First of all, I don’t recommend it: spending less than 24 hours in Baler. Unless, you’ve been stuck in the city for months, have been salivating over beach photos in your Instagram feed, have a company outing, or all of the above. Then, it’s a welcome escape.
Baler, a coastal town in Aurora province, is known as one of the top surfing spots in the country. Pounded by the waves of the Pacific Ocean, Baler is reportedly where surfing was born in the country after the film crew from Apocalypse Now surfed and left their boards back in 1979. These days there are several surfing schools and resorts that dot the stretch of Sabang Beach in Baler. One of them is Costa Pacifica.
Having only opened last year, Costa Pacifica has earned a reputation of being one of the more comfortable accommodations you can book in Baler, where backpacker inns also abound. I wasn’t really keen to learn how to surf, especially when there was a typhoon heading in the area–oh, who am I kidding? That weekend, my idea of being adventurous at the beach was drinking cocktails by the pool, even as it was raining.
It takes between five to six hours to get to Baler from Manila. It took us seven hours, two hours of which were spent in rough, winding roads, most of which were under construction. (Turns out, the driver took a wrong turn and ended up taking the longer route.) By the time our bus pulled over in the early afternoon in front of the resort’s spacious lobby, we were all ready to jump out, start drinking/forget dieting/lay catatonic by the pool/nap in our rooms or any of the above. (Oh, yes, learn to surf for a few.)
After we finished our late lunch, a bunch of us decided to go around the town: we went to Museo de Baler (which has a handful of notable pieces, but many others–like the portraits on the second floor–seemed odd), the historic Baler Church, a couple of stores to buy some sweet Nanay Pacing Homemade Peanut Butter and some camote (sweet potato) chips, and to house of the late former first lady Doña Aurora Quezon (a simple, traditional Filipino home).
Afterward, we headed back to the resort and finally made our way to dark stretch of beach that is Sabang.
The best time to surf in Baler is from September to March and from the looks of the waves that September weekend, it was right on schedule. The huge storm coming our way, which was predicted to make landfall in 24 hours, was already making its presence felt. Strong winds, overcast skies, and rain showers didn’t seem to discourage the surfing students that day who were ready to take on the waves, or at the very least, manage to get up on that surf board. Cheers to them and cheers to a brief weekend getaway. Now, the trip back to Manila the following day, less than 24 hours later. That was another matter.
Costa Pacifica: 080 Buton Street, Sitio Labasin, Sabang Beach, Baler, Aurora, Philippines, 3200; phone nos: (632) 5764555 (Manila office), (63) 917 8536040