Category Archives: AURORA

Between Peaks and Waves – Dingalan, Aurora

We go out of our comfort zones not to escape life but rather, to enrich it with experiences. Experiences that keeps us grounded and shatters the thin ice that separates us from reality and the routinary defaults of the adult world. This time, we headed to Dingalan, the neighboring and a quaint municipality in Aurora that is hidden behind the mountain Ranges of the Sierra Madre, adjacent to Quezon province.



The Lamao

At the southernmost part of the Aurora province, lies Dingalan. It offers rugged shorelines and rustic features that are far from touristy and was given the moniker “The Batanes of the East” for its mountains and coasts that resembles that of in Basco. Our group assembled in Cubao by 11pm and with a rented van, we took the 5 hour ride going to the feeder port of Dingalan. By 4:30am, we arrived earlier than expected so we dozed off for a while until our boatman arrived and off we go by 5:30am.

Just in time for the sunrise, the mountain ranges were a welcoming sight. The play of colors of the morning sky were in full riot. It took around 15 minutes on still ocean waters until the glorious sunrise came into being, glad the Pacific woke up on the right side of the bed.

We arrived at the Lamao Caves by 6:00am and there were a lot of them peeking through the rugged cliffs of the mountain passes. The rock formations around are carved beautifuly by the swells.

It is said that this caves are interconnected with each other not until strong typhoons caused rockslides and eroded cave interiors that blocked cave passages.

After the affair with the turquoise waters of the Dingalan Coastline, we proceeded to the so called White Beach Resort.

The Lighthouse

Another 10 minutes passed and we docked at the shore of the lighthouse jump-off. Contrary to the name of the place, the shore is made up of gray-sand and tiny corals. We were then welcomed by the owner of the cottages.

Another fun thing about this place are the roaming pot-bellied pigs in the area, they were named Beki and Bok-Bok. By 8:00am we started the trek after having our breakfasts. The trail is relatively short and straightforward, it only took us 15 minutes to reach the very top of the hill where the Parola/lighthouse is located.

From the top of the lighthouse, the meandering mountain ridges were in full view, while contrasted by the Pacific Ocean on both sides, something a photographer couldn’t resist. A visual treat and refreshingly breathtaking. 



The Batanes of the East tag truly lives up to its name, but it is not right to compare such a place to this since every destination opens up to new experiences and is different from each other. Uniquely, Dingalan, will always be Dingalan and that is how it should stay. 


At the recent light of events, most people who stands atop the beacon is increasingly becoming a trend, just to catch a good glimpse of the view and a quick photo snap. Sometimes we often forget to remind ourselves of our safety , the risk of falling down a five storey lighthouse is neglected and as well as the preservation of the structure and its components may it be natural or artificial. Always pay due respect to our surroundings, we had our fair share of lesson from it and hoping that this won’t be happening again for the next visitors atop the Parola. 


We then got back at the feeder port by lunch time and headed to the town proper to have a taste of some local cuisines. Surely, there are many carinderias to choose from. After lunch we had a sidetrip at the Tanawan View Deck and immediately proceeded to our next destination tucked away in the sleepy town of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.


P.S. No Solar Panels were harmed during our visit.

P.P.S. Big thanks to Ms. Amie Valencia for reintroducing us to Dingalan, Aurora.


Next in the Niche: Rediscovering N.E. – Minalungao National Park

Budget and Itinerary

Dingalan, Aurora + Minalungao National Park Day Trip

DAY 0
2300  –  Meet-up at Farmers Plaza, Cubao

Day 01
0000  –  Van bound to Dingalan, Aurora
0430  –  Arrival at Dingalan Feeder Port. 
0530  –  Take Boat to Lamao Caves 
0600  –  Arrival at Lamao Caves
0630  –  Depart for Nanay’s Cottages
0800  –  Start trek going to lighthouse
0820  –  Arrival at lighthouse
1000  –  Back at Cottages, rest
1100   –  Take boat back to Feeder Port
1130   –  Arrival at Feeder Port
1200  –  Dingalan Town Proper, Lunch
1220  –  Depart for General Tinio, Nueva Ecija

1230  –  Tanawan View Deck

1445  –  Arrival at Minalungao National Park
1730  –  Depart for Manila
2100  – ETA on Manila

Safe Budget: 1500php/pax – 2000php/pax


Notes:

One can reach Dingalan by taking Cabanatuan bound buses in Cubao, Pasay, and Avenida (Five Star, Genesis, Baliwag Transit, ES Transport), Fare is less than 200php/pax and takes 2-3 hours depending on the time of the day

● From Cabanatuan, you have 2 (two) options:

– Take Dingalan bound Vans, fare costs 120php/pax and takes 1-2 hours to reach the town proper. First trip is at 7am

– Take Umiray bound buses that passes through Dingalan Town Proper, fare costs 80php-100php and takes around 2-3hours. First trip is at 6am

● Upon arrival at Dingalan Town Proper, take tricycles going to the Feeder Port, takes 15-20 minutes, fare costs 20php-50php depending on your haggling skills

● You can stay at any of the resorts around the area then visit the lighthouse the other day, or rent a boat going to the Lighthouse, boat rental costs 800php/2 way good for 15pax, includes a sidetrip to the Lamao Caves if the weather permits

● One can trek from the port/resort going to the lighthouse, but it will take much of your time

●There are a number of waterfalls hidden inside the mountains of Dingalan which has no names until now, most of them can be reached in less than an hour by foot

● Last trip from Dingalan to Cabanatuan is until 5pm

●Practice LNT principles, respect local ordinances



Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding the azing world we are living in. 

– Andrew Zimmern


Go, Carve That Niche,
Rex



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Caught in the Moment – Baler, Aurora

Baler, Aurora Daytrip Series (Part 2)


The Dicasalarin Cove

Right after a walk down the historic Baler Plaza, Kuya Michael and I met up and resumed our adventure. I was a little cautious while driving the single motorcycle I rented, but it didn’t took long before the adrenaline started pumping as I got faster along Cemento Road. We happened to pass by almost everything the province has to offer from beaches to waterfalls to stunning rock formations and the like. But we opted to go for the last and least visited place, the Dicasalarin Cove. You can also reach this place by boat.

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Around 20 minutes on a steep uphill road, we caught glimpse of the PAGASA Weather Station and its doppler radar, first in the country and the light house. It was no easy drive going to the cove since the inclination of the road is rather frightening if you had just one wrong move. Then upon reaching the gate we paid for the entrance fee as well as the parking fee and the cove welcomed us in its full tropical glory. The place is a private property owned solely by the Angara Family.

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Upon reaching the cove by 1:10pm, I immediately took a good walk on its fine white sand beach and had a good look on its clear blue waters and the accompanying raging waves.

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Since the tide is low, my guide suggested that we visit the Punta Encanto Cave which only appears when the waters go low. A good 10 minute walk facing the pacific and we reached the cave in no time. During high tides one may opt to swim to reach it.

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This is a good place to swim if the stifling heat becomes unbearable. The water inside is just around 4 to 5 feet and varies according to the tide.

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After a good swim, I headed for the Dicasalarin Light House which is just above the gargantuan islet housing the cave. It will take you 140 steps before you reach the origami like structure that serves as a beacon for the vessels passing by the Baler Bay and the cove.

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The afternoon siesta time finally hit me, so I headed back to one of the cottages to catch some good zzzz’s before tidying up and get on the adventure mode again.

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A quick nap by the beach and I tidied up and explored the place some more, from the Ifugao Cottages, an old bridge will lead you to a forested area that contains a treasure inside it called the Artist’s Village. An hour more of trek and a waterfall is waiting for any visitor who wants to visit it.

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The Artist Longhouse perfectly represents the province’s skill in wood carving, architecture, and the love for the arts. This is a three-storey open structure that has paintings inside, furnitures, sculptures and many more.

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The Diguisit

One thing I noticed about Aurora is its unlikely penchant for places that start with the word “DI” (Dinadiawan, Dingalan, Dikildit, Ditumabo, Dicasalarin) but this time I’ll be heading to the famous Sitio Diguisit of Brgy. Zabali.

Heading back to the Cemento Road is again a challenging task of going back through the steep roads where we came from. And first on our list as we got down is the Tromba Marina.

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Since tgere’s not enough time for me to climb the Ermita Hill, that happens to be Baler’s highest peak overlooking the bay, I just took a good look at the sculpture of seven people holding each other’s hand as a wave comes after them. This commemorates the devastating tsunami that wiped down the whole town on December 27, 1735. They represent the seven families that seek refuge at the top of the Hill. The Angara’s and the Bitong’s of which are the oldest surviving clans up to the present day Baler.

Next is the Dimadimalangat Islets, consisted of massive rocks protruding from the shore, and is battered by the waves and scuplted by nature over time immemorial.

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Next to the Islets is the Diguisit Falls, which happens to be just a short walk from the side of the road.

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By 4:40pm, we reached the Digusit Beach and its rocky shore that leads to the Aniao Islet. Also dubbed as the Cobra Beach, due to the waves during swell months that looks similar to cobras slithering up with its head held up high, high waves indeed.

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Then our last stop for the day was the Baler Hanging Bridge which is at Brgy. Zabali, the sun has finally set from the horizon and my trip is now coming to an end. I reached the hanging bridge by 5:30pm and the sunset from here was quite awesome.

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From the Hanging Bridge, I had my last ride with my habal-habal going to the public market where the commuter vans are now waiting. I got back at Cabanatuan by 11pm, and was back at Manila by 1:30am the following day.

I can now finally say that Baler is indeed a great place to spend your vacation, and if not applicable, a day trip is still possible but not for the faint hearted. Only a day passed but it felt like several days to me. It is good knowing that whatever challenges that you are facing right now, a good adventure will take away all your worries of the hustle and bustle of the city, just remember that everything seems to crazy until you prove them otherwise. Get caught in the moment, live it!

Budget and Itinerary

Baler, Aurora
Solo Daytrip Itinerary

0100  Departure from Cubao via Genesis Liner (450php/pax)
0700  Arrival at Baler, breakfast, meet guide
0730  Start Habal-Habal tour (800php/day)
0800  Brgy. Ditumabo, trek to Mother Falls (30php/entrance fee, 20php/parking fee)
0830  Ditumabo Mother Falls
0900  Trek back to jump-off point
0930  Back at jump-off, travel to Brgy. Quirino, Maria Aurora
1000  Millenium Tree
1015  Travel to Sabang Beach
1040  Sabang Beach
1100  Travel back to Baler town proper, lunch
1120  Baler Town, Lunch
1140  Baler town proper, visit Museo De Baler, Aurora Aragon House, Baler Church and Plaza.
1220  Travel to Dicasalarin Cove, Brgy. Zabali
1310  Dicasalarin Cove, visit Punta Encanto Cave and Lighthouse. (350php/pax entrance and parking fee)
1430  Back at the cottage, rest, tidy up
1520  Explore Dicasalarin Artists Longhouse
1545  Travel back to Diguisit
1615  Diguisit Beach, Dimadimalangat Islets, Diguisit Falls, Tromba Marina
1640  Diguisit Beach, Aniao Islets
1700  Travel to Baler Hanging Bridge
1730  Baler Hanging Bridge
1800  Baler Terminal, Dinner, tidy up
1840  Ride Van bound to Cabanatuan (230php/pax)
1930  ETD of Van
2300  Arrival at Cabanatuan Bus Terminal, take bus back to Manila (120php/pax)
0130  Manila

Total Damage:
Transportation: 800php
Fees:
Ditumabo 30php (Entrance Fee)
20php (Parking Fee)
Dicasalarin 300php (Entrance + Cottage Fee)
50php (Parking Fee)
Habal-Habal Tour 800php + 200php tip for Dicasalarin Cove

Total Damage:
Solo: 2200php/pax (Safe Budget: 2500php/pax)
3pax: 1600php/pax (Additional budget depends on arrangements with the tour guide)

Notes:
● From Cubao, you have three options:
– Take Genesis Liner Bus bound for Baler, trips start by 12mn, and bus schedule is on an hourly basis, travel time 6-7hrs
–  Take Joy Bus, the express coach of Genesis Liner, but costs 700php/way, travel time is 4-5hrs, no stop over, same schedule as the Genesis Regular Airconditioned buses
– Take ES Transport or Baliwag Transit Buses bound for Cabanatuan, then from Cabanatuan find Baler bound buses that starts their trip at 6am
● Manila bound Genesis Liner buses from Baler has last their last trip at 10am, if doing a daytrip, one can opt to take Cabanatuan bound vans at the Van Terminal behind the Public Market, last trip is at 7pm, then from Cabanatuan, ride Manila bound buses
● Tricycles can’t reach Dicasalarin Cove due to steep uphill roads, tour operators recommend to take single motorcycles/Habal-Habal, if you are in for an adventure, drive it yourself
● You can contact two of the local tourism guides of Baler for more info, I personally recommend their service:
Kuya Michael Dela Cruz – +639204365056
Kuya Wendell – +639099283851
● You can extend this Itinerary and travel to Casiguran, Aurora on Day 02, it is three hours away from Baler and is adjacent with Isabela Province, or to Dingalan, Aurora which is an hour and a half away and the one bordering the Quezon Province

It’s like Forrest Gump said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’ Your career is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today. That’s the exciting part – it’s an adventure in itself.
– Nick Carter

Go, Carve That Niche,
Rex

Live the Moment – Baler, Aurora

Baler, Aurora Day Trip Series (Part 1)

Explore your options and go for the less chosen, less conventional one; that is when an adventure sparks up the inner wanderlust. It may sound real crazy, but having no option for long vacations, nor leaves from your regular job, a spur of the moment decision  made me pack my backpack with a day’s worth of provisions for travel. They say that the secret is balance, find that contrasting spot between work and what you enjoy and make it work from there.

The Mother Falls

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Market Day at Baler

A day trip at Baler has been logistically possible, many had done it before and now’s my time to do it myself, solo backpacker mode: ON. 11pm I already queued for a seat at the Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao for the 12 midnight trip, but the trip came in later than expected, by 1:00am the bus departed. Must’ve slept like a baby and I woke up by 5am somewhere in the mountain passes of Aurora, and two hours later, I arrived in Baler.

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Bucolic as it is

Prior to my arrival, I already contacted a local tourism guide before I rode the bus last night, he agreed to meet me by 7:30am, so I snagged a quick meal before meeting Kuya Michael. The time came and with no further ado, the tour started. First on the list is the Ditumabo Mother Falls located in San Luis, Aurora, it was a 30 minute early morning ride through provincial roads before reaching Brgy. Ditumabo. Landmark was a red bridge with a welcome sign then we turned left until we reached the parking area.

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Welcome to Ditumabo!

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We alighted and Kuya Michael also served as my guide as we trek up to the end of the river trail. It took us 30 minutes before the waterfall became a reality, the trek was rather easy since we passed by concrete sidewalks passing through a river that is fed by the falls and no steep inclines to be noted.

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River trekking to the Mother Falls
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Downstreams
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The so-called “Baby Falls” right next to the Mother

Definitely the summer season is in town but the downpour  from the 140 feet height surely was remarkable. Add up the cold and clear turquoise water flowing from is inviting to anyone who visits the place.

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5 more minutes.
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Ditumabo Mother Falls
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Let it rain, let it pour down
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The best will always be yet to come

The number of visitors continued to trickle in so I decided to continue the trip and left the Ditumabo Mother Falls by 9:00am.

The Millenium Tree

We were again back at the jump off point by 9:30am, and we proceeded to Brgy. Quirino in Maria Aurora to visit the famed Millenium Tree. Around 20 mins from Brgy. Ditumabo, is where the tree is located, and by 10am we were already at the area. Entrance fees are collected, but jolly old Kuya Michael has his ways and made me not to pay anything. So I spent a good 15 minutes looking around.

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Seems right out of a fantasy book, the Millenium Tree

Balete Tree or Strangler Fig, is a parasitic specie of tree that grows on top of another tree and eventually drains it out until it thrives on the nutrients the previous tree has. Stories tell that this tree had been here and is a sole witness of whatever transpired here for hundreds if not, thousands of years. A good number of people, 60 at the least shall be needed if tree hugs are to be made.

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You will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory
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Colossal!

The Search for the Perfect Swell

I immediately left the Ronquillo Eco Park and proceeded with my next destination before lunch time. Next on the list is Sabang Beach, almost half an hour before I reached the prime surf spot of Baler. I arrived by 10:40am and initially my plan is to take some surfing lessons before the afternoon. But it seems like the swells have subsided and waves are little to none, the perfect swell must’ve been lost and still on his way to Baler.

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Sabang Beach, Baler
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Seems like the swells have not visited for a while

Moving on, I rested for quite a while before we got back to Baler town proper where we had a good lunch consisted of Inihaw na Pusit, Tuna Sinigang and Pinakbet, all for 200php for 2pax!.

A Walk in the Past

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Baler Museum and its intricately made facade

Since our next destination is quite far, my guide went home to detach his sidecar and get another motorcycle so I could experience to drive my own habal-habal (for a fee). So he went home and I proceeded with some historical walk at the town plaza.

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Statue of Manuel Quezon at the center of the park

First on the list is Museo De Baler, where a number of artifacts are preserved. From the outside is the statue of Manuel Quezon sitting on his chair at the center of the park, and his presidential car licated on the right side that is displayed inside a glass house.

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Baler Town Plaza, where the instagrammable Baler signage is erected and is also where the municipal hall is located.

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The obelisk at the town plaza next to the signage
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Touristy. 🙂

The Church of Baler, San Luis Obispo De Tolosa, home to the 1899 Siege of Baler where a number of Filipino Soldiers died on this very area.

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Baler Church
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Baler Church’s Interior

The replica of Aurora Aragon’s house, wife of the late president Manuel Quezon, this is also where the probince got its name.

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The house of Maria Aragon

By 12:20pm, I did a final supply run for our snacks aboard my habal-habal ride and off we go!.

Baler, Aurora
Solo Daytrip Itinerary

0100  Departure from Cubao via Genesis Liner (450php/pax)
0700  Arrival at Baler, breakfast, meet guide
0730  Start Habal-Habal tour (800php/day)
0800  Brgy. Ditumabo, trek to Mother Falls (30php/entrance fee, 20php/parking fee)
0830  Ditumabo Mother Falls
0900  Trek back to jump-off point
0930  Back at jump-off, travel to Brgy. Quirino, Maria Aurora
1000  Millenium Tree
1015  Travel to Sabang Beach
1040  Sabang Beach
1100  Travel back to Baler town proper, lunch
1120  Baler Town, Lunch
1140  Baler town proper, visit Museo De Baler, Aurora Aragon House, Baler Church and Plaza.
1220  Travel to Dicasalarin Cove, Brgy. Zabali
1310  Dicasalarin Cove, visit Punta Encanto Cave and Lighthouse. (350php/pax entrance and parking fee)
1430  Back at the cottage, rest, tidy up
1520  Explore Dicasalarin Artists Longhouse
1545  Travel back to Diguisit
1615  Diguisit Beach, Dimadimalangat Islets, Diguisit Falls, Tromba Marina
1640  Diguisit Beach, Aniao Islet
1700  Travel to Baler Hanging Bridge
1730  Baler Hanging Bridge
1800  Baler Terminal, Dinner, tidy up
1840  Ride Van bound to Cabanatuan (230php/pax)
1930  ETD of Van
2300  Arrival at Cabanatuan Bus Terminal, take bus back to Manila (120php/pax)
0130  Manila

Budget:
Transportation: 800php
Fees:
Ditumabo 30php (Entrance Fee)
                   20php (Parking Fee)
Dicasalarin 300php (Entrance + Cottage Fee)
                    50php (Parking Fee)
Habal-Habal Tour 800php + 200php tip for Dicasalarin Cove

Total Damage:
Solo: 2200php/pax (Safe Budget: 2500php/pax)
3pax: 1600php/pax (Additional budget depends on arrangements with the tour guide)

Notes:
● From Cubao, you have three options:
– Take Genesis Liner Bus bound for Baler, trips start by 12mn, and bus schedule is on an hourly basis, travel time 6-7hrs
–  Take Joy Bus, the express coach of Genesis Liner, but costs 700php/way, travel time is 4-5hrs, no stop over, same schedule as the Genesis Regular Airconditioned buses
– Take ES Transport or Baliwag Transit Buses bound for Cabanatuan, then from Cabanatuan find Baler bound buses that starts their trip at 6am
● Manila bound Genesis Liner buses from Baler has last their last trip at 10am, if doing a daytrip, one can opt to take Cabanatuan bound vans at the Van Terminal behind the Public Market, last trip is at 7pm, then from Cabanatuan, ride Manila bound buses
● Tricycles can’t reach Dicasalarin Cove due to steep uphill roads, tour operators recommend to take single motorcycles/Habal-Habal, if you are in for an adventure, drive it yourself
● You can contact two of the local tourism guides of Baler for more info, I personally recommend their service:
Kuya Michael Dela Cruz – +639204365056
Kuya Wendell – +639099283851
● You can extend this Itinerary and travel to Casiguran, Aurora on Day 02, it is three hours away from Baler and is adjacent with Isabela Province