Friday, March 14, 2014

Escape to Aurora

I am looking forward in exploring the province of Aurora ever since I‘ve read a lot of travel stories about it online. Aurora wasn’t just all about “surfing” which is still the province’s main activity. But it’s also about natural sights, historical discoveries and adventure trips which will definitely delight its visitors. So when I had a chance to go there, I did not let pass an opportunity to escape to Aurora.  

Genesis Transport is the best way to travel to Aurora. It directly plies daily to Baler, the capitol town of Baler on a 6-7 hour regular aircon bus or on a 5 hour executive bus trip. For regular air-conditioned bus, it stops at Cabanatuan City, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija but for executive buses, it is a non-stop 5 hour trip. I tagged along my trip buddies to join me in this escape to Aurora for a fun and memorable road trip and adventure!  

Surfing Baler.
I arrived in Baler on a rainy morning with my friends for a quick getaway trip before the holidays. I thought the rain will stop that morning but it ended raining the whole day so we end singing on videoke the rest of our day at our accommodation in Pasilyo Lodge and Surf. By evening, the rain stopped but since we had nothing to do a night, we just resorted for booze night at Yellow Fin Bar and Grill.  Though, it was a bad rainy day, I enjoy my first night in Baler because of Yellow Fin Bar and Grill. I enjoyed the cool music played along and relaxing ambiance of the bar.

Baler bound!
Only Genesis Transport has daily routes to Baler.
Relaxing ambience of Yellow Fin Bar and Grill.
 The following morning, it was still raining but it is less drizzle this time. So it’s a good opportunity to try the prime activity in Baler – surfing. We went off to Sabang Beach, the playground of surfer lovers in Baler. Sabang Beach is a surfer’s beach for its endless flow of waves as it faces the Pacific Ocean therefore it is not a beach good for swimming. But it is very ideal for surfing activity! The waves are calling the surfer lovers at heart. And it’s inviting for a surfing. But the waves at that time starts to become violent as rain starts to pour again. I opt to have a souvenir shot of Sabang Beach after my trip buddy almost got drown in braving the waves of Sabang Beach. But even though I didn’t try surfing or even swimming, Sabang Beach still has a charm of a scenic natural sight in Baler.

The waves are calling...
Surfing lessons is offered at Sabang Beach. Here are amateur surfers with their teachers.
He surf Baler!
Braving the waves...
My contact tour tricycle driver, Kuya Romel (0938.2760737) was our guide in this escape to Aurora. He fetched us since our day one in Baler and was our service in exploring the sights of the province. He is an accredited tour driver of the local tourism office and he was very kind to us. Because of the rainy weather we were unable to visit some sights of the province since our day one in Baler. So we just started on the second day only to those places that are available for visit. We ate first our lunch at Rolling Stores, the famous eatery (carinderia) in Baler that offers affordable but delicious home-style cooked food.

The outside facade of Museo de Baler. It is Baler's historical trip.
Viewing historical artifacts in relation to the historic Siege of Baler.
Painting murals displayed at the 2nd floor of the museum.
Meeting President Manuel Quezon for the first time!
We start our exploration of Baler by discovering the town’s history at Museo de Baler. Hundreds of historical artifacts and mementos are preserved in the museum for viewing and appreciation. A trip to Museo de Baler is a discovery to the colorful past of Aurora province itself. The most notable historical account presented at the museum is the “Siege of Baler” which narrates the almost a year of Spanish contingent struggle with Filipino revolutionary forces around the walls of the church of Baler. The Siege of Baler was the inspiration of the movie about it, titled Baler (2008) which starred by Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis. The movie garnered many awards at the 34th Metro Manila Film Festival for its beautiful story, directing and acting performances. It was an honor movie for the town of Baler that’s why a lot of the movies props were displayed at Museo de Baler including the costumes used and the trophies it won at the 34th Metro Manila Film Festival awards night.

We met President Manuel Quezon in Baler!
On the second floor, paintings of local artist were on displayed. Most of the themes of the paintings were Filipino daily life, historical events and historical people in which the most recognizable political figure is former Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon. He was born in Baler that’s why he is the most revered political and histotical personality of the province. Though a visit to Museo de Baler is a historical trip on memory lane, there is still a unique fun here at the souvenir spot area of the museum. You can freely use the props provided by the museum like a makeshift Facebook profile board where you can fit your face in or use the various fan sign messages for a souvenir photo shot at the museum’s studio like spot area. It was a fun and a great bonding experience with friends at Museo de Baler.

Dona Aurora House - one of the historical sites in Baler, Aurora.
Yours truly as President Manuel Quezon... Inside Dona Aurora House, just mocking.
Our next stop is Dona Aurora House which is the house of Dona Aurora Quezon, wife and then-First Lady of former president Manuel Quezon. Like Museo de Baler, Dona Aurora House is also a repository of historical artifacts and things belonging to the Quezon family. But the most notable property displayed was the 1936 Chrysler Airflow Limousine – the presidential car of Manuel Quezon. Just street across Dona Aurora House is the historic Baler Church. Officially named as San Luis Obispo Parish, Baler Church is famous for the Siege of Baler (1898-1899) that happened inside the church and its outside grounds during Philippine Revolution where the fight between the Philippine Revolutionary forces and the last remaining Spanish troops struggled for one year.

Baler Church or officially known as San Luis Obispo Parish, the central site of Siege of Baler.
Our last stop of the day is the 600 year old giant Balete Tree also dubbed as the located at the town of Maria Aurora. It is 30 minutes away via tricycle from Baler. It was dubbed as the “Millenium Tree” because of its age and gigantic size that I think 50 people hand in hand will complete a circle around it. I did not feel afraid nor scared during my visit at the famous Balete Tree as I’m quite skeptic about the superstitious stories about Balete Trees as dwelling place of supernatural beings or creatures. I’m more amazed by the giant size of the tree because I usually see only regular tall Balete tree but not enormous as this one in Maria Aurora! I’m also amazed at its age. Its giant size tells that it surpassed a lot of period in time.

The 600 year old Balete Tree of Maria Aurora.
The tree is not only about its size, age and surrounding folk stories about it, you can actually explore the inside of the tree to view it on a different way. In a small and quite difficult pass to thru opening, visitors can go inside it and see what’s behind its giant body. I’m surprised that there is a big hollow opening inside the Balete tree. At least 10 to 15 people can go inside it at the same time. Inside the Balete tree, I saw numerous long intertwining roots of the tree that stretches from the soil upwards taller than me. I’m amazed at the view of the tree from inside even some section of it are dark and quite paranoia-inducing that some might be lurking there.  The guides also invite us to climb the tree and have photo souvenir of it. But we decline to do so since, it just rained and the roots are wet which could lead to accident. Plus I have an injured and wounded foot as earlier in the trip I slipped in Museo de Baler because of the wet tiles from the rain.  After lots of souvenir photos, we return to Baler again via a 30 minute drive by Kuya Romel.

The trio meets the "Millenium Tree".
Piliting pasukin ang makipot na daan paloob ng Balete Tree.
Inside the Balete Tree... see the intertwining roots of the tree.
Yours truly, having a difficult time getting out of the tree and made more difficult with my injured and wounded foot.
It was passed six in the evening when we reached Baler. We decided to take a dinner at Gerry Shan’s Place, Chinese and Seafood Cuisine. I have to say that this is the best buffet in Baler I had! Mainly because it is a very affordable buffet dinner and I enjoyed most of the Filipino cuisine served at their buffet tables. (185PHP per head including iced as of December 2013). It was a satisfying dinner to cap off our tour of Aurora province.

Dinner buffet table at Gerry Shan's Chinese and Seafood Cuisine restaurant.
Dinner buffet at our last night in Baler with our trike and tour guide, Kuya Romel.
When we return to our lodge, we still had enough time as our departure time is set at 3 in the morning.  So I rest for a while before one of my friends, invited me to drop again at Yellow Fin Bar and Grill for a one last time booze at Baler. I enjoyed again the ambiance of the place and cool music played at the bar. I drink moderately and we settled early because Kuya Romel will fetch us early to Genesis Bus Terminal. But nonetheless, it was a great night spend on my last night in Baler.

A friend in need is a friend in deed!
Inside the executive bus of Joy Bus.
Suman de Baler with bits of ube... I find it delicious and sweet!
Our bus trip to Manila this time is via Joy Bus, the executive deluxe bus product of Genesis Transport. Joy Bus is a deluxe bus plying to Manila non-stop for only 5 hours. It has an onboard restroom, wide reclining seats like airline’s Business Class seats and an attendant to facilitate your trip concerns.  You also got free snacks and drinks too onboard Joy Bus!  Before we board, I bought Baler Suman (sticky rice) for pasalubong! I also thanked Kuya Romel for the good service we had and told him that we will come back to explore the other sights we didn’t see in Aurora.

My freebies snack at Joy Bus!
Enjoying the comforts of Joy Bus, but - Goodbye Baler, but I shall return on a good weather time in Baler!
As the bus rolls out of Baler, I started to recline my seat and lean on to feel the comfort of the deluxe seats of Joy Bus. I may not have fully explored the other sights of the province on this visit but it’s good enough for me to realize that I still had a great time in this escape to Aurora. Despite of the bad weather and mishaps, I still had a great time discovering Aurora – just some thoughts I had in mind before I shut my eyes close to sleep for the entire road trip.

Escape to Aurora was my 5th travel of 2013 last December 12-14, 2013 with my friends as we are looking for a quick getaway trip before the holidays starts. My first time visit to Baler, Aurora was made gloomy by 2 days of consecutive rainy weather, therefore making my trip failed to see the other sights of the province that slowly becomes a destination of choice of travelers. That's why I vowed to visit it again on a good weather time for me to appreciate Aurora province fully. And guess what, I might visit it this Summer 2014 on one of my birthday trips!


  1. I want to go to Baler and surf!

  2. just in the nick of time! I'm planning to go here this summer. this would be helpful!

    thanks for the blog visit! :)

  3. Baler's Beginner Surf competition next month. Lez go!!!

    nice blog post btw =)

  4. nice ayos to kumpleto rekados di lang poro surf na feature mo sa Baler :)

    1. May notion kasi na Aurora is just all about surfing pero no... ang daming magagandang pwedeng puntahan sa Aurora aside doing surfing. Sana bisithahin mo din ang Aurora.


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