TREK Aurora (Casiguran & Dilasag)

Okay, so today is throwback Thursday. So I decided to re-blog/re-post a write-up I have made some 8 years ago. This is about the concept of “voluntourism”. Voluntourism is a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, usually for a charity. At its very core, voluntourism is the desire to help others.

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After graduating in college, a few of my colleagues introduced me to the mountaineering sport. After my 1st climb (Mount Pulag in 2004), the desire to climb more mountains just grew eventually becoming a hobby. Along the way, I have met lots of new people. Some of my earliest and fondest memories were with a group of mountaineers called SABIT. It is through this group that I got the opportunity to first set foot in Aurora Province AND do some “voluntourism” work.

Read along:

May 2008. TREK or Trails to Empower Kids (as I understand it) is a group of like-minded mountaineers serving isolated communities in the Philippines (particularly children and some indigenous groups). Organized by good-spirited, generous souls from the SABIT group (Mam Kelly, Sir Jong, Mam Mimay to name a few), the group has devoted time and passion reach out to these various people in far-flung areas. The first TREK Project was made in Itogon, Benguet wayback (2007). This time, the 2nd TREK Project’s recipients are the AGTA, an indigenous tribe in the outskirts of the Province of Aurora.

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I have heard of this very good project from the people of Sabit. They have sent invitations to people who are interested in joining them in this noble activity. At first, I was kinda hesitant if I’d be joining. Not because that I don’t like humanitarian, rather, I was worried because of work schedule. Nonetheless, I ended up deciding to be absent from work and join this event.

Being the only person coming all the way from Baguio, I made my way first to Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija to meet up with the group.

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DAY 1: Nueva Ecija to Aurora

When I arrived at the meeting place, I immediately noticed the three vans packed with goods and good hearted people. And so as early as 4 in the morning, off we started our twelve hour or so journey to Brgy. Cozo, Casiguran, Aurora Province. It was a gruelling travel along jagged, winding and some unpaved paths. But, it was also great since we were not devoid of magnificent sceneries – verdant mountains, and the stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. I never thought that Aurora was that beautiful. The only thing I knew of the province then was that of Baler — that is a good surfing spot.

After several hours, we reached Casiguran, where we have to take 15 minuteboat ride to reach Brgy. COZO — the place where the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta or SPA, is. We have to camp out at Cozo. Since we arrived pretty early, it was an opportunity to further get to know the people who came to this trip.

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Day 2: TREK to SPA

During this the day, we were headed to the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta – the indigenous group’s school. It was about a 45-minute walk through streams and verdant foliage. Upon arrival at the SPA, we were greeted with a welcome song from among the students. They were even in a costume. We have prepared a lot of things for them like games, food, prizes, school stuff like books, gadgets and a lot more, It was very heart-warming moment when they sang Thank You (a song I knew because my mom taught when I was a kid). It made me feel and realize how lucky I am as a person, and it really felt good to help someone.

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After lunch, we went back to the camp, packed our things and off we went for another roundabout journey. Now that the “volunteering” part was done successfully, it was time to explore some of Aurora’s not so touristy and best-kept secrets. We headed our way to Aurora’s morthernmost town – Dilasag. The travel was more fun than yesterday’s since we were perched atop a jeepney. If you want to experience a first class way to travel and marvel at the sceneries – TOPLOADING is definitely a great alternative.

We arrived at Dilasag with the clouds ready to pour its angst. Nonetheless, the place where we camped out – the pristine Canawer Beach, was great. I spent several time just walking along its unspoiled shore. Night time came and we had socials. It is always a wonderful feeling getting to know people. I went to sleep a little earlier to rest my tired body. Besides, the following day’s activity requires an early wake up call.

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Day 3: Dilasag to Casiguran

Woke up pretty early. Got my camera and wandered along the beach. Then off we went to this spectacular place in Dilasag called Tariktik Point, where there were natural pools and awesome rock formations. We had a chance to swim and marvel at how beautiful the waters of Aurora are. After several hours, we went back to camp, had lunch before setting foot into our next destination — Casapsapan Beach in Casiguran. The beach was equally beautiful as Canawer. This beach was memorable because it was here where I first learned snorkelling. Special thanks to Mark Fer and Ate Lily for teaching me.

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Day 4: Babye Aurora

Twas time to leave Aurora and the people I have shared with this super awesome experience. It was yet another long trip. Mine was even longer as I was to go back to Baguio. I had a lot of realizations from this trip. It was not the usual travel that I do. The experience provided me with new perspective and balance. It felt like I was able to interact with people and the destination itself in ways that had previously existed beyond my capacity of expectation. It was a travel that united my purpose and passion and ignited my interest in ways incredible.

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Thank you TREK. Thank you people of Aurora.

***As of this re-blogging, TREK has already made around 17 TREK missions/projects. Kudos to all the people who have relentlessly shared their passion, time and resources for the success of this noble group’s activities. Hopefully, I would be able to join again a future project.

If you want to learn more about TREK, check out www.trailstoempowerkids.com or you ay also visit https://rubycomm.wordpress.com/category/trek-trails-to-empower-kids/

***Sorry for the poor photo quality. I didnt own any good camera way back then. Grabbed some from my TREK friends and some from my old Nokia phone cam  🙂

Exquisite Baler (Aurora, PH)

Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. – Drake

Have you watched the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now? (I wasn’t even born then, hahaha. But I did watch it on DVD)… I asked because a piece of the movie was shot in the Philippines. Some scenes were actually filmed in Baler, a second-class municipality in Aurora Province. It is one of the Philippines ‘prime surfing spot. It is host to stunning geographic formations and is situated on an immense plain at the south end of Baler Bay which is an adjacent segment of the Pacific Ocean.

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The once quaint town is now one of the Philippines top destinations. Visitors flock their way to Baler to experience the sea, the sand, the sun, and of course – surfing!

 HOW TO REACH BALER?

 The most common way to reach Baler is by way of riding a bus. The Genesis Transport Terminal located in Cubao offers a bus directly bound for Baler. One may choose between the Joy Bus (a deluxe, non-stop bus) and the regular aircon bus.

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Joy Bus: Schedule: 12MN and 4:30AM; The travel time is about 4 hrs and 30 minutes. Cost is Php690.00. Reservations may be done.

Regular Aircon Bus: Schedule: 1AM, 2AM, 4:30AM, 5:30AM, 6:30AM and 7:30AM; the travel time is around 6 hours. Cost is around Php450.00

As an alternative, one may take their buses going to Casiguran (a northern town of Aurora). Schedule: 1AM and 3AM

If and if buses plying to Baler are full, or if you want to do a day trip – you may take a bus going to Cabanatuan then ride a van/bus to Baler, Aurora. Travel time from Cubao to Cabanatuan is around 3 hours. Cost of fare is around Php190 (one-way).

The following buses are Cabanatuan bound:

  • ES Transport – Schedule: 24 hours available
  • Five Star Bus- Schedule: 24 hours available
  • Baliwag Transit – 1st trip is at 2AM

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Once in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija ride a bus bound for Casiguran, Aurora that will drop by Baler: D-Liner Buses are non-air-conditioned buses.
Schedule: 2AM, 5AM and 7AM; this schedules are quite uncertain as it may be dependent on the volume of passengers.
Fare to Baler: Php180/person/one-way; Travel Time to Baler is 4 hours

Another means of transportation from Cabanatuan to Baler is riding a Van: These vans in Cabanatuan are available 24 hours. You’ll see them lined up at Cabanatuan Central Terminal. Fare: Php220/person/one-way; the travel time is around 4 hours.

Once in Baler, take a tricycle to your destination of choice/s:

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO SEE?

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Based on the Local Tourism of Aurora, these are the places one can visit together with the standard prices for the tricycle tours:

1. History Trail & Eco Strip

Price: Php500/Tricycle – halfday
Max no. of pax per tricycle: 3 pax
Places to visit: History Trail (Baler Church, Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon, Museo de Baler and Quezon Park) and Eco Strip (Ermita Hill, Diguisit Beach and Añao Islet)

*** You can visit Dicasalarin and PAGASA weather station but you have to walk up a steep hill for about 30 minutes for PAGASA weather station and another 30 minutes for Dicasalarin. You may also hop on a habal-habal(single motorcycle and pay 150 per person/way).

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/dicasalarin-cove-aurora-ph/

One may also visit other towns of Aurora that are in close proximity to Baler. This includes Dipaculao (Ampere and Dinadiawan Beaches); Maria Aurora (for its Millenium Tree); and San Luis for its waterfalls like Ditumabo and Caunayan).

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2. History Trail, Eco Strip, Ditumabo Falls & Balete Tree

Price: Php800/Tricycle – wholeday
Max no. of pax per tricycle: 3 pax
Places to visit: History trail (Baler church, Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon, Museo de Baler and Quezon Park) and Eco Strip (Ermita Hill, Diguisit Beach and Añao Islet) Ditumabo falls and Balete Tree.
Note: To reach the falls, one will have to trek for about 30-45 minutes .

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/diguisit/

3.  Ampere Beach (for sunrise viewing), Dipaculao (if you wish to go to Dinadiawan Beach, it may cost higher since it is farther than Ampere) Price: Php300/Tricycle; Max no. of pax per tricycle: 3 pax

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/ampere-stone-beach-dipaculao-aurora-ph/

  1. Surfing in Baler: If your resort is not within Sabang (the surfing spot in Baler), you can ride a tricycle. From town center to Sabang, fare is Php 15/person. Once in Sabang, a lot of the resorts offer surf lessons. Surfing fee is usually Php350.00/hour/person. It goes with a surf instructor.

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BALER ACCOMMODATION:

Within Sabang:

Aliya Surf & Dive Resort – 0929-758-6005

Amihan Aplaya Lodge – 0918-693-5904 / 0918-632-8566

AMCO Beach Resort – 0921-411-7671; (044) 552-4209

Bahia de Baler Garden Resort & Restaurant I – 0908-732-0672

Bahia de Baler II – 0908-732-0672

Bay’s Inn – 0918-926-6697, 0908-982-3509

Bay-Ler View Hotel – 0927-366-8735 / 0919-286-3105

Cocohut Lodge – (042) 209 4341

Costa Pacifica – 0917-844-8371

Desiree’s Lodge & Transient House – 0920-480-0978 / 0921-751-8490

DSB Lodge – 0919-235-2435

Isla Virginia Resort – 0920-755-0467

Jamjem’s – 0921-598-3588 / 0916-200-1731

Kahea’s Lodge – 0915-748-0759

Kamagong Lodge – (42) 209-4301/0920-911-1413

Little Girl’s Surfer Lodge – 0927-395-5689

Mel-Nest Lodge – 0920-632-3043

MM Lodge – 0919-537-9405

Pacific Waves – 0917-8950-276

Sea Breeze Lodge – 0908-207-5364 / 0938-539-7344

Smart Beach House – 0928-507-6551

Surfer’s Inn – 0920-591-4962

Trezzo Inn – 0929-822-1992 / 0916-255-6025

Homestay in Sabang, Baler:

Edith S. Buluag (Homestay) – 0921-751-8490 / 0920-480-0928

June B. Samano (Homestay) – 0939-500-0803

Lanie Downing (Homestay) – 0919-458-6657

Margery Paug (Homestay) – 0939-356-7025

Tony Sinsay (Homestay) – 0920-275-9116 / 0921-450-3282

Other Accommodations in Baler (Outside Sabang area):

Azbahaen Leisure Farm and Resort – 0912-208-3588 / 0918-917-7784

Carlito’s Inn – 0908-872-0816

Dela Torre Beach Resort – 0920-509-6849 / 0949-608-7053

Eltrophine Lodge – 0919-373-7575

Kristines Villa Haus – 0928-242-6286

Moreno Lodge & Restaurant – 0918-451-4124 / 0928-505-9354

RAS Garden and Restaurant – 0918-539-3870

Sanchez Inn – 0920-812-9998

XTJR Traveller’s Inn – 0919-950-8554 / 0908-712-0883/0919-879-7447

***It is best to make reservations as the number of visitors can sometimes be unpredictable specially during the summer season.

 

Ampere Stone Beach (Dipaculao, Aurora. PH)

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”  ― Jo Walton

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Dipaculao – a coastal town about 20 kilometers north of the surfing town of Baler in Aurora.  A town dotted with some rocky beaches, others white sandy ones to serrated mountains and smooth boulders.

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One particular beach visited very early in the morning is the stony Ampere Beach located at Bunga Point, Dinadiawan, Dipaculao. A beach known for its spectacular sunrise and some toothed rocks sticking out of the waters. Being the nearest place of interest to Baler, we decided to wake up pretty early and made our way to see the sunrise.

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The tricycle ride to Dipaculao from Sabang Beach (where we stayed) in Baler was fresh and blowy. The sun was about to rouse up as we approach the coast of Ampere. The horizon started to blush as a tinge of orange hue starts to peep. Upon getting out of our tryke, we were greeted by the sight of raging waves splattering into the rocky shore, and the smell of the ocean breeze.

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We tried to walk our way towards the beach that is lined with fist-sized rocks that poses some difficulty. Unlike most beaches where one would be easily lured to swim into the water, it’s quite different here since the waters can be pretty treacherous.
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Each one of us took our own spot snooping into the Pacific Ocean’s waves, as we unwearyingly waited for the sunrise. Although it was quite cloudy, the sun’s glow through the ostensibly infinite horizon of the Pacific Ocean was spectacular. I just love how sunrise (and sunset) makes me feel good.

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How To Go To Ampere Beach: From Baler town proper, take a tricycle to Ampere Point/Bunga Point. The travel time is around one hour. Best time to go is before sunrise.

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Dicasalarin Cove (Baler, Aurora, PH)

“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful — an endless prospect of magic and wonder.” — Ansel Adams

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In the Philippines, it has become a tradition to head to the beach during the summer season. Being blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and choosing which coastlines to bum around is a delight to any sand-sun-sea lovers.

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However, the popular beach destinations usually become stuffed with packs of beachcombers. Being avid fans of off beaten paths, my friends and I decided to go to Baler, Aurora one weekend. Most people, who frequent this surfing haven at the northeastern side of Luzon in the Philippines, would have a taste of surf, sand and sea at Sabang Beach. However, my wandering soul wanted a more serene place so off we went to a cove tucked away from the busy Baler town.

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Dicasalarin Cove is still almost unheard of, making it one of baler’s best kept secrets. It is a secluded cove with a white sandy beach, a unique lighthouse atop a hill, a piece of the Sierra Madre’s lovely mountainscape and a seemingly endless, spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. So if you desire serenity at its finest, then a visit to this cove is a must when you are in Baler.

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Most Baler tour offered online, does not include a trip to Dicasalarin Cove. For one, the cove is pretty isolated. Moreover, the way to the cove is steep and can pose danger when one isn’t very versed in maneuvering its way to the area. If one decides to walk his or her way to the cove, make sure to be physically fit since going up and downhill may require patience and stamina. Nonetheless, the view along the way is way too scenic that one’s tired body may not notice.

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Dicasalarin Cove is a private area that is owned by the Angara Family. The entrance fee costs Php 300 per person. I know it could be a bit pricey. Maybe this is another reason why people do not consider coming to the area. But then again, the beauty of the place would make you forget you shelled out 300 bucks. The place is open only for day tour, from 8 am to 6pm.

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How to Reach Dicasalarin Cove from Baler:

You can hire a tryke that will take you all the way to the Digisit. The jump-off point is a n ascending concrete road to the PAG-ASA weather station The tricycle cannot make it up steep road so either you hike your way or hire a “habal-habal” or a single motorcycle that can take you upto the cove. (Php 75 one-way).

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Private cars may be used, but then again, make sure that the driver is capable of maneuvering such steep road.

Alternatively, one may charter a Bangka (an outrigger boat) from Sabang to take you to Dicasalarin Cove. However, this could be a very nauseating considering the strong waves of the Pacific Ocean.

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What You Can See in Dicasalarin:

  • A cove with white, sandy beach.
  • Beautifully scattered rocks.
  • A lighthouse perched atop a cliff. (One has to climb 170 steps to reach the top where the view is beyond words).

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  • A verdant view of the Sierra Madre.
  • A seemingly endless view of the cerulean Pacific Ocean.
  • An artist village.
  • A small river that empties out into the ocean.

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