The first time I went to Baler, my eardrum tore open due to a surfing accident. I was deaf for an entire month! However, that didn’t stop me from getting on a surfboard again nor from coming back to Baler. The waves were nice and reliable that weekend. Miguel and I were able to surf twice that Sunday.
Tiwala Lang by Kuya Boyong
Kuya Boyong’s surf school tackles both basic and advanced surfing lessons. It’s called “tiwala lang” or “just believe” because he usually tells his students that there will be waves where there aren’t, and he’s usually right. They’ve got hard top and soft top long boards, as well as short boards.
Surf Board Rental Rates:
-Per Hour: PHP 150
-Half day: PHP 400
-Whole day: PHP 800
-1 Hour with Surf Instructor: PHp 300
Location: In front of “The Shack” and the lighthouse, near the only dead white tree on Sabang Beach, Baler
Contact Number: (+63 912) 882-8337
How to Get to Baler
Contrary to popular belief, Genesis Transport (Cubao) does not have a bus that leaves for Baler every hour. When we got there at 7:30 AM, we were alarmed to discover that the buses usually leave at 10:30 PM and 11:30 PM or something like it. The next bus was supposed to be at 12 NN which we weren’t willing to wait for. (Genesis leaves Baler for Manila at 5:30 AM and 10 AM.)
Luckily, ES Transport (Cubao) was right next door, and they’ve got bus routes from Cubao to Cabanatuan leaving every hour or so for only PHP 185/person. From there, the Genesis dispatcher said we could take a Genesis Transport or Aurora Trans bus to Baler.
There were 2 really long lines at ES Transport. Turns out both were bound for Cabanatuan but one of them passed through SCTEX (faster) while the other passed through San Juan. Good thing I asked kuya guard! Kuya guard suggested that we take the bus that just rolled into the garage even though it was already full. We would have to stand in the aisles until someone else got off. Otherwise, we would have to wait for the next bus for God-knows-how-long. Thankfully, the conductor handed out tiny stools, so we were able to sit all throughout the 3.5-hr ride.
As soon as we got off the ES Transport van at Cabanatuan, vendors swarmed all over us asking where we were headed. They hurriedly ushered us to a UV express van parked in front of the train stations. The van was headed to Baler for PHP 220/person and was just waiting to fill up. The ride would take another 3 hours.
Option 1: Cubao-Cabanatuan-Baler (6.5 hrs)
Cubao to Cabanatuan via Bus: ES Transportation (3.5 hrs)
-Standard A/C – PHP 185/person
Cabanatuan to Baler via UV Express (3 hrs)
-Standard Van: PHP 220/person
Option 2: Cubao-Baler (6.5 hrs)
-Standard A/C: PHP 450/person
-JoyBus Premier: PHP 700/person (Sleeper Bus)
Where to Stay in Baler
We stayed at an airbnb called Casa Lamierda. In Spanish, “mierda” literally means “crap”, but in the Filipino context, “lamierda” refers to lakwatsa, gimmick or roam about. It’s got a cozy hostel vibe with a rustic common area, cutely decorated rooms and fiber internet, which was down while we were there.
Our hostess Crisha was great! A writer and a foodie herself, she gave us some suggestions on where to eat in Baler.
Casa la Mierda is on an unmarked road–more like path–along the main road in Sabang. The main landmark is AWEL Seashore Inn. Go past it and turn right into a discrete pathway leading to residential homes. The Airbnb is somewhere at the end of the road. It’s got a bamboo structure and is the only house with a blue roof around.
Where to Eat in Baler
Restaurants in Baler are now a combination of carenderias, grills, homey cafes and modern bistros.
The Good Food
For something affordable and fast, The Good Food offers Filipino Tex-Mex comfort food like quesadillas, soft tacoo, burritos and burritos. The Filipino twist comes in the form of pink mayonnaise and grilled pinapple in the Burger 1.0 (PHP 90), turning it into an aloha yum burger. We also had the Burger 2.0 (PHP 180), whose beef patty was twice as thick as its predecessor. I personally found Burger 1.0 juicier.
We also loved their Beef Taco (PHP 85) for its cheesiness and the Fish Burrito (PHP 115) for the thoroughly spiced rice.
Location: Buton Street, Sabang, Baler
Operating Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM Daily
Contact Number: (+63 917) 875-9181
By far our favorite, Kusina Luntian has the best homey Filipino meals at affordable rates. We were thrown off at first by the facade. The small bamboo house looked like someone’s home, but it had an entire dining hall out back. Guests take off their footwear and sit on the bamboo floor. Food is served in banana leaves on long bamboo tables. There are no utensils, so you have to learn how to eat everything with your hands, especially rice! Well, the Nalecheng Biko (PHP 185)–leche flan on sticky rice–came with a spoon.
We got the Wapang Wapang Liempo (PHP 140) glazed with some mysterious ingredient, served with caramelized herbs, salted duck egg and fresh tomato. Miguel got the Walang Patawad na Tapa (PHP 120) which had crispy tapa flakes on rice. For drinks, we got their homemade Kalamansi Juice (PHP 65) made with yellow ginger and basil, and a bottle of Banayad Whiskey (PHP 60/ 350 mL) or local lambanog.
Location: Dela Torre St., Baler, Aurora
Operating Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM Daily
The word “kubli” is a deep Tagalog word that means “hidden” or “out of sight”. Kubli Bistro just opened last July 2017 in a secluded street right next to Kusina Luntian. Located on the 2nd floor of the building, the airconditioned bistro has a bar and a nightly acoustic performance. The bougie resto has Manila rates to match.
We got their bestsellers like the Kubli Rice (PHP 345), their version of seafood paella. To me, it was a bit bland, but I liked the subtle buttery flavor. I enjoyed the Lechon con Tokwa (PHP 280) better for the sizzling glaze on the sinful fat. For drinks, we got their specialty cocktail: the Infused Sangria (PHP 299) spiked with brandy. Something launched just 2 weeks ago, the Nutella Milkshake is a hazelnut delight mixed in with peanut chunks.
Location: Alley 2, Sabang, Baler
Operating Hours: 4 PM to 12AM Daily
Contact Number: (+63 908) 576-3505
Getting Around Baler
The main mode of transportation in Baler is the tricycle or trike. The rates are per person as opposed to per trip. Anything along T. Molina street or the beach strip is within walking distance. If you take the scenic route, you’ll barely notice that you’ve walked from one end to the other end of Sabang beach.
Sabang beach and the bayan or town are separated by a bridge. The nearest ATM machine is by DBP next to the municipal hall at the edge of the bayan. It’s a 1- to 2-minute walk from Kusina Luntian. Coming from the lighthouse area, the trike fare is PHP 12 per person.
From the lighthouse area to the Baler Bus Terminal, the trike fare is about PHP 15 per person.