Surf and Trek in Baler Aurora
You've explored Sagada after reading Mabuhay Magazine. Set foot on the highest land in Luzon Mt. Pulag mainly out of curiosity seeing several backpackers in Session Road every Christmas. Snorkeled in Busuanga Palawan because your friends in adventure clubs rave about the corrals. Hiked the rugged terrain of Sabtang, Batanes enticed by the photo feature in Action Asia. Suspended time in Laoag and freed it in Pagudpud.
And you thought you've seen enough of Luzon?
Not until you visit Baler, Aurora, 6 1/2 hours via 4WD from Manila or 7 1/2 hours by public.
The very minute you move out of Cabanatuan and Palayan cities, you know you are setting foot into something new and different. Especially when you zigzag through Sierra Madre at an elevation of 600 M ASL.
You know you've exited Nueva Ecija and entered the Province of Aurora when the bald mountain scenery turns fully forested and green. (Who cut all the trees of Nueva Ecija? Who fought hard to preserve the forests of Aurora?)
You are midway between Cabanatuan and Baler when you reach the stopover at the Aurora Memorial National Park base. There is a DENR office serving as the gateway to the national park. (The staff says a guide and a permit are required to proceed to the peak. The officer in the office if he is around issues the permit. Otherwise, you'll have to secure it in Baler.)
You are nearing Baler when the rugged bumpy ride shifts to a smooth and fast glide, elevation drops to 45 M ASL and instead of riding on the mountain ridge, there is a mountain wall facing you.
Unlike in Real, Quezon after traversing Sierra Madre, there is window opening to the Pacific Ocean visible from the highway. In Baler, you arrive at the Central Terminal asking in disbelief "Is this it?" No view, no sea, no open space?
Centro just serves as your gateway to the real wonder beyond the town and replenishment for necessities. Townfolks are friendly and helpful, you'll feel immediately at home even if you're a stranger. Everyone is more than willing to give leads-the tricycle driver, tindera, policeman, the grocery owner of Moreno's grocery, the student you're sharing the top load with and especially so the village folks. Bia sells for P 20.0 per kilo (8 pieces), meat at P 80.0.
A 5-minute tricycle ride leads you to Sabang, the East edge of the island. Sabang is the site of the 1st Aurora Surfing Cup held last February 1998 sponsored by an international adventure magazine Action Asia. This is the place to surf, stay, dine, dance and get drunk. Waves run up to 6 meters high intermittently making it ideal for the sport.
Move further South and you're in a lost world of Cemento. You no longer think Luzon when you're here. Trek for 2 hours in a rugged road with the sight and sound of the Pacific Ocean at your left and a steep 600-meter slope of dense forest at your right. So thick and so full is the forest that in the entire 2-hour trek, there is no way to trek up except through the erosion. To scale to the top you don't hike, you rock climb.
Every moment of the trek is an ideal stopover. Who wouldn't stop for the 3 to 6 meter high waves, coves, clean and windy air, the open sea, rock formations and sandy shores and on the other side, the mountain wall, waterfalls, "flowing" mineral water?
Every mountaineer knows there is more to see at the top. The last 45 minutes brought us to the PAGASA radar station. Location at 150 M ASL gave us a vista from an elevated plain-a paradise like cove at the right almost uninhabited. Incessantly, we were refreshed with the flow of wind fresh from the ocean that is free from contaminants and pollutants and showered with pure distilled rainwater. Viewing sunrise from the edge, it was as if we were the first to see light in the entire Philippine Island.
While we were at the remote, isolated island outdoors, indoors, we had access to a laboratory. Mang Amado of the Atmospheric Servicing Administration welcomed us as visitors. With an impending Typhoon Loleng coming, we observed in a manner of hours how to track a storm, read barometric changes, measure rainfall, temperature, wind velocity and trace wind directions. Reporting to the national office for everyone else to know completed the cycle.
We woke up early Sunday morning aware that Loleng was no longer stationary and veering towards the Visayas, a first hand info assuring us we can safely go back home.
Before leaving Baler, we imposed upon ourselves that we must at least surf at Baler Bay in Sabang and eat lunch at Bay Inn. Surfing and trekking in Baler in a day and a half, we asked ourselves, "Were we really in Luzon?"
For sure, it's a place where we want to come back and stay longer. Catch it before the unspoiled, almost pristine, natural and unpretentious" wonder with minimum of man-made amenities as described by modern chronicler Amadis Ma. Guerrero goes the way of the Infanta and Real Quezon, progressing and commercializing.
Surfing and trekking Baler Aurora with CBR and the Solidtrekkers Mitch Soria, Bernard Cruz, Jay Garino, Glenn Ong, Rose Salundaguit 17-18 October 1998.
For detailed itinerary, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
General information on the province Aurora can be assessed from http://www.philippine.org/01prov/aurora.html
Action Asia's account on the staging of the 1st Aurora Surfing Cup is at http://www.pworld.net.ph/avm/twj/aurora2/aurora98.html
Weather is at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/wb/wb.htm
Weather in Baler from the PAGASA station is at http://www.wniphil.com/guests/areas/baler.htm
CBR 22 Oct 1998