Baler is considered as one of the top surfing spots in the country attracting both local and foreign tourists especially during the surfing season.
But do you know that Baler is also an ideal place to explore with our two wheeled environment-friendly and sustainable mode of transportation – the bicycle?
I have yet to connect with the local riders to explore the vast trails of Baler, but conquering three uphill battles proved to be a good start.
As I started heading to the first uphill in ASCOT (the Aurora State College of Technology) I was immediately energized by the fresh air coming from the nearby fields and mountains.
It was really a big relief really when the road you travel had few vehicles and bounded by rice fields, trees and mountains. The breeze and greenery were so refreshing, prompting you to breathe in more fresh air.
But the scenery suddenly changed when I came across this bridge.
As always, civilization and development were never nature friendly. The political and commercialism facet added even more damage. I later learned that the construction of the bridge was already declared completed but it could not be used due to some political squabbling.
ASCOT was ready, and so was I. This road leads to the upper campus of ASCOT where the Engineering Department is located. It wasn’t that difficult to ascend this first uphill since it was only less than a kilometer – or nearly 900 meters– up to the campus’ peak.
Ascend more and you will be rewarded with a better view of the coastal town of Baler.
The next uphill was the historic Ermita Hill which was even easier to ascend than ASCOT’s. It was less than half a kilometer, but the view on top was breathtaking.
History tells that on the night of December 27, 1735 a devastating tidal wave engulfed the entire town of Baler and the only survivors were the families who climbed the Ermita Hill for safety.
Another story tells that Ermita Hill also served as viewing point to serve as advance warning for incoming threats not from tsunamis but from “Moro raids” in the distant past. An escape tunnel can also be found here, believed to be used by the community to evade the raiders. The tunnel starts in a location in Sta. Elena leading to this spot in Ermita Hill.
An aviary with Rufus hornbills and other birds can also be found in the Ermita Hills. Looking through Google maps, there exists an “Ermita Trail” which I plan to conquer on my next trip along with other locations that I really want to explore in this town. As you trek to the peak of the hill, you will reach a big white cross closer to the heavens.
After conquering Emita Hill, the last thing on the list is the PAGASA Weather Radar Station.
But before reaching it, be energized by the power of the waves that will greet you in travelling along the coastal road leading to the beautiful beaches and secret spots in Baler. Be amazed with the rock formations and islets along the coasts of Baler.
There are two waterfalls you can easily spot and access along the road as you head towards this part of the town. After soaking in the beach, anyone can relax and wash their bodies on these cool and refreshing waterfalls – for free.
A lighthouse overlooking the Pacific can also be spotted as sitting on the hill as you head towards PAGASA. This lighthouse will also be explored on my next trip.
Ascending to PAGASA Weather Radar Station was the hardest among the three uphill battles. The station here boasts one of the countries Doppler radars. I already ascended to PAGASA thrice but I never made it without dismounting from my bike as I passed midway to the peak. Before I dismounted, I made sure that a stunning view was waiting for a shot.
Finally, after 1.3 kilometers uphill, with an elevation of 178.2 meters, you will reach the eye in the sky – radar station.
The view up there was even more breathtaking.
Luckily, I had the chance to see the apparatus they use inside the station, courtesy of Chief Meteorological Officer, Mr. Ceferino T. Hulipas (a father of my friend) who gave me a tour inside the station.
I saw the super computers they use to monitor the weather using the Doppler radars. During my visit, there was a brewing typhoon that prompted Baler’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management to send home the tourists booked for the long weekend of this year’s Holy Week observance.
The happiest part of every uphill is the downhill portion. That’s another reward after a glimpse of the stunning sceneries.
I timed my ride ascend which was close to 30 minutes, but the ride descend only took me less than three minutes. Extra care should always be practiced as you enjoy speeding downhill.
As a bonus to my trip, I took the dirt road leading to the hanging bridge of Baler. I enjoyed this part with unpaved roads. My favorite.
The hanging bridge is also one of Baler’s minor attractions. There are too many attractions you can find in Baler. I just focused my ride here conquering the uphills. In my next travel here, I will explore the largely untapped trails, the famed Mother Falls and the pristine beach of Dicasalarin Cove.
Biking is so much rewarding and fulfilling. As a weekend warrior, biking gives me a chance to be closer with nature. I love biking and conquering places I have never been before. With my bike, I feel I can go anywhere and enjoy the beauty of nature God has given us!