The kindness of Baler folks, the wonder of nature in a grand magnitude
“Saan po ang mataas na tuktuk dito na kita ang lahat?” casually inquired from a first aid volunteer at the Sabang beach front. “Yung may pulang bubong sa dulo nitong beach. Balik muna kayo ng bayan, labas sa palengke at tuloy kayo sa may Pingit.” “Salamat po,” we replied. Simple instructions that went with hand gesture led us to Ermita Hill.
“Malapit na po ba ang matandang balete tree?” Mga 5 kilometro na lang. Kaliwa dito. Pag may natanaw kayong Iglesia ni Kristo sa highway kanan kaagad. Ikot lang sa iskwelahan at matatananaw niyo na.” “Maraming salamat po.” From the waiting shed where we inquired, it was about 5 kilometers in my odometer as described.
“May mabibilhan pa bang buko?” “Pagmaramihan wala na po. Subukan niyong kumanan diyan tapos ng palengke. May isang bahay sa may kanto na nagbenbenta ng buko. Di po naman alam kung nagpaakyat sila ngayong Sabado.” After some more inquiries, we found Manang near the cockpit with several thousands of buco freshly picked by the nagpipitas. We had to haul them by ourselves. She served us buco for our rehydration.
As impulsive backpackers, we cover as much as we can from the leads we get from any source; maps, internet, public assistance handouts, waiters, front desk personnel, man on the street, tricycle driver, street vendor, even technical data from the weather bureau. In this Baler visit, we saw all the places we wanted to see, thanks to the kind and helpful residents of Baler. When inquiring how far the Manuel Luis Quezon monument was, our Bay’s Inn waiter picked at random accurately provided us with an approximate walking time and the exact corners to cover.
The desire to assist was not isolated. On the way out of the town proper, a portion of the main road was closed due to the Holy Week procession dis-orienting us. We stopped by and asked a fellow on the street, “saan po ba ang palengke?” The guys did not simply tell us to go straight. He counted 3 blocks and even gave the street name “Recto” to turn left.
While walking the wall dividing the Canili River and the gorge, we spotted a resident going to the same direction. Casually I asked, “Magandang hapon po. Ito na ba ang Canili?” That opening question was readily answered with a string of other relevant info. On the spot, we learned that the wall was constructed to divert the water towards Pantabangan, Canili was the last Barangay of Ma. Aurora, our next stop would be the province of Viscaya, in about 30 minutes time, we will be driving through cemented roads. Our handy resource person assured us that we were just about 2 hours to Cabanatuan. (As we parted, only then did I notice the grand gorge again. So overwhelming that I failed to take a second look at the ducks roaming around freely at the lake.)
The most difficult were those not indicated in the map. The road out of Baler via Ma. Aurora where we discovered the awesome gorge was easy to trace. So was the challenging dirt road up to the PAGASA station. As it was the peak season and Barangay Labasin could only offer limited rooms, we were willingly supplied with information from the personnel on where to go next. We eventually got not one room but an entire empty resort for a song.
Finding where to buy buco was the most challenging as there are truly no buying centers, only temporary makeshifts. Through the Baler folks where we were served a hundred per cent with all our inquiries for directions , we found it. That to us was the ultimate destination, more than the grand points of attractions.
Baler made us experience what Marcel Proust a French literary artist in early 19th century wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” People take the centerstage more than the landscape. It has always been for Baler, all the time. Happy Easter!
Chasing waterfalls. Field testing technical gears
River at Canili that stands still like a Lake
Awesome gorge across Canili River
Flagellants on Good Friday
Accommodation for a song
-Fotos by Marc C.