When one of my friends invited me for a camping and surfing weekend in Baler, my sanity was easily filled-up with excitement and enthusiasm. Who would not feel such an endearing feeling when after all those chances, finally, I am given the slot to cast my footprint over the sands of Baler? The local movie Baler offered me a bite of what could have been a true-to-life story with the place as the backdrop. But the real deal are the pictures of boys and girls learning how to ride the waves and pros surfing like there’s no tomorrow. I need to feel a surfboard under my feet.
We were instructed to assemble at 10 PM. As usual, I was early, four hours ahead of the schedule. Well, you know me when I am enveloped with eagerness, agonisingly early 99 percent of the time. Since I do not like the idea of buying a 150-peso coffee in exchange for a soft yet butt-abused couch, unreal silence and falsely positive social status, I wasted my time leaning against the cold railings inside a mall while eyeing how people sway their hands when walking.
When we zoomed in to start the drive, the rain started to pour. It curtained our front mirror, which might have turned fuzzy if only not for the robotic wiper. It is usual in travels that at the starting point up to a mile or two, everyone is equipped with high level of energy. Then, realisation sets in that the travel is not quick. Boredom enters and no one wonders why it is usually denied from conversation. But everyone demonstrates its presence and makes it apparent – everyone suddenly becomes contented watching the trail with red dot trappings until washed away into Dreamland.
We woke up and grabbed the opportunity for a sunrise. The sight of it with fog creeping hills and mountains is always magnificent. Memories of sunrise stay with me. It makes me realise that Life is beautiful and every day is a reason to live.
Some roads are properly paved and covered with cement. But some are hilariously finished with outrageously low-quality asphalt and cement. That when the rainy season commences with landslide and ankle-deep flooding, the surface wears out to form spot-holes along its length. I guess, this has become normal and nobody ever dared to bring it to the realm of morality and patriotic obligation. Everyone would just offer a minute of angry statements or two paragraphs of complaints and evaporate with a questioning mind.
When the convoy stopped under the vast canopy of a balete, a plant that usual citizens consider a tree. Why not? Its height is comparable to plants normally considered as a tree. Its vast stem could accommodate twenty or thirty humans with raised arms, connected to each other like a chain. Not all of us know that it is just a woody vine that strangles and kills a tree, which provides its form. Politicians, or some people, made it a tourist spot and the locals are proud of it. People have come to call it a Century Tree.
Baler has a museum called Museo de Baler. The façade is great. Finished with red bricks and embossed with black figures, I expected so much for the interiors. I got excited from the thought of seeing great artefacts inside.
But when I was finally inside, something was not right. I stood at the sight of a temporary wall that ought to boost excitement. No words could describe my disappointment. No applause could drown me and forget how the museum was created. I thought that though the contents offered interesting bits of history, the pieces were awfully placed one after the other.
I could not understand the flow, the more with trophies and props used in the movie Baler as the centrepiece. Should those be even inside the museum? Maybe yes. But not at the centre of everything. No drooling over museum items or exhibits. I took pictures, went to the second floor, eyed paintings, took the stairs and fled out of the building. So there was nothing historically significant with Baler after all.
Maybe the falls could cheer me up.
One needs to walk and hike a bit for the Ditumabo Falls, aka Mother Falls. There are some parts of the trail that pass through streams and slippery rocks. Majority of the trail, however, is safe and customised for nature-tripping.
The local government built a water impoundment structure on the waterways. When we were there, the place was a bit crowded. People were clustered near the area where the control for water release is located. There is a ramp serving as wharf for people who would opt to swim. Those who are not confident with their swimming skills should take precautionary measures when going into the water. It is exceptionally deep near the concrete barricade. And the cold water might freeze you and render you motionless.
There was also a portion where you need to make a choice: whether to take the bridge over the flowing water; or pre-test the water by walking through it. And sadly, if you take the bridge made up of bamboos tied together, then you have given an opportunity for some locals to charge you 20 pesos. When we asked them if why they are doing it, they told us that they “built” the bridge. I do not know if the local authorities at the Registration Area know about the “bridge” transactions.
It was already seven in the evening when we reached Dicasalarin Cove. On its fine sand and under the trees, we pitched our tent for the night. The white coastline is charming. And the crystal blue water is magnificent. However, we were not allowed to swim, as per the signboard alongside the lifeguard’s station.
A morning walk along the coastline gave me the enthusiasm I needed to take it farther up to the hill at the end with a sundial-like structure on top. I learned later that the structure is a rainwater treatment facility. So how is it done? Is the rainwater treated and turned into a form safe for drinking? I do not know. No one was there to be asked.
After the cove, the organisers announced that surfing was the next event… at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the waves are huge to roll the surfboards. I did not mind waiting for the time. Because I know that surfing is fun.