BALER 2014 [Day 1]

This trip has been planned less than a month ago while going through a gruesome week in the office. Putting into consideration that this adventure will happen on the Holy Week, we have considered different places which are relatively near the metro – an easy escapade. My work friends and I have exchanged ideas until we finally agreed on visiting the popular destination for surfers, Baler. Good Friday came and we drove to Aurora after work. We started our journey in Taguig City at around 3:30 AM. It took us more than six hours of travel – this included an extended stopover at Mexico, Pampanga. Thanks to the gas station attendant who made the condition of our wheels worse. We have entered Baler at around 9AM and searched through the zigzag road for our accommodation.

We stayed at Carlito’s Inn. We were told it was only 3-5 minutes away from Sabang Beach by foot. It turned out to be 5-10 minutes away from the beach via tricycle or car, depending on traffic. Since we arrived early (still on top of our itinerary 😉 ), we did a softcore tour around town. We visited Museo de Baler which houses artifacts mostly coming from the Spanish regime. It also features a large portrait of the late president Manuel L. Quezon. Just beside the establishment is Quezon’s car. Across the street, we found Aurora Quezon’s house, the then-first lady. Beside it is the Baler Cathedral Church which surprisingly is closed on a Good Friday.

DSC_0030DSC_0012DSC_0017DSC_0033DSC_0035DSC_0042DSC_0044DSC_0046It was scorching hot and there are almost no restaurants with air conditioner. As part of the experience, we had lunch at the popular Rolling Stores. These are a series of stalls/eateries beside the museum. Food is very homey for a very cheap price. I had ginataang tuna (tuna in coconut milk), a bottle of Coke and a banana for only P70.

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We drove back to the inn, hoping to talk our way through an early check-in. At first, we thought that they’re just very strict about the time which we fully respect. Come 2PM, if we haven’t asked repeatedly, it seems like they won’t be escorting us to our room. We were awake for almost 24 hours and in serious need of a good rest. I was trying to keep myself calm as I don’t want to ruin the mood of this trip.

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The room was bigger than what I expected. There’s five of us so we have one double-deck and three single beds. The rate for the room is only P1,500/night. The room is without toiletries. It has air conditioner and a ceiling fan. We only have one pillow per bed without extra bed sheet. Cable TV is available but acted weird at first. We just laughed it off. We couldn’t be asking for more since we basically only paid P300/head/night. Also, we were looking forward to spending most of our time outdoors. We just needed a decent place to sleep.

Our room was not cleaned yet after we arrived. There’s a very big space in front of the units, so we had no problems with parking. Still, in the spirit of keeping this trip as peacefully and happy as possible, I gently spoke with the lady cleaners to prioritize our room. It’s half past two in the afternoon and we wanted to be back in the road by four. We just wanted to steal an hour or so of sleep.

But the short escape turned out to be a full-on sleep. After taking a long bath and sleeping like a baby, I opened my eyes and the sun was already setting. Our supposed-to-be trip will be postponed until Sunday morning. The itinerary I have prepared (which I’ll share in Day 3) has an ample free time so we can easily adjust to these kind of situations.

We went out at 6PM to grab dinner at the in-house restaurant. But it’s already closed. And the reason that they gave to us? They’re tired.

Yes, they are tired. So their guests would need to look some place else to eat. In their defense, meals are not included in the accommodation. But an advise/heads up wouldn’t hurt, would it?

So we drove back to Sabang Beach. I have read a few blogs/reviews about the service they have here. In one of the posts I’ve stumbled upon, their food didn’t arrive until after an hour and a half. Days before our trip, I told my friends to bring extra patience together with their clothes, money and food. Looks like it’s already been exhausted and we’re only on our first day!

We walked around Costa Pacifica, Bayler’s Inn and Bayler’s View Hotel. GIven that it’s Holy Week and the middle of summer vacation, lots of tourists flocked the nearby beaches and resthouses. Every restaurant we walked by is full until finally we found a vacant table for five at Bayler’s Inn. We didn’t waste any more time as our tummies are already screaming at us. Initially, the waiter asked for 30-45 minutes for our food to arrive. We didn’t complain. After a few minutes, he told us that it would take them two hours to prepare our food. It’s already past seven in the evening and most tourists are done eating (seeing the buffet table almost empty of food). Honestly, we don’t understand why it would take that long. But we didn’t say anything. We just canceled the order and scouted another place.

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The next place we went into is Bahia de Baler’s Pavilion Bar and Grill. They’re fully booked already so we stood no chance. What I did though is reserve us a table for tomorrow because I don’t want this to happen again (wait for my next post!) We drove away from the beach and went back to town. We even tried going back to the Rolling Stores but there are hardly any food available. We saw two rolling stores for Jollibee and Chowking but to keep our trip as pure as possible, we wanted to try local food (though it didn’t differ much from what’s in Manila).

We drove around the museum and see this little store called Treacher’s Kitchenette. They offer eat-all-you can dinner for only P165. Quite cheap, right? Food isn’t bad. It really isn’t. But the service is worst. We didn’t expect even a three-star level of service since it’s basically an eatery with home-cooked meals. They still offered the buffet at past eight in the evening. But they do not have rice yet when we came inside. Since we’ve already lost all our options, we chose to stay and wait. The owner mentioned in a very discomforting tone while we’re checking out the food available that they’re supposed to be closed down by that time. But since there are lots of people coming in, they’re still open. What? Not sure why this should be told to a tourist.

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That made me feel bad. Baler is one of the tourist destinations and we are proud of their surf-worthy waves. But the hospitality and the way locals interact with tourists are just so bad. We ended up having a very quick dinner because we can’t wait to be back to our accommodation and chill. The night has been rough. And we were really caught off guard.

All in all, day 1 has not been anywhere near good. Though we haven’t spent much of our budget yet, the frustrations keep building up. On a brighter note, I appreciate the presence of tourist assistance tents and policemen in almost every other block leading up to Sabang Beach and every street in the beach itself.

I’d like to give Baler the benefit of the doubt. The influx of tourists might have doubled today given the long weekend, but they seriously need to work out their relationship with their tourists if they want local tourism to flourish.

 

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