Where: Sabang Beach, Baler, Aurora
Duration: 3 Days,\ 2 Nights
Budget: P2,500 per person (group of 10)
Time to tell the legendary tale of what happened to our recent surfing trip at Sabang Beach in the province of Baler, Aurora! This debriefing, I guess, would be mainly for people interested in our itinerary should they be going there for the first time, and of course, to serve as an official record to verify the events that happened there along with the people involved. ???? Heads up- minimum budget per person is P2,500.
Febrauary 15, Friday- we met at Gateway Mall (Cubao) around 9PM and walked our way along EDSA to Genesis bus terminal. We got our reservation stubs from the register, and paid P450 to the collector a few moments after we got in the bus. While waiting, we entertained ourselves with nearby cheapo-street foods like Angel’s Burger and some goto. You just have to walk a lil’ bit farther going north. Finally, we left Manila for Baler around 12:30am. That said, better arrive early ’cause you are sure to run out of seats if you don’t.
You could ride the Joy Bus, but you have to make your reservation days before. The difference? You’ll have Wi-Fi, a stewardess, reclining seats, a blanket, small snack and faster travel time- making the supposed-to-be long and agonizing trip a most luxurious one. For the additional 250 PHP, it’s really worth it. The only hassle is that they’re always fully booked so you have to be extra early when reserving. Their departure times differ for both the regular and Joy Buses, so you just have to call Genesis Transport Services, Inc. at 709-0803 & 421-1425.
February 16, Saturday– After three stopovers and a couple of interrupted and forced power naps spanning almost six hours, we arrive at a very early 6am Baler complete with window moisture and shivering bodies due to the coldness of it all. Do bring a jacket and wear shoes with socks if you want to avoid what we’ve been through. We just rode the bus ready for the sun and sand to greet us right away! Lol.
To those interested, here’s the daily schedule for the Genesis buses leaving Baler that time:
What do you know. Upon riding a trike to our place, we coincidentally crossed with a parade of some sort at the Quezon Memorial Park. We stopped by to buy pandesal and watch.
The Quezon Memorial Park stands in honor for our President Manuel L. Quezon, having Baler as his birthplace. And near said park lies his original dwelling, as seen below:
After around ten minutes of tricycle travel, we reached our main destination: Sabang Beach, and of course, our place to stay at, the Pacific Waves Inn.
But before anything, breakfast is in order. We went back to the park via a P25 trike (divided by 4) after dropping our stuff to grab some grub. Apparently, there are quite a lot of affordable and delicious carinderias around the park so that’s where we went. In Erlinda’s Eatery, as well as in the other food houses beside it, steaming hot meals await you for only P50! That will be P35 for the ulam, P5 for rice and P10 for the soda refreshments. If you think that’s affordable, wait for what we had for lunch!
Since we’re already there, we went for a stroll in the park and museum…
We weren’t able to see much in the museum because, oh yeah, I forgot to tell you guys: there was a total blackout in the whole province from the moment we got there, and generators haven’t really been trending. So basically, light, electricity and bathroom plumbing water were stripped from us on most of the trip. But hey, that didn’t stop us from having fun.
Back at our place, we regrouped and planned for what we’re gonna do for the rest of our stay there- starting with a bottle of Emperador and some Black Label. In case you’re wondering, our staying fee at Pacific Waves Inn is P1500 (aircon) / P1000 (fan) per room of 2 pax, with P200 per additional pax. Since there’s a blackout, we were only charged 1k for our aircon room, making our two-nights stay cost a total of P400-500 per person. Check out their Facebook page here for more info. After one bottle down, off to the beach we went!
We had a game of 3-on-3 Frisbee! I didn’t know it was an actual sport with rules and such and not just passing it willy-nilly lol. Josh and Kash taught us how to play.
For the main event: With P350, you get to rent a surfboard for an hour and have someone teach and guide you to surf the whole time. It was fun! And tiring. Going out to battle the drastic ocean current while having its waves splash on your board and face the whole time can be quite the torture. But all the stress will disappear once you are able to get on your board and balance yourself. I got wiped five times before I was able to stand up for the first time, but yeah, there’s nothing like it once you get the hang of it!
Lunch: We went to Gerry Shan’s Place, another place that’s a P25 trike away (divided by 4) from the beach and famous for it’s P150 eat-all-you-can-buffet! You heard me right. All in all, they have around 20 varieties of dishes, including the main dishes as well as soup and desserts. And worry not because the food is not sub-par. But if I have to choose, the fried chicken, beef steak and shrimp would be the best of the bunch!
Mid-afternoon, we decided to start yet another main event earlier than planned- the drinking one! As the picture below depicts, there were eleven bottles of booze we’re supposed to have for our whole trip, but alas, they all got wiped out on the first night: 3 Emperador Lights, Bacardi Silver, Bacardi Mojitos, Bacardi Gold, Gran Matador, Smirnoff, Jagermeister, Souju and Black Label. Surprisingly, there were only ten of us! After countless shots from the regular rotation, Ping Pang Pong and the People’s (absurd and unfair) Game causing massive gastric spewage, the alcohol super-marathon ended around 6AM the next day.
This session was so hardcore, that after vomiting out our insides, we’re still handed shots and the rotation continued like nothing happened, no exception! Usually, puking would be the signal to stop and take it easy, but apparently, this wasn’t the case thanks to our tanggeros lol. It was awesome though! One of the best parts would be seeing sides of our friends they don’t usually show on an average non-alcoholic day.
Ah, dinner were hotdogs on a bonfire under the starry sky. ???? Our landlords were nice enough to set the whole thing up and buy us foodie materials too.
February 17, Sunday– Much to our surprise, we didn’t have the hangover we expected from all those kinds of booze mixed together. Our friend Ivy catched up, but Kash, Roda and Imps went home since they had work the next day. For breakfast, there’s a sari-sari store near our place that cooks instant cup noodles for P20, and coffee for P10. They’ll provide the utensils too which you can bring to your room, though of course you have to return them yourselves. Us guys just strolled around in the morning, taking pictures while Ivy, Lyssa and Reanne had their surfing lesson.
For lunch, we ate at Yellow Fin, also a P25 trike away from our place, beside Bay’s Inn. Their meals cost at an average of P70.
Next up, Asia’s largest living tree: the Balete Tree! About an hour’s drive away from Baler (van with driver for the whole day was provided by Pacific Waves Inn for P250 each), we got to see and actually climb this majestic tree ourselves! Well, with the help of some of the locals there. Just give them a tip after since the place doesn’t charge anyone anything in the first place. Also, take caution when climbing the tree since everything will depend on your grip and balance- there are no harnesses so if you fall, it’ll pretty much be the end. Doing it barefoot increases your chance of not falling.
We were able to reach one of the highest spots climbable by normal people (which is still very high), and the kuyas there were kind enough to guide us climb while carrying our cameras and stuff, and even taking pictures of us while and after climbing, like so:
Late afternoon, our next nature destination was Mother Falls, also known as Ditumabo Falls. I don’t remember quite clearly how long it took us to go here from Balete Tree, but I guess it was like 30-40-ish minutes.What I remember, though, is that the place is completely isolated from any big town or city. After arriving at the falls’ reception area, there were 30 minutes of mountain and river trekking waiting for us. Well, and so we go!
At the near-end of the trekking lies this river dam where Ungri was the only one to fight the strong current and sit in one of the rocks. At first we thought that this was it, but in truth there’s a secret passage on the side that leads up to the ‘real’ falls.
So here it is. Still having no electricity in the province, hence no water, we went here with the main purpose of bathing. As it was passed 5-ish PM already, the water was freakin’ cold! And just pointing the camera anywhere creates moist so we had to do the pictorial quickly lol. It was really amazing, the Mother Falls: refreshing, serene, ultra-clean and soul-captivating.
Having too much fun in the falls, we somehow forgot that the sun was setting, and in fact, that it already had set! It was getting really dark, and pitch blackness was sure to have caught up to us after a few minutes. The next big problem was that we had no guide. Nonetheless, we still had to push through if we wanted to go home before the sun rises. Good thing some of us brought their phones and mini-LED lights for enhanced visual guidance.
The same 30-minute trekking, only in pitch-black version, begins. Deep inside, I began panicking the moment we decided to go back. I imagined that if we had a hard time doing in it broad daylight (slipping, stepping on sharp rocks, getting taken by the current, taking the wrong path, etc.), how more hard will it be if we’re supposed to do it with our eyes almost closed? What’s worse is that if any of us gets hurt, there won’t be anyone to save us. We were completely alone in the forest.
Through sheer determination and teamwork, we managed to make it halfway. And that’s when we saw a faint light flashing from the other side of the river: a forest ranger was sent out to look for us. We met up, and he guided us back with his trusty flashlight, rifle and rubber boots. Oh, how relieved we were when we made it back. All of us considered it somewhat a special kind of ‘buwis-buhay‘ experience. Lesson learned: trek early, and bring the necessary stuff for emergencies: flashlight, cell phone, knife and first aid. When we got back, we ate again at Gerry Shan’s Place for the P150 buffet.
Anyway, that’s about it. We spent the next day packing up, and then going to the Genesis Bus Terminal to hitch a ride to Cubao. We didn’t get the Joy Bus, save for Josh and James (they had to leave earlier), so we paid another P450 for our trip back. Going back to Manila took a lot longer than going to Baler- around 7-8 hours including the four or five stopovers we went to.