Ain’t Your Usual Paradise

by Drew Malihan

Baler is now an established name in the Philippine tourism scene. In recent years, it has made waves as one of the surfing hotspots in the country – alongside Siargao Island, and San Juan, La Union. This quiet town is definitely on many tourists’ checklist for summer.

But before hitting the road to surf the waves, let me give you a few hints of what you will see in this town. Baler is remarkable because it’s not your usual tourist destination.

#1 There are no public jeepneys.

The entire province of Aurora is one of the few areas in the Philippines that is not under the Jeepney Kingdom. The king of the road is not present here, and tricycles are the main means of public transportation. The geographical features of the province play a big part of why the jeepney is a rarity here – the rugged terrain of the Sierra Madre Mountain range is unfriendly to jeepneys.

No need to worry though. The trikes here are accommodating. Plus, you can see the town by just walking or renting a bike. Isn’t that cool for your cardio?

Baler’s Sabang Beach is loaded with tourists during the day. But when night comes, it turns into a quiet, peaceful spot. Photo by Mosh Magbanua

#2 No fast food chains…yet.

As of this writing, there is only one convenience store and one Chinese-inspired fast food chain in Baler, and they are both located in the town proper, nowhere near the beachfront. There is a popular happy insect that will be operating its hive here in the near future. But as of now, you’ll rarely have to eat fast food here!

Gladly, Baler peeps are amazing at cooking. Eating at the local small diners or themed restaurants is a treat. There is a great range of food options as well, from the usual Menudo and Adobo, to stuff like tuna burrito and beef japchae. One restaurant here caught me off-guard with a carbonara pizza which was really good. Baler is definitely the place to ditch your usual fast-cooked chicken and fries.

Ermita Hill, like most places in Baler, is only reachable by public transport with a tricycle. For those planning to visit the province, take note that there are no jeepneys here. Photo by Mosh Magbanua

#3 ATM: Absent Teller Machines.

The rarity of ATMs in the capital city of Aurora may be a bit absurd, especially because many establishments elsewhere are now opting for cashless transactions. If you find yourself out of cash, you’ll have to endure a long journey to the town proper just to get some backup.

It doesn’t help either that technology doesn’t play a big part in the everyday lives of Baler locals. Despite all the advancements in the Metro, there is still a small town up north where you can still enjoy life without too much technology. Remember to bring enough cash though!

#4 What Night Life?

If you are planning a trip to Baler with the aim of hitting the beach and going full party mode, well, you’ll be disappointed. At around nine in the evening, everything is quiet in this town. Local artists usually play at bars during weekends but weekdays aren’t that lively.

Ampere Beach is a far cry from Baler’s busy center. You can enjoy the blue waters and the rocky beach all by yourself, if you’re lucky. Photo by Mosh Magbanua

Baler, in contrast to other beaches like Boracay and La Union, is a spot where relaxation is first priority. So if you are looking for peace and serenity, you’re really gonna love this place. From time to time, it’s good to just enjoy talking with friends over cocktails instead of partying ‘till dawn.

Basically, Baler is not your usual paradise. If you do decide to go here though – even if it lacks public jeepneys, fast food chains, ATMs, and a lively nightlife – you’ll definitely be in for a trip of rest and recreation.

Baler is not just a travel destination. It’s an escape from the bustling Metro towards simplicity and peace. 

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