Baler food trip: from rolling stores to grills on a red Volkswagen
Only one word comes to my mind when you mention Baler, the laidback provincial capital of Aurora in Northeastern Philippines: surf. Most would come here with that activity on top of the list. After all, it has long been considered to be the ‘birthplace of of Philippine surfing.’
So on your maiden attempt to surf, you try hard to still look your best as you struggle to balance on your board. You do just that, one wipeout after the other, until you have mastered the technique. But once the adrenaline has worn off, you then find yourself both stoked and exhausted. By this time, only one word comes to your mind: food.
Below then are some of the food stops that you might want to check out right after your unforgettable surfing experience at Baler.
The much-loved ‘rolling stores‘ by the town center are actually stationary. This is a row of karenderyas (eateries) that serve very affordable comfort food options.
Now there are many of these stalls and each of these also offer a handful of choices. But if there is one dish that you must try, it is Tripple B‘s delicious lechon paksiw. Their fiesta-like version was gloriously tender and simmered to utter perfection. Expect to devour heapings of rice with this.
Bay’s Inn is one of the many B&Bs along the long stretch of sand at Sabang Beach. When we went there for breakfast, we had their huge pancakes which were served with a sloppy helping of margarine. I’m guessing that pancakes are not their specialty so maybe we should stick to their breakfast buffet next time or their version of garlic chicken, which is said to be one of their bestsellers.
And I must also add that you really have to wait before your food is served. So this is definitely not the place to go for lunch if you don’t want to miss your afternoon bus back to Manila.
At Php 185, the buffet at Gerry Shan’s Place is indeed a steal. Although some of the options looked like they came from yesterday’s spread, you will never go wrong when you hoard on the paco (fiddle head fern) salad, the spicy crabs and the other seafood dishes on display. All these were quite delicious and filling as well.
If it’s my first time in a place, I usually go to the market to look for inexpensive food hunts that are thankfully spared by the touristy hoardes. When you come to think of it, what these market karenderyas cook must be fresh since they are located right beside the stalls that sell fish and meat.
At the Baler market, look for LVB Fastfood. They offer a curious mix of Ilocano (such as bagnet) and Bicolano (such as laing) dishes. Try their sinantol too which is an appetizer made of finely chopped santol meat cooked in coconut milk.
And finally there’s Baler Surfer Grill. This perhaps is the odd one in the group as it grills pork chop on a working red Volkswagen. The quirky concept is a breath of fresh air, albeit a brave move for the owners too, especially in these parts. We caught the charming bug somewhere along Sabang Beach but you might want to contact them in advance just to make sure where they would show up for the weekend.
While Baler is still on its way to become a foodie destination, there are still many surprising food hunts that can be had there. So after an hour or so of surfing, you might want to skip eating again at your beachfront hotel. Walk around the town. Go to the market. Ask your trike driver where he usually eats for lunch. If you do all these, you might just find yourself in an unexpected yet delicious food adventure.