PLACE: AURORA PROVINCE, PHILIPPINES | DATE: 5-7 April 2012
It wasn’t the breeze, but it’s a good start. The heat enveloped us with ardour, I barely breathed and with each breath the smell of the strangeness of the place filled my lungs. Maybe it was the sunshine. But then again, Manila has sunshine. Maybe the waves, but the waves were too scrawny to deter my good friend from trying to drown.
Maybe it was the promise of one full day of endless water flow, swimming in the ocean of catatonic liquid drenching our bodies with hope of an escape. Or maybe it was all those things at once. But my God, You are magnificent with Your creation. I didn’t know there were other definitions for paradise.
Dreaming of waves and – what else?
Baler was a dream. Influenced by my friend who had a college recollection of the place, I think as she recounted her experience of Baler in our daily conversations, seeds of anticipation were secretly planted in my heart to experience it for myself. I recall having told my Spanish friend I wanted to visit Baler to which he told me it was beautiful.
Three months of continuous watering and the seeds sprouted into shoots of readiness. I called an old roommate friend, Wwo, who’d be much willing to explore the place with me. Then one week before the trip, the team of four was completed. Three ‘photographers’ and three bloggers.
Holy Week is the holy grail of hotel bookings
First, I had to get us some place to stay. Booking one to two weeks before the trip, I found myself calling every single possible hotel / transient home in Sabang Beach. I am a known crammer of hotel bookings and I think I can do a pretty good job as a travel agent for the double minded.
My nightmarish booking experience served as entertainment to those who heard me calling the hotels. Strangely, I wasn’t worried we had no place to stay three days before the trip. Somehow, based on my other experiences, I had confidence of landing a booking somewhere. Hence, my different booking scenarios, which marked my knack for displaying grace under tremendous pressure.
The Xmas drama: “Look, I know it’s hard to book these days, but I was hoping you have space somewhere. Kahit sabsaban, Kuya, papatusin ko. (I’d take even if it’s in a manger.)”
The friendly neighbour approach: “Oh, no free rooms? Wait, you have neighbours right?”
The nearby approach: “I see. Thanks. I can book there. Wait, four hours from Sabang Beach you say?”
Before I pay the down payment for the one last miraculous hotel I found some two towns from Baler (1.5 hours away from Sabang), Wwo called me that he found a hotel only 30 minutes from town. We took it.
Hotel, check. Bus, chh… wait.
With roof on our heads, our next problem was the bus. We planned on driving to Baler on our own, but my friend couldn’t use her SUV that far. Holy Week means throngs of commuters going anywhere so we were sure about experiencing the purgatory of mass commute.
Wwo was smart enough to get us reservations for the 10th bus of Genesis Transport in Cubao 8 hours before our scheduled leave. Who ever thought my small little brother could be so useful at times?
With the assurance of a bus ride, a hotel and some budget, we were off to Baler, Aurora.