There are other things you can do at Baler, a laidback town in Northern Philippines, besides surfing. The provincial capital of Aurora is undoubtedly one of the best surf spots in the country, but it has a lot to offer beyond the thrill of the sport.
Before it even became the birthplace of Philippine Surfing, it was first the birthplace of a beloved Philippine President – Manuel Quezon.
Indeed, a little dose of history would not hurt as this would provide a much needed in context in your adventures at Baler. Below are the non-surfing activities you could do to make your stay there more meaningful, more fun and more memorable.
Walk around the town
Get out of your beachfront accommodation and walk around Baler’s town proper. Drop by the Museo de Baler and read about the important historical events that shaped the town through the centuries. One of these is the infamous Siege of Baler where Spanish soldiers obstinately holed up at the Baler Church during the Spanish-American war. News back in the day do not arrive in hashtags, so the Spaniards did not know that their defeated comrades in Manila already left the country.
Right across the church, which is now painted mint green and looks more modern than I expected, is the Doña Aurora Argaon Quezon House. This was reconstructed in honor of the Commonwealth President, Manuel L. Quezon.
Buy souvenir shirts
If you walk further along Quezon St, you might chance upon Discover Baler Souvenir Store, which arguably sells the best designed shirts in town. Their prints sport a modern vintage feel which complements the surfing culture that Baler is known for. They also have other interesting items on display – car stickers, homemade peanut butter and limited-edition mugs.
You can also buy other souvenir items at the Pasalubong Center near the public bus terminal. Hoard on the miniature surfboard keychains to give away to your friends on your return.
Swim at Ditumabo Waterfalls
Ask your trike driver to bring you to the 140 ft high Ditumabo Falls or ‘the Mother Falls’ in San Luis, Aurora. It is technically not part of Baler already so expect a longer drive to the jump-off.
The water is freezing cold, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy swimming and even diving at the pool’s deeper portions.
Dare to climb the century-old banyan tree (balete)
Head next to the 500 year old balete tree which is so large that it would take 60 or so people to circle it. It has a system of aerial roots that has grown massively through time. If you are up for the challenge, climb all the way up through its narrow center cavity. On your way down, you may sometimes scramble on all fours. Should the task be daunting, there are enterprising young locals who are more than willing to lend you a helping hand.
Go on a food trip
While Baler is still on its way to become a foodie destination, there are some surprising food hunts that can be experienced there. Try out the so-caled Rolling Stores by the town plaza, the affordable buffet spread at Gerry Shan and the grilled items from Baler Surfer Grill.
Soak in the views at Ermita Hill, PAG-ASA weather station, Dicasalarin
Located at the eastern portion of Baler, these three provide spectacular views of the town, the ocean and the lush mountain ranges. PAG-ASA and Dicasalarin cove may take some time (and wits too) out of your weekend itinerary, so you’ll probably just settle for Ermita Hill in Brgy. Zabali. It is said that this hill served as a refuge by townsfolk when a phenomenal tidal wave called Tromba Marina swept Baler in 1735.
Just bum around Sabang beach
And finally, just bum around Sabang beach. Read perhaps a book while listening to the gentle waves rushing to the shore. Walk barefoot and feel the soft sand on your toes. Cheer your friends in their brave attempts at surfing. Or just watch people do what they wanted to do on a perfectly lazy afternoon at the beach.
Maybe they are just like you, they also have a deadline waiting when they return to their messy cubicles. But the strangely magical thing is that at Baler, no one seems to care about that deadline or that nagging regret or that imagined heartache.
Because Baler, whether you will surf or not surf there, will always be a sweet escape.
Our trike driver for all our Baler adventures was Bernardino ‘Bernard’ Aragon. He is a good guy, talks a little but if you ask him the right questions, you’ll learn a lot about Baler from him. You may reach him at +639089802956.
The Baler series ends with this post. If you missed out on the other blog entries, they are listed below for your quick reference:
Baler in 7 Questions | A Travel Guide
Baler Food trip: rolling stores, a red Volkswagen and some places in between
Baler Surfer Grill: grilling on a Volkswagen and why we wished we’ve thought of that before
That white thing at Dicasalarin Cove and our long midday trek just to get to it
Surfing at Baler, Aurora