Lukso-Lukso islet is a long stretch of rock formations along south of Sabang beach. Marvel at the stunning rock formations of the islet. We were lucky enough to visit there during low tide so were able to walk up to the large rocks and take our pictures...
During high tide, this place is ideal for diving and snorkeling.
Ermita Hill is the tallest peak in Baler. According to locals, it was where the residents of Baler took refuge when a tsunami hit the place. At the foot of the hill you will see the statues depicting the said event.
If you'd like to see the picturesque view of Sabang beach, this is the best place to go to. I would suggest that you hike the place instead of driving to it to fully appreciate the fresh air and the view of Baler.
The friendly staff of Museo de Baler welcomed us the second time we went there. There were few guests that day. I asked permission to take some pictures, and they gladly obliged.
When we went there, there was no entrance fee yet; we just had to drop any amount into their donation box.
Aside from the genuine relics on display (like the original bells of old Baler Church and a human skeleton found in a prehistoric burial site), the museum also serves as repository of the "props" and costumes used in the filming of much-acclaimed movie "Baler". It is amusing to note that young guests at the museum looked at the costumes of the leading actor and actress of the movie "Baler" with more interest than the ancient relics.
Having read about the miraculous cross at Ermita Hill, I wanted to go there. So when I saw the towering white cross and the big "Maligayang Pasko" (Merry Christmas) greeting on the hillside from our resort in Sabang Beach, all the more I looked forward to going there.
Since we took a tricycle going to Ermita Hill, we had no choice but to go up through the 136 stairs. Actually, I counted 120, but I could have missed some steps as I gasped for breath. The sweeper at the park insisted it was 136 steps. It was a tedious climb for my osteoporotic knees and thigh bones (I'll write a separate warning tip on this) but it was all worth the pain.
As you climb the stairs, you can already see the bay, and when you finally reach the viewdeck from the chapel, you'll be reinvigorated by the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, Baler Bay, Baler town, Sabang Beach & delta, and Dimadimalangat islet.
There are picnic cottages on the hill, but what people usually go there for is the miraculous corss and chapel. Alas, my legs ached so badly, I couldn't climb up to the cross anymore so I just prayed at the chapel. The chapel site is said to be Old Baler's watchpoint. With the bell tower's excellent vantage point, the people of Baler were warned of raiding pirates (moros).
Note: If you hire a car/jeep/van, it can actuallly bring you up to the park where the chapel is.
Baler Coastal Side Tour
On our first night, I showed our landlady for our four-day stay at Homestay Inn the list of places we wanted to visit. She said that apparently most of the places in our itinerary is just along one road. She offered to arrange our transportation for our tour. We hired a tricycle for Php500 to take us to our Coastal Side Tour of Baler.
First stop was Ermita Hill/Park (our driver took us directly to Tromba Marina Sculpture, until another driver asked him if we already saw the Ermita Park, and he said "no". it was only then our driver decided to show us the Ermita Park. Beware of these drivers!) We explored the zoo, took pictures at the viewing deck, prayed at the chapel, see the secret tunnel (it has a marker, visible from the chapel) and went down to see the Tromba Marina sculpture.
Next stop was the Baler Fishport then off to Diguisit Falls. We drove to Lukso-Lukso Islets, and checking our list, I asked him about the other places. He hesitantly drove us to Diguisit Beach, then to Aniao Islets, and last stop was the Cemento Beach. We treated him to lunch at the Carinderia (despite his efforts not to show us the other places) near the Bus Terminal, and gave him Php120 as tip. I was disappointed that we only drove past Diguisit Beach and I was not able to see Dimadimalangat Beach too.
Oh well. Lesson learned.
P.S. We explored Sabang Beach in the afternoon. FYI, Lindy's Point is at the south end of Sabang Beach and Charlie's Point is at the north end. Charlie's Point is where the tricycles are all parked, and Lindy's Point is at the far end. It has a lighthouse tower-like structure to signify the "point". We had dinner at Ram's Tapsilog near the hospital (just take a trike and ask to be taken there).
I suggest hire a tricycle and be specific with your requests. I recommend that you visit these places in this order: ermita hill, tromba marina, diguisit falls, cemento beach, aniao islets, diguisit beach, and last but not the least lukso lukso islets.
Wake up early and have a good morning exercise by the beach. Whether you're into jogging, brisk walking or tai-chi, you'll surely feel reinvigorated with the cool seabreeze and be freshened up by the mist from rampaging waves.
The Diguisit Falls is actually called Natulo Falls in the olden days. I was told that it was the source of the first potable water system in Baler, an initiative of Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon. It reportedly supplied clean, cold, fresh and sweet-tasting water to the houses of the townfolks. The water came from the mountains and diverted to the top of the waterfalls. Then in the early eighties, modern water systems were installed, taking over the supply of potable water to Baler residents. Today, locals say the Diguisit water source still produces (though in much smaller quantities) the same quality of water to some private resorts along the Diguisit area.
Diguisit Falls is more than 10 kilometers from the Poblacion, but easy to go to. If you go to the Aniao and Lukso-lukso Islets, you will pass by it shortly after the Baler Fishport. You won't miss it because water trickles down to the road. Some tricycle drivers stop there to clean their tricycles.
Even to the uninitiated mountaineer, Diguisit Falls is easy to reach. However, because of leg pains after my Ermita Hill climb, I didn't go up anymore to the first layer of the waterfalls.
From the view deck of Ermita Hill, we saw the Baler Municipal Fishport. We drove past it when we went to Diguisit Beach; we didn't stop because we were hurrying to see the islets. We decided to drop by on our way back, since we were in the area anyway. I had wondered what was worth seeing there. I learned that this was where fish like blue marlin and tuna, as well as seafoods like shrimps, crabs and lobsters are bought at wholesale prices. Too bad, it was already past noontime when we passed by so there weren't anymore fish. What was left for trading at the fishport were coconuts.
We just took some shots of the fishport and its surroundings. From a distance, one sees the Bangus Hatchery, the beautiful coast and islet.
The eye-catching Tromba Marina Sculpture and Marker set at the foot of Ermita Hill is a reminder of the catastrophic tsunami (called tromba marina by the Spanish missionaries) that destroyed the old Baler town proper in the 18th century.According to archives, the event occurred on 27 December 1735 at about 2:30 AM. The town was reportedly gone within an hour, leaving only a number of surviving families who swam and run to nearby Point Baja Hill, the place now known as Ermita Hill. Their resettlement areas later became known as "Kinagunasan", literally meaning “devastated”.
The Angara family was among those families that survived the tsunami. Other survivors were the Bihasa, Bitong, Carrasco, Lumasac and Poblete families.
The Aragon house is just across the Baler Church. It was on this site where Dona Aurora Aragon-Quezon was born on Feb. 19, 1888. This was where as a young girl, she witnessed the burning of houses during the "twilight" of Philippine-Spanish Revolution, and her family sought refuge in the church during the Siege of Baler. Along with many other houses, the burned Aragon house was reconstructed after the 1900 siege. As time went on, the house has undergone some changes.
Today, a replica of the original Aragon house stands. The restoration of the ancestral home is a joint project of the Angara politicians (namely Senator Edgardo Angara, Congressman Juan Edgardo Angara, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Mayor Arturo Angara) and the Sangguniang Bayan Members with funding from the National Historical Institute. Architectural details were painstakingly studied and reconstructed. Except for the landscaped garden and cemented "silong" (area under the flooring), the structure is a faithful copy with no alteration to maintain the original character of the Aragon house.
The site is now open to the public, and used for some community meetings and/or events.
If not for the giggles of some curious school girls, I would have most missed this historic secret tunnel devised by the people of old Baler as escape route during the frequent raids of moro pirates. The starting point is said to be from a location in Barangay Santa Elena leading up to this site at Ermita Hill.
Museo de Baler is the repository of precious relics of historic Baler. The first time we went there, the museum was closed because it was a holiday so the only thing that my eyes focused on were the mural sculptures on its facade. Said display of mural sculptures is the brainchild of Senator Edgardo Angara, prominent son of Baler who hoped to inspire the youth to emulate the lives of their ancestors.
Programs initiated by the local government are usually held infront of Museo de Baler. That day we were there, preparations were being done for the launching of the Belen and Parol-making Contests.
The Quezon Park was developed to serve as a landmark of Baler, Quezon, it being the site of the late President Manuel L. Quezon's birthplace and house. A bronze sculpture of President Quezon seated in his usual stately fashion serves as centerpiece of the park. Children love to play around the sculpture which is set on a circular cement platform. Sometimes, they sit on Quezon's lap, or embrace him as they pose for souvenir pictures. I noticed that many families go there to stroll under the giant trees on late afternoons or early mornings, or simply sit on the benches as the kids romp on the gardens.
When we went there, a festivity of some sort was being held. The different barangays/sitios were setting up their own creative interpretation of Belen (Nativity Scene), using only indigenous materials from products of Baler (e.g., coconut, corn, etc), combined with recyclable materials (e.g. plastic softdrnk bottles, used tetrapacks,etc).
Said to be formerly installed at the left wall of the Baler Catholic Church, the simple marker for Lt. Commander James Gilmore now stands at the corner of the town Plaza, just across the Aurora Quezon Marker.
Who, you may ask, is Lt. Commander James Gilmore? He was with the US Navy and was then Commanding Officer the USS Gunboat Yorktown. Together with all his men, they went to Baler, Aurora to disarm and ask for the surrender of the Spanish soldiers camping at Baler Church. However, by twist of fate, they were captured by Filipino insurgents in April 1899.
The NHI marker is a tribute to his heroic act.
The ancient structure of the old church can no longer be gleaned from the present appearance of the Baler Church, but it was declared a National Historical Landmark on February 29, 2000 for the pivotal role it played in the Christianization of the natives in the area, as well as the role it played in the Seige of Baler. It wil be recalled that Spanish forces were besieged by Filipino insurgents from June 27, 1898 to July 2, 1899. The church was converted into a garrison by the last four Spanish officers and their 50 men. It was also here where they surrendered to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's revolutionary forces, upon realilzation that there was no more reason to fight since Americans already won over the Spaniards, and therefore the Philippines no longer belonged to Spain.