Baler on a Budget

My huling hirit for the year turned out to be a trip to one of the best surf places in the Philippines:  Baler.  What started as a series of can’t go’s with Anna finally came into fruition last weekend.  She is an amateur surfer but a professional spur-of-the-moment traveller which made our YM-planned trip a successful one.

We met at the Genesis bus terminal in Cubao past 3 o’clock in the morning.  I came from a videoke sesh in Center Stage after our team’s Christmas party while she came from a bar in Cubao.  Since we missed the Baler bus, she decided that we take the ES Transport bus to Cabanatuan instead.  Due to exhaustion, I slept through the whole ride.  We arrived at Cabanatuan around 6am and after a bit of standing around and not knowing our next step, we found that there are shuttles that could take us directly to Baler.

The shuttle’s capacity is 12 passengers but we’d already been waiting for about 30 minutes.  So, when the 11th passenger arrived, the barker asked us if we were willing to pay an additional P20 to cover for the last passenger.  We all agreed to pay extra, so off we went.  And even if the shuttle fooled us into thinking that we would be experiencing some air conditioning, I still opted to catch some z’s.  I was surprised though when half-way through the ride we had some stopover where the other passengers used a makeshift restroom and even had breakfast at the carenderia.

When we finally reached Baler at around 10am, I was already feeling very weak and my knees buckled when I got off the van.  I needed some food ASAP!  Thus, we took a tricycle to Jamjen’s, Anna’s preferred budget lodging.  We stowed our bags in our room and went in search of some nourishment.

We had brunch at Bay’s Inn, one of the beachfront hotels in Baler.  I was still feeling breakfasty so I ordered some pancakes and hot chocolate (which was just Milo with hot water).  While waiting for our order, we watched the Baler waves crash into shore and wished that they would still be there when it’s time for us to go surfing.  After eating, we went back to our room to rest a bit.  We got up at around 4pm and we went to the Joybus garage to pay our reservation for the trip back to Manila.  After that, we ate again, this time at Bayler View Hotel.  I had some club sandwich and watermelon shake.

After our snuch, it was finally surfing time!  Anna asked one of her surf instructor friends, Mac, to teach me.  The rest was one hour of fun sunset surfing.  I had my longest ride that afternoon, and I attribute it to the very non-slippery soft top board that  used.  Even if it was just a single fin, my rides were long, stable and super fantastic!

sunset surfing

sunset surfing

Surfing is a very tiring activity so after one hour of riding the waves, it was time to eat!  Dinner was again at Bayler View Hotel and consisted of sizzling spicy pork and peppers and vegetable chopseuy.  The pork was way too spicy even for me, while the chopseuy seemed like some vegetable soup.  Then afterwards, we had a round of drinks.  I tried the San Miguel Apple-flavored Beer and it tasted like deepwell water with a hint of apple.  So not worth my P40.

Read about surfing in Bagasbas, Camarines Norte

The next day, I opened my eyes to an empty room.  After 5 minutes of checking Twitter via Jamjen’s free wifi, I heard a knock on the door.  And there she was rousing me up to go surfing. While tossing me my still-wet rash guard, she told me that she’d already had a couple of wave hours. And with that, I went to have surfing for breakfast.

My intructor promised me the previous day that he’d take me far out to the sea to surf waves before they break.  That’s right, no more white water surfing for me!  Plus, I was able to finally practice paddling by myself because my lovely board was narrow enough for both my arms to hang fully by the sides, letting me paddle my way to open sea faster.  Finding out that I could actually glide fast by myself over the water and ride actual waves all the way to the shore was truly awesome!

paddling far out by myself

paddling far out by myself

One downside to surfing far out though was that it took longer to tow my surfboard back to deeper waters.  This also meant being beach-slapped more frequently (I received a couple of solid ones, too!) and being body slammed with the board more painfully.  And since my instructor seemed to forget that I was just a newbie, he would take a while before rescuing me from the waves.  Despite these interludes, I was able to fend off the playful sea but a wave caught me off guard and slammed my board into my face.  My nose still hurts right now.  But let us not forget to mention that towards the end, I managed to land my instructor a real solid heel kick to the cheekbone.  It was really, truly unintentional because I can’t really control where my feet would flail off after dodging a big wave, can I?  I felt really bad about it that I offered to go back to the shore immediately so he could apply some ice on it.  But he was so nice about it and said that it was an occupational hazard and that Anna has done the same several time already.  That was hardly reassuring but I decided to let it go.

My surf lesson that morning definitely lasted more than an hour but despite my having kicked him in the face, my instructor was really cool and agreed to take Anna out to sea with her new fun board.  I was not able to get a lot of good photos because she was still getting used to the board.

After all the excitement, it was now time for us to start with our good byes with Baler.  And the first step to doing that was to have lunch at Gerry Shan’s eat-all-you-can!  This restaurant provides the perfect going away meal because there were so many dishes to choose from and every one of them rocked!  I loved the sisig and the kare-kare most of all.  And eating-all-you-can also meant lots of watermelon!  I was floating (with a very full stomach) when I left Gerry Shan’s.

The last leg of our trip was the Joybus ride.  For P700, we got to travel nonstop from Baler to Cubao.  We also had some snacks on board which consisted of a pack of Fita biscuits, a pack of Magic Flakes and some Nature Springs Mineral Water.  It was hardly fabulous but it let us have a stopover-free ride since a toilet was also provided.  Wifi was also available but I think only those in the front rows got to use it.

And so we were back to reality, back to contemplate the lightning fast weekend that was.  Indeed, most of the trip was spent on snoozing and eating but we got what we wanted:  a surfing escapade.

Baler on a Budget

ES Transit to Cabanatuan P185
Shuttle to Baler P220
Tricycle to Jamjen P15
Jamjen Fan room P700/3
Bay’s Inn Pancakes P80 and Hot chocolate P25
Bayler View Hotel Clubhouse Sandwich P100 and Watermelon shake P80
Surf Lessons with Mac P350 per hour (x2)
Bayler View Hotel Sizzling pork and pepper P160/2 and Vegetable Chopseuy P120/2 plus rice P25
SMAB apple P40 and calamares P160/3
Tricycle to Gerry Shan P12
Gerry Shan eat all you can P185
Tricycle back from Gerry Shan P12
Tricycle to Joybus P15
Joybus P700
Total:  P2,822

December 16-17, 2012

Jayce Cairo

Jayce is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a translator to finance her various interests. Scoring very high on “Openness to Experience” on the Big Five Personality Test, she is an avid globetrotter who aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.

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