How Baler Stole My Heart
Just the sound of the waves kissing the strong holds of black rock formation in the shore wakes my eagerness to see this place again. The long line of surf boards standing and waiting for newbie to test it against the aggressive Pacific Ocean give me a shiver down my spine. Its glorious mountains serve as back drop to the already great view. You can’t also count out the old structures that survived the heart of the town, mutually living its history to the modern times.
Baler has a special place in my heart. The morning breeze is second to none. Coffee tastes so good here, especially when you drink it overlooking the king of the Oceans, which mistakenly named Pacific by the Great Conquistador Ferdinand Magellan (Magellan thought this ocean is so peaceful to voyage until he experienced its wrath due to typhoon).
Like Magellan, I was thrilled to see for the first time the directionless waves getting tangle in all angle (that’s a good rhyme for it). But 167 km away from Concepcion, traversing to Aurora, the province of Baler, is no piece of cake. Together with my girlfriend, we drove our way out of the sleeping Concepcion, but not without early challenge. My back tires blown up, just a 20 km away from our house. It wasn’t a good sign, I said to myself. To the last minute, I wanted to withdraw, but the carelessness of being so excited caught us up in the moment.
Until we reached the winding mountain passes of Pantabangan, where the unexpected happened.
Going 80 km an hour at this type of roads proved to be the worst decision I did. We stumbled as my fuel-injected motorcycle hit a creamy, red mountain soil and steering failed. We dragged up to a meter. Scratches and wounds torn our hands and knees, as smoke covered my view. We tried hurriedly to stand up. I attended Jhona, my girlfriend, and found out she had wound in hands and knees. She had more than me. I was stricken. I started to panic.
It was our first motorcycle accident --- together (I had multiple). I lost for words and started to go home and get a medical attention for her. But, surprisingly, Jhona is braver than me (or to be exact, more hard headed and stubborn than me). She insisted we should continue. I was quiet, like a child lost a toy, submit myself to her. We continue to travel --- she kept babbling words to distract the pain she felt, and I kept silent as we encompass the roads of Nueva Ecija and of Alfonso-Castaneda in Nueva Vizcaya.
Hurting did not stop us to admire the tall mountains and landscapes of the way. Well, it’s not about the destination, they say, it’s about the journey. Noticeably, the rocks crashing down due to deforestation are numerous. But these not make the greenery less magnificent. The road to the province of Aurora is like an aisle, coconuts all over the place decorated the velvet view, and water under the bridge that connects Baler to Maria Aurora reflects in the rays of the proud sun. Seeing the Century-old tree (it’s a vine actually) of Balete gets you think of the horror stories your grandmother often told. This was a good appetizer. Reaching Baler and owning the view in your own eyes as you stroll around the town proper froze the hands of time. It even brought back the hands of it! Jericho Rosales’ Baler was a good reference as we gazed the view of the historical Catholic Church of Baler, where Spaniards took their last stand in June 1898. Adjacent to this is the Museo de Baler, where you can trace back the artifacts of the illustrious town and the memorabilia of President Manuel L. Quezon, the proud son of the province.
But the breathtaking (I even have to pinch myself!) is the mighty Pacific Ocean, where you can view its entirety as you climb on top of Ermita Hill, a hill that is designated as evacuation site for Balereanos in case of Tsunami. That salty smell that trickles your skin and the splashes of waves dominating surfers and swimmers alike, invite you to take a plunge. And we did, forgetting our wounds might be painful if contacted with salt water. But the uncontrollable waves, the clear blue sky, the swaying of trees, the strangers rubbing elbows with the locals, the smell of the street foods, the rich history of the town… no wounds is enough to bother two souls craving for adventure and stress-free stuffs.
We took our final walk on the old-Spaniard pavement of the town that night. The well illuminated streets were filled with laughter from around the globe --- tourists caving in to have a good drink. In the morning, as we embark to leave the place, I took a last glance of the carefree town through my side mirrors. The view fades until the thick forest totally blockades the long aisle that leads to Baler.
A sad scene, indeed. I really hate the episode of leaving.
But now, whenever I sip coffee, I will always remember how Baler stole my heart.
Let's Talk About Baler!
What is your favorite activity in Baler?
Things to bring in Baler, Aurora
Surf board (If you have)
© 2017 Harcee Sarmiento