To be honest, I don’t know much about backpacking. When my friend enlisted me to be part of his travel group, I didn’t know what to expect. I just went with the flow, but I knew I’d be traveling with people I hadn’t met yet.
I ditched One Republic’s set at a concert in Mall of Asia (MOA) on Friday night to meet them at 1 am the following day. From MOA, I had to go to Cubao Bus Terminal where we took Genesis Bus going to Baler. Travel time from Cubao Bus Terminal to Baler takes 8 hours.
After the long bus ride, everyone agreed to eat before exploring the town. Not having an itinerary to follow was so refreshing. Walking along the streets we found people in queue to have their photos taken in front of Giant Sculptures that say BALER, so we decided that we should come back after eating. We found Shane’s Eatery… Shane’s Eatery, guys! Baler, Aurora, does not only attract tourists because of its great surfing sites, of which it has aplenty due to its proximity to Pacific Ocean, but forget about surfing. Traveling in Baler is not complete without eating Arroz Caldo or “Goto” – basically, a rice porridge with hard boiled eggs, herbs, spices, and chicken or pork.
After our meal, we went to visit Maria Aurora House which is a replica of the first Philippine President’s house. We then visited Museo de Baler, which features several historical artifacts that link it closely to the Philippines’ first and longest colonizer, Spain. We rounded off our sight seeing by then going to the Baler Catholic Church also known as the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Church; the site of the historic Siege of Baler where Spanish soldiers refused to surrender and isolated themselves at the end of the Philippine Revolution against colonial Spain during the Spanish-American war for 337 days.
The town was surprisingly gratifying, but Baler was not our main destination.
We met a guy named Kuya Chris at the Baler Grand Terminal. Meeting him was one of the best things that happened during our trip. He owns and drives a van that goes to Dinadiawan. Initially, we wanted to go to Dingalan, Aurora but we were running out of time. So we took what seemed to be the longest ride ever to Dinadiawan.
The roads were nice enough for me to sleep half of the trip, and my friends were nice enough to wake me up when we stopped on a cliff to take a picture. It was too hot outside, but the view was breathtaking which made us all very excited to get in to the water.
Kuya Chris took us to Romano’s Resort managed by his mother-in-law. The initial price for a room good for 4 persons for 1 night was 2500 pesos. We tried to bargain. From 2500 pesos it was down to 1200 pesos. It was a fan room with own bathroom. Great deal, isn’t it?
We rested for a while and ate late lunch. The place was so tranquil the only noise was coming from the soft waves crashing on the shore. I was lying cozily in the hammock tied to two coconut trees when the owner approached me to sign a logbook, but she forgot the pen. We ended up chatting about the place, and she told me that a local tv drama shoots some of the scenes in the vacant lot beside their resort pretending the place to be one of the islands in the world famous Palawan. I have been to El Nido, Palawan and I can say that the beach can be compared to the one in Nacpan. They have similarities but Palawan is Palawan. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean, if not, then you should.
Kuya Chris went back in the afternoon and took us to Dipanindingan Falls in his tricycle. What could have been a 10 minute ride took us longer because we stopped in one of the bridges connecting the roads from Baler to Dinadiawan.
There was a group of friends preparing to leave when we got there. The water was cold and clear but too shallow for us to swim. We didn’t stay long because it was getting dark and we wanted to go swimming.
It was a long satisfying day. After dinner, we wanted to stay outside and get some fresh air, but there were mosquitoes, so we stayed inside.
Our second day was spent blissfully at the beach; swimming, playing with the local kids, and taking photos. We even bought local artworks made from the kids. We wanted to stay for 1 more day because, honestly, 2 days wasn’t enough. The beach was gorgeous, secluded, and tranquil. But all we could do was a promise to come back.
After eating lunch, we spent almost three hours waiting for a bus or van. Despite the sun shining so bright, we were worried because there was a storm coming. Aurora Province is almost always one of the provinces to get the storms. Going back to Baler was a struggle, a huge one! There were very limited vans and buses traveling back at noon, but Kuya Chris saved the day. He learned that one of his friends was traveling to Baler and he called us just in time before the van was full with passengers.
When we get to Baler, they told us that the next bus going to Cubao was scheduled the next morning. We all wanted to go home, so we took a van going to Cabanatuan City, then another bus to Cubao.
It seems like my friends couldn’t get enough of the place and the fact that we did it all by ourselves; no hostel booking, no itinerary, not knowing what to expect was so overwhelming. We were still on the bus home, but they were already planning the next backpacking trip. It was one weekend getaway of satiated adventure.
My friend Christopher created the below itinerary for future use.