Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happy Accidents in Baler, Aurora

Dates of travel: February 9-11, 2013

Photos courtesy of Paul Tamisin Garcia. They were taken using his LCD-less, viewfinder-less GoPro camera. It's like the lomography concept "Don't think, just shoot." It's serendipity at work - you don't compose and you only get to see the photos once you upload them. We should all totally buy GoPro cameras! (I won't be paid for saying that. I wish I were, but I won't, but I'd still recommend them cameras nonetheless.) 

I'm typically excited about upcoming trips. Who isn't, right? (Come to think of it, right now, I can name one person who's not psyched about trips) Weeks or months before, I'd have a montage in my head of what the trip will be like - the things I'll do, the people I'll meet, the places I'll see. 'Thing about me though, is my excitement can be a bit over the top, bordering on obsessive-compulsive. I spend hours doing research to make sure the trip goes as planned.

'Thing about these trips is, they never go as expected. There are trips that are more fun in my imagination than in reality. Then, there are those trips that don't go the way they're supposed to, but pan out better. Case in point, my trip to Baler in Aurora.

At the top of the biggest Balete tree in Southeast Asia (or so we claim) a.k.a. the "Millennium Tree." 

On our way up. 

Truth is, there was so much (self-imposed) pressure planning this trip. Although my college orgmates and I came up with the idea of going to Baler during a Christmas party, I ended up organizing the trip. I invited friends from different circles to go -- college classmates, orgmates, and former housemates. Everyone was welcome to bring along whoever they wanted to.

I found out that organizing a trip with a group of people from different circles can be a bit nerve-wracking. I wanted everyone to have a say on which bus we'd take, the place we'd stay in, and the things we'do. However, I later realized that it was hard to get everyone to vote on every single detail of the trip (as it was, NOT everyone could say they were going 100%), and I eventually gave up on being democratic and just made the decisions myself. I also quit on insisting that everyone confirm weeks before the trip. At that point, I figured, if they show up, they show up.

The gang at Ditumabo Falls a.k.a. "Mother Falls." 

For the first time, I was not excited. I don't know if it was because the idea of the trip was conceived two months before or because I was organizing -- I just didn't want to devote any more neurons to the trip. I didn't prepare an itinerary. Sure, I looked up the famous spots in Baler, but that was it. I didn't think about the most efficient way of going about visiting these places. I just wanted to play everything by ear.

I didn't set my expectations too high up for this trip because things had not been going my way from the start:

1. I was keen to take the Genesis JoyBus (executive bus)  from Manila to Baler, but that was fully booked on our travel date.
2. All the inns I had eyed were fully booked.
3. We ended up taking the regular AC bus from Cubao to Baler. And even that proved unlucky. The AC system was busted -- it kept shutting down fifteen minutes after the bus driver tried to fix it. This cost us three unnecessary stopovers until the AC was fixed for good.
4. When we reached Baler,  we immediately went back to the bus station to buy JoyBus tickets for Manila (we were supposed to leave afternoon the next day) but both trips were fully booked. So we ended up buying tickets for the first trip out Monday morning.

Grace and Paul at Sabang Beach. 

Things started looking up when we had breakfast at Bay-ler View. No, it wasn't the longganisa we ordered which the waiter said was comparable to Jollibee's ('cause that's exactly what I would want to eat and pay P120 for it while vacationing at the beach!). It was Sabang beach and the Sierra Madre mountain range as its backdrop. I would have been such a difficult fool if even that couldn't pick me up (Je ne suis pas difficile, mes amis!).

To show you that the trip indeed turned out happy, I will stop being emo and tell you about the fun stuff we did in my next post.

For now, let me tell you that at the end of the trip, I was grateful that things didn't go the way they were supposed to. I was pleased for the last minute additions to our group. I was happy that we left Baler early Monday morning instead of Sunday afternoon because that bought us more surfing time. And 'til now, I find myself grinning like an idiot when I remember the conversation (mostly making stories up about people really) on our sleepless last night in Baler which was spent playing cards (okay, I admit, I was mostly losing).

I don't remember what made me smile like a fool here. I must have remembered a funny incident from before. That or my instructor was tickling my feet. 

Before leaving Baler, I realized two things:

1. It's not the amount of planning or the number of tourist spots you cross off the list that makes the trip perfect, it's the people you're with and the random, amusing circumstances you get into. The place is just there to provide context to make the crazy things you'd do and the banter possible.

2. I suck at card games. 
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