Baler and around

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2018

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Whilst staying in Baler, on the Philippine’s main island, North Luzon, we took the opportunity for a day’s sightseeing.

After setting off from the Costa Pacifica Hotel, we were soon stopping for photos of rice planters and the Tromba Marina Sculpture which depicted seven families who escaped the 1735 tsunami by climbing Ermita Hill. At Baler Fish Port, we climbed a viewing for superb views of the coastline (this is where the surf in the 1970s film, Apocalypse Now was filmed). Back in the car, we stopped at a beach resort where youngsters used the man-made pool and adults paddled in a naturally shallow area as the waves looked strong and the rocks sharp.

Next, we went in search of Dicasalarin Cove – interestingly the word translates into ‘you are not a criminal’ which amused our guide Carlos. We’d seen the unusually shaped lighthouse in the distance and eventually hit a private road, owned by the Angara family dynasty (descendants of one of the seven saved families), where after paying a small fee and signing in, mobiles were used to co-ordinate traffic on the steep, one- way, narrow track down to the beach.

Having crossed a grassy picnic area, we debated whether to climb up to the lighthouse but Carlos hadn’t climbed it before, so we took off shoes and socks to paddle across an inlet, continued along the stony beach before scaling the 175 steps. There was a reasonable handrail so the walk wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, especially as we kept stopping to ‘admire the view’.

At the top, as well as finding stunning views, I was surprised to find a loo, which although a little grim, was most welcome. The unusually shaped lighthouse was even stranger, as it didn’t seem to have a light and Carlos didn’t have the answer.
Back on terra firma, a short walk took us to the Artist’s Village, the idea of Edgardo Angara. It was meant to be a communal space where developing Filipino artists could stay and paint in a beautiful, setting away from the madding crowds. However, we found a deserted building which had some paintings hung but appeared to be a white elephant as the guest rooms were distinctly unused.

Driving onwards to the Weather Radar Station we once again climbed on to the roof for views.

Our final stop before lunch was Ermita Hill where the families had escaped to during the tsunami and which is now a popular picnic spot.

After lunch we headed into town to Quezon Memorial Park dedicated to the Province’s illustrious son, Manuel L Quezon. Within the park was a larger than life, statue of the President in front of the Museo de Baler. We learned how the Quezon family helped the Jews during WW2 by handing out 10,000 visas although only 1,000 were taken up which isn’t surprising because of the distance and the Japanese occupation. The two-storey museum also told us about the 1898 Siege of Baler where revolutionaries occupied a fortified church manned by colonial Spanish troops for 337 days.

Outside was a monument dedicated to Baler’s 400 years of independence and nearby, the church where the siege took place. There was also a replica’s of the nipa hut where both Manual Quezon and his wife, Aurora, were born. These nipa huts are known as bahay kubo and later in our trip we would stay in one with interesting consequences!!

Helen Jackson

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