Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hangin' Loose in Baler, Aurora

Dates of travel: February 9-11, 2013

Surf's up, Baler! My friend Shodensan had this to say on facebook: "There is clear intent and urgency in this photo, a grim sense of determination and some good ol' maskels!" Leave it to him to break photos down like that. Photo courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia

Do you guys remember the 2002 Kate Bosworth movie "Blue Crush"? Well, our surfing experience in Baler was ... nothing like that. First, because the waves in Sabang Beach are nowhere near as big as the ones in the movie. And second, because in that movie Kate's character had Michelle Rodriguez for a friend/ trainer while we had ripped, sun-kissed Baler local dudes for instructors (I make them sound attractive, don't I?). And I'm not complaining; if you've seen most of Michelle Rodriguez's films, you'd know that if she were your instructor she'd beat you up before the idea of skipping training is conceived in your head. 

But let's get to the surfing bit later. Indulge me as I share my thoughts on: 

1. Climbing the Giant Balete Tree a.k.a "Millennium Tree." 

We came, we saw, we climbed (in Latin that's veni, vidi, uh ... climbed). 

The Baler gang. I think this is the only photo with all of us in it. L-R: Trish, Jason, Paul, Grace, Joh, Bing, Hernan, Lois, et moi. 

Now, there is a very logical reason why we climbed the 60-meter tall tree which is supposedly the biggest of its kind in Asia -- the local kids were doing it. Besides, the caretakers take safety precautions for those who decide to "conquer" the tree -- they have you write your names down on a piece of paper. Well, that and they make you drop any amount in the donation box ;)

Paul and Bing at the top of the Balete tree. Photo courtesy of Bing Corton Razonado

I don't really know how all the climbing started. I was going around all of the tree's 10-15-meter diameter taking photos of it (bam,bam,bam, or in Filipino, pak, pak, pak), when I saw that some of my friends had already started their ascent. This was a crucial moment for me because at the start of the year, I resolved to start acting my age more. Also, I am Ate to most of these friends, so I really should've had the more rational perspective of things. So, I shouted at them and told them to ... wait for me. Because at that crucial point, I resolved I wasn't gonna be last one up that tree. 

When in Maria Aurora, do as Maria Aurora kids do -- climb the 60-meter tall Balete tree. Photo courtesy of Bing Corton Razonado

Sitting at the top of the tree, I had an epiphany. It went something like, "Aha! So this is how it feels to be sitting in a tree. Now, how do I get down without falling?" I had to muster all my courage to go up that tree because I am petrified of heights. You can't make me go on those amusement park rides, and my hands still get all clammy when I'm on a plane. 

2. Swimming a.k.a. Freezing in the Waters of Ditumabo Falls a.k.a "Mother Falls"

Our next stop was Ditumabo Falls in San Luis. 

I was gonna start this part by saying that waterfalls are like a box of chocolates, but they're not. They're like gambling - you can bleed your bank account dry and never win a dime, or bet a small amount and win big. Similarly, it can be an arduous trek to a mediocre uninspiring waterfall, or a short, easy trek to one that'll be the highlight of your trip. The latter is true for Ditumabo falls.

The problem with waterfalls is that the water is always bitingly cold. You can't really do much around them despite their majesty - towering height, clear water and all. My other problem, with any body of water for that matter, is I can't swim. I always end up freezing at a shallow part.

Ditumabo Falls a.k.a. "Mother Falls." 

Above: My Sidlangan (my college regional organization) friends  helped born-and-raised-in-a-coastal-town-but-non-swimmer-me get through the deep parts of the pool to get to the awesome-r parts. Below: Au naturel infinity pool. Photo courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia

An addition to my  time-it -takes-to-get-to-and-get-back- from-the-falls-is-longer-than-the-actual-time-spent-enjoying-the-falls experience. Photos courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia

Paul's fisheye sans LCD GoPro camera is the perfect camwhoring buddy.  Here used with a cutting-edge monopod - some tree branch he picked up somewhere. Photos courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia

I did not get that memo that says this is the official waterfall hand sign. :|

3. Contemplating a.k.a. Checking out the View from Ermita Hill

We really wanted to push our physical abilities to the brink. So, to cap off our Baler tour, we went to Ermita Hill, the highest point that overlooks Baler Bay. Okay, fine, we went there in tricycles so there was really nothing physical about it. Our activity at Ermita Hill included looking out to the west between 5:30 to 6:00 PM, and uttering "wow" every five minutes. When combined with the right amount of inspiration or melancholy (depending on your mood) or both, this activity can qualify as "sunset watching."

Photo courtesy of Bing Corton Razonado

It's quite good actually, that sunset watching thing. Ermita Hill gives you a view of Baler set against the mountain ranges, and a bit of the rock formations nearby, albeit a microscopic one. 

4. Surfing a.k.a. Getting Wiped Out at Sabang Beach

I cannot possibly talk about my first surfing experience without making references to Point Break. It's that movie where Patrick Swayze plays an adrenaline junkie (Bodhi) who believes in standing up against THE man to show the system that the human spirit is still alive, and dying doing what you love the most. And Keanu Reeves plays a rock an FBI agent (Johnny Utah) working on a series of bank robberies and has to learn how to surf in the process. 

At the start of the movie, when Keanu expresses his hesitation about surfing, his partner played by Gary Busey, assures him, "It's all balance, right? And coordination. How hard can it be?" Indeed. Not. 

Watching from a distance, the waves in Sabang seem small and easy enough to ride. But when you get into the water, as Bodhi says, "the ocean let's us know just how small we really are." Sure, I was able to prop myself up and ride a few waves during the first hour of my surfing lessons, but I had a very encouraging instructor who pushed me against the waves, spotted good ones, turned my board, and cued me when it was time to stand up. My problem really was getting up after a wipe-out because waves came at me one after another. I'm sure I gave people who saw me some form of amusement. 

The time-space continuum seems different when you're learning to surf. Grace noticed it too -- an hour of surfing lessons seems like a really long time. I guess it's bound to feel that way when the time it takes you to ride a wave is not even a fraction of the time it takes you to get up, get on your board, get to a good spot, and wait for a good wave (or at least wait for your instructor to tell you  a good wave is comin'). 

The best piece of  advice I got from my instructor was not to look down and to look straight ahead when riding a wave ('universal to gravity-defying activities.) But of course, the secrets of the universe are found in movies. Here's a piece of advice from Bodhi: "Feel what the wave is doing, then accept its energy. Get in sync, then charge with it. You don't need to see." 

Photos courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia

And though no one really takes Gary Busey seriously, what his character has to say about surfers seems true in Baler: "They're like some kinda tribe. They got their own language. You can't just walk up to those guys. You gotta get out there, learn the moves, get into their head, pick up the speech."

I refuse to end this post with lines delivered by Gary Busey on the account that, well, he's Gary Busey. So here's Bodhi again on the purpose of riding waves: "It's a state of mind. It's that place where you lose yourself and find yourself."
◄ Newer Post Older Post ►

Copyright 2011 Adventure Guide is proudly powered by | Design by BLog Bamz Published by Template Blogger