Baler is the capital of Aurora, a province fast becoming fast known for its natural wonders, beautiful beaches, and surf-worthy waves, as well as its place in Philippine history and world cinema.
Aurora became a province in 1979, with Baler as its capital. Before that, it was considered part of Kalilaya (now the province of Quezon), then later, Nueva Ecija. Baler, then called El Prinsipe, played a major role during the Philippine Revolution of 1898 as the brief location of a provincial revolutionary government.
Nowadays, Baler is known as the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, the sport popularized in the 1970s by the cast and crew of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, whose scenes where shot in the area.
The town is extremely tourist friendly. First timers can head to the Department of Tourism office in Baler for suggestions on what to do, as well as a handy map of accommodations (both traditional and home-stay), tourist spots, and restaurants in the area.
Activities include surfing and water sports, beach hopping, trekking to natural wonders such as cliffs and waterfalls, and visiting historical sites such as museums, churches, and Ermita Hill, a local landmark known as the site where seven families escaped a tidal wave that wiped away the town 300 years ago.
For a taste of Aurora, one must try delicacies such as ensaladang pako, a salad of fiddlehead ferns with tomatoes, onions, and salted egg, as well as the local suman, glutinous rice cakes that differ from their regional cousins via the addition of coconut milk. The latter keeps well for a short period of time, making it a great gift for friends and family.
Baler is a sleepy provincial town that is well-maintained and very tourist friendly. Visitors to Baler may not be in the big city, but they certainly won’t miss any of the conveniences that they’ve left behind there.
Getting to Baler is easy. Buses leave regularly from Manila, Cabanatuan, and Baguio and take approximately seven, four, and eight hours respectively. From the bus terminal, trikes can be hired for a minimum of 15 pesos per person to take guests to nearby resorts along Sabang beach. It is recommended that folks planning to take a tour of the province’s different beaches and historical and natural sights use private transportation, as said areas can be far from each other. Those using their own vehicles will find Baler’s roads smooth, though a bit on the narrow side. Other modes of transport within Baler include jeeps, rented vans and boats to nearby islands.
The province boasts smooth roads, making travel within it a breeze. Most of the ride to Baler from Manila is smooth, with the exception of about 15 minutes of rough road that, at the time of Travelbook.ph's visit, was being paved over.