We had our apprehensions before proceeding on the drive to our major destination for the day. Already we had to dodge some rocks resting on the side of the coastal road from Diguisit Beach, reminders of landslides that occur in this area. Soon we were headed up a steep and twisting road so narrow that it can only accommodate a single vehicle at a time. Fortunately it was not raining this morning or the road might get too slippery. A single mistake could send the car careening off the road into the sea a few hundred feet below. Fortunately too, the people here have a system in place to ensure that only one car or a single line of vehicles going in one direction will be on the road at any given time.
It was still dark with the sound of waves crashing against the sandy shores of Sabang Beach faintly echoing in the distance when the trike showed up on schedule. Still groggy after waking up a few minutes earlier I lazily picked up my equipment and started to clamber aboard the three-wheeled vehicle that was going to take me to my destination when my trike driver halted me. “Sir, I don’t think you can go to Diguisit Beach in that attire,” he said, smiling at me. I looked up at him in my shorts and sleeveless shirt, “Why not?” He explained that the trip would take us over hilly ground and that it would be very cold. I ended up having to borrow Nina’s jacket – a bit small for me but it was the only heavy clothing available.
We honestly didn’t know what to expect on this trek even after doing quite a bit of research about it. A month before our Baler trip, Typhoon Lando had struck Aurora province. We were almost certain that it would not have spared the town of San Luis where the Ditumabo Falls is situated. Now surveying the landscape around us we could see fallen trees littering the landscape and rocks scattered about the fast-flowing stream that led to the falls. Our trike driver/tour guide assured us, however, that contrary to our fears the typhoon had actually made the hike easier.
When Francis Ford Coppola shot the epic Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now in the sleepy coastal town of Baler, Aurora, he could not have imagined the ripple effects he and his production crew would have on this town and on the country. The film included a bizarre surf scene in the middle of a full-blown battle highlighted by napalm bombing (and the memorable Robert Duvall line “Charlie don’t surf”). After shooting ended, some of the movie crew left behind their surfboards for the curious locals – surfing was practically non-existent in the Philippines during that time – who then proceeded to teach themselves the sport. So was born the surfing culture in the Philippines.
A remote coastal town and capital of the province of Aurora, Baler is popular among surfers and tourists for its breaking waves, rugged coastline and spectacular geographic formations. What most visitors may not know about this quaint town, however, is that it is steeped in history. A recent tour around the center of Baler made us appreciate the town’s rich cultural and historical heritage.