that a lot of people crave for, but it’s still worth the trip because of the new experience that it offers. It is after all, known for being one of the best spots for surfing in the Philippines. In fact, it has even been called the birthplace of surfing culture in the Philippines.

The story behind that is when the movie “Apocalypse Now” was being filmed back in the 70’s at Baler, some of the locals watched as the actors surfed and were entranced by the sport. When the actors left behind their boards, some locals decided to try to learn surfing on their own. When those locals learned, they proceeded to teach their friends, and thus, surfing culture in the Philippines was born.  The movie left such an impact on the island that locals still call the part of the beach where it was filmed “Charlie’s Point.”

The best time for surfing would be from October-April. So when we went to Baler last August 27-29, I was pretty worried whether or not the waves would be good enough for surfing. When we got there, I realized I had nothing to worry about because the waves were still really good. After talking to a local, I found out that surfing is decent all year round! So for a beginner like me, the waves were more than good enough.

Tip for Surf Board Rentals and Lessons: Ask the locals who can teach you how to surf rather than asking the resorts. The normal rate should be around Php 350 /hour inclusive of the board. The resorts however, surprisingly, ask for Php 500 to Php 1500.

Based on observations, I’m glad I was taught by the locals. The ones being taught by resort instructors were taught in groups and I feel like it would be harder to learn that way. The ones who taught me only teach part-time because they are still students like me, so it felt more like I was just hanging out with friends. They told me stories and interesting facts about the town, and I got to help them out with their livelihood.

This was my first time to surf and I was really excited. It was difficult at first and I would fall after a few seconds of standing on the board. However, on my third try I was able to get the hang of it and surfed all the way to shore. It was such a thrill and it was extremely exciting. The water isn’t very deep, so if you’re not that good at swimming, you don’t have to worry about that. There are also no rocks and corals so if you fall off the board, it’s still very safe.

Another thing I really appreciated about the beach was how it wasn’t very crowded. It’s a long and wide beach so there’s plenty of space for the numerous number of tourists. Aside from surfing, you can also rent an ATV for Php 800 and hour.

Aside from surfing, another must try in Baler is to visit the falls. We visited Mother Falls, for only Php 30 per person. There is a 1.3 km hike to the falls, crossing rivers and going up makeshift ladders. Although this may sound difficult and tiring, the hike proved to be relaxing because of the sound of the falls and the breathtaking views.

The view of the falls was beautiful. However, since it was a Sunday, there were a lot of people. It felt cramped since the place wasn’t very big. I could imagine the experience could have been better if there were fewer people. Despite this, we still enjoyed because the water was very cold and refreshing.

If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Baler, they have a museum which you can enter for only Php 30. There are a few paintings and installations, but most of the items in the museum consisted of pictures and artifacts from the times Spain occupied the Philippines.

We weren’t really able to go around the town that much because our campsite was so amazing that we preferred to relax and lounge about the site instead.

We stayed at easy adventure, and they definitely live up to their name. I’ve always wanted to try glamping or glamorous camping and it was definitely a different experience altogether. We got to sleep under the stars and with the fresh air blowing through the tent, but still got to keep the comfort of civilization with our queen sized beds, charging stations, and clean bathrooms and showers. They had several lounges looking out onto the ocean and it felt like I was in a different place. They had yoga platforms that focused on peace and serenity. They had hammocks that were perfect for relaxing and reading a good book. The tents were on an elevated platform keeping it from insects and they were all very spacious.

Delicious meals were included with the stay so there was really no reason to leave this safe haven. Kayaking and stand up paddling were also included for those who wanted to do sports. You can also have a bonfire set up so you could watch the stars with your loved ones while roasting marshmallows. This place really was what made my stay in Baler wonderful. The stars at night and the fireflies were unbelievably breathtaking.

Before going to Baler, I had doubts because some people would say that there’s not much to do in Baler. I don’t remember the people who told me that anymore, but if I could talk to them about this again, I would tell them how wrong they were. You could feel the laid back, chill, happy-go lucky vibe associated with surfer’s throughout the entire town. It was the perfect way for me to forget my worries and just relax. I don’t know if it was just me, but Baler definitely helped me forget all about my worries.

Tip: Don’t forget to buy Nanay Pacing’s Homemade Peanut Butter because this stuff is to die for. 500 g for Php 180 and it’s definitely worth it. I’m so sad that I wasn’t able to buy more than one jar because now I am constantly craving for their peanut butter.

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