itchy feet cravings

Three Days of Trekking in Baler

My legs were burning by the time we were about to board the bus back to Manila. I didn’t know that trekking activities would dominate the most part of our 4-day itinerary in Baler, Aurora. I’ve heard it’s a perfect exercise but I really don’t like climbing. Had I known it, I would have prepped myself first but there’s no time for it then. I just went up.

And so there I was, with my 74-year old mom, my handsome teenage cousin and his mom, my auntie Ched. This is my second time in Baler, but the first time spending it with family. We spent the first day enjoying Dicasalarin Cove. We had our lunch here, boodle-fight style. We were told by our tour guide to eat as much as we can because we need to save up all our energy to go up at the lighthouse. And just as expected, the trek was a bit familiar. But surprise! My mom was ahead of us all! I’m really amazed–all of us were amazed, actually–that at her age, climbing up that steep staircase to the top was easy for her. Oh, maybe city-philes like me should make some serious efforts now at staying fit! Climbing up, I thought I’m gonna have a heart attack. I’m so out of shape. 😦

My mom posing at the beach before going up...
My mom posing at the beach before going up…
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My daredevil cousin taking a selfie nearly at the edge of the cliff! Don’t do this guys, please. We scolded him afterwards…

But once we reached the top, we all gushed and felt like we were all given an appropriate reward. The sight is gorgeous, absolutely magnificent as I remembered it to be. Reaching the top was exhilarating for me and my family. Of course, we had to celebrate by taking selfies/groupfie for this feat. It’s hard to take in all of that splendor just by looking at the Pacific Ocean!

 

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The next day was another day of reckoning. OMG! I wasn’t really prepared for this, because I haven’t been to Ditumabo Falls, or the so-called “Mother Falls,” and nobody warned me it’s going to be HARD before you even reach the actual destination. This famous waterfall in Baler have so many locals trooping to it during summer. I guess the only consolation I had is that we visited the place on a Holy Week. There were so many people that the scene was somewhat similar to a pilgrimage. I guess its a blessing in disguise. A lot of people were there to help us out whenever it became difficult to meander the slimy rocks, and watery paths. You know, getting down dirty just so you can amble up the muddy path, just isn’t my style. I lost track of the number of times we had to rest before moving on with our trekking. I think it took us more than 30 minutes before getting near the “mother falls.”

 

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For the life of me, I didn’t know how I survived this ordeal. But as usual, my mom was always ahead of us, and thank God, bless her heart, she was the one strong person I can depend on whenever I’m about to slip during the trek. I am just so, so amazed, I wonder if I would ever grow old still strong and agile like her.

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People clambering up the sides of the river just to get into the “Mother Falls”

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Finally! The Mother Falls.
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Taking a dip at the cold, cold waters helped ease our tired legs and arms.

 

 

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My ecstatic mom and auntie…

I’m glad I did my best to muster all my energies and prayed hard to keep myself sane, fearing my knees might just give up on our way up and down. My greatest fear back then was getting into an accident, fearing I might be swept into the raging waters and my head hitting the large bouldering rocks. Thank God, I overcame my fear. Or else, I knew I’d miss out a loooottt of things in my travel life. I’m glad I went on, encouraged by my handsome cousin, my aunt, and my mom (who was a fast climber and always ahead of us each time we went up). I’m also thankful so much to the tour guides at the site who patiently assisted us, telling us where to put our foot down, whenever we feel uncertain where to step on. I understand now, why people would come here at the Mother Falls. It’s breathtakingly beautiful that it’s hard to explain. I truly believe coming here during off-peak season would be better and would give you a chance to bask in the beauty of nature, but I would rather have more people around to help us.

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We started our trek at Ditumabo Falls at around 10 a.m. and left the place at around 2:30 p.m. We also noticed there are some foreigners already coming to this place. We were told the place is only open until 5 p.m. because getting down could be dangerous if you leave the place when its about to get dark.

Third day. Just when I thought I’m about to give up, our tour guide announced that our next trekking destination would be Ermita Hill. I was about to pass off the opportunity and just stay at the foot of the hill. But my family quickly cajoled me I might regret it if I don’t try.

True enough, they were right. I’m glad I did my best to overcome another arduous trek. Ermita Hill after all was famous for its historical importance to the province of Aurora, a trip to Baler without coming here would be incomplete.

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The view from the top of Ermita Hill

 

The story was that at least seven families fled for safety here on the night of December 27, 1735 when a tsunami swept the entire old town of Baler. A replica of men, women and children scaling the sides of the hill for survival highlights Ermita Hill’s entrance.

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Sculpture of fathers, mothers, children going up the hill to escape the 1735 tsunami; Ermita Hill served as their temporary shelter

Going up the hill, however, isn’t too difficult now as stairs have already been built. Ermita Hill, situated in Mt. Dibudalan at Sitio Dicaloyungan is now a special park and camping site where one can get a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean, Baler’s Sabang Beach and nearby islets.

 

Us gamely going up the winding staircase, pausing now and then catching our breath
Us gamely going up the winding staircase, pausing now and then catching our breath

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It was also in this place where survivors of the tsunami escaped and hid when pirates raided the coastal areas of Tayabas and Baler in 1798. Stories abound that the pirates failed to track down the locals because of a shining light that emerged from the top of the mountain. Locals here pay tribute to Sta. Isabel, the patron saint in the area whom they believe was the one who saved them from intruders. Now the park is home to various species of trees, flora and fauna. But the aviary was empty when we visited, with park attendants saying the birds had to be relocated due to a storm which battered Baler about a month before our sojourn.

The view from the top
Another view from the top…

I guess Mother Nature wouldn’t let us go without paying homage to the One who made her. The path towards the Cross is another short (it was long for me) climb up the stairs. I suggest capping your trek at Ermita Hill with a visit to the Cross.

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I’m really so thankful I mustered every ounce of energy I had in my body that three days of trekking so I can see God’s wonderful creation. To me, and maybe for many of us going local travel, Baler seems to be a remote part of the Philippines–a treasure waiting to be discovered, a mystical place that’s hard to pin down. But when you’re here, just go with the flow, like the tidal waves, that bring about excitement to every surfer who tested Baler’s waters. 😀

 

 

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