So anyway, Carl and I went to Baler midnight of Friday onboard the Joy Bus. The travel time was impressively 4 hours only and we arrived at The Circle Hostel bright and early at 5 am. There were reportedly only 3 of us checked in at the hostel that day (with more coming in Saturday and Sunday), and later on while getting ready to hit the beach, I managed to make friends with Jerome who travelled to Baler all by himself. He was such a chatty being and I immediately warmed up to him, huge deal because I'm suplada haha.
It was pretty flat with a few sets coming in and breaking close to the shore. I didn't really mind, I needed the practice, I needed to paddle and learn to catch the waves on my own, to find my balance and pop-up in time. Plus after our Zamba trip I forced myself to use regular boards (so long, soft tops!). I was grateful for the opportunity to hit the beach and surf again, albeit so poorly. The key here, as what I've been advised, is to practice, practice, practice. I get taranta sometimes when a strong wave hits me, and I really need to get over that.
|oops! holding it wrong|
Yolly's Ihaw-Ihaw and Seafood
Okay, on to the food. Jerome, as I mentioned, is our resident researcher who was hellbent on trying the best of what Baler had to offer -- for a reasonable price, of course. For lunch on our first day we took the tricycle to Yolly's Ihaw-Ihaw and Seafood which was in the town proper, it took only maybe 7 minutes to get there and fare is P15 per pax.
Uh-huh..and these greeted us the moment we got there. Okay, I'm sold! Bagnet after surfing is customary and I didn't want to to break [our] tradition :P
Yolly's is your typical provincial eatery with lots of fresh caught seafood and a corner for the ihaw-ihaw part. They serve the usual Filipino fare of sinigang, lechon kawali, adobo, etc. The place is not air-conditioned and can get really crowded, so be patient. It's pretty much self-service here, a girl will list down your orders but you will have to bring them to your table.
We got Sinigang na Sugpo (shrimps were Php 80 each), Lechon Kawali/Bagnet, and Kalabasa with Coconut Milk. Our total bill including rice was only Php 465.
|With Jerome and Carl -- happy tummies!|
Yellow Fin Bar & Grill
For dinner we opted for grilled food at Yellow Fin Gar & Grill, it's a pretty small place and gets full quickly. You also have to wait a while as they will grill your food upon order but the price is very reasonable.
|Yellow Fin Tuna (half) - Php 300|
|Grilled Pork - Php 150|
Sneaky Jerome didn't tell us that it was his birthday so I bought him a mini cake from Charlie Does to celebrate. Happy birthday, Jerome! So nice to have met you :)
We spent hours discussing with Andrew Burnett (half-Jamaican and half- English) who hails from Denmark. He travelled to the Philippines to visit Tacloban and help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. He was probably the most well-read [current events] person I have met, and our discussions ranged from LGBT issues, to corruption in politics, to euthanasia, and those degrading tourist attractions in BKK. There was no dull moment with this guy, and I learned a lot from him.
On day 2, as per usual I woke up late and was being a cranky morning person. Carl was waking me up at 7:00am but I was being such a lazy ass, until I heard Rafa call out to me (he had just arrived a few minutes earlier) and I immediately went out of the Dahican room (with matching bedhead) to greet him. Rafa's such a joy to be around, he's always in such a good mood and is relentless about surfing (he was the first surfer guy I met back in LU). Our convo:
Rafa: Let's go surf na!I finished my breakfast of hot pandesal and Cheez Whiz (courtesy of Carl) and got ready. It took me all of 30 minutes because I was such a chatterbox and was talking to everyone, haha. I like taking my sweet time, thank you very much. Thanks, Rafa, for being patient.
Kira: But I'm eating breakfast pa, and I'm tamad.
Rafa: You're tamad?! To surf?
|playing around with Errole's Dalluyon board|
The Good Food Project
While deciding where to have lunch, I mentioned that I wanted to try the famous Fish Tacos which were always sold out during the Labor Day weekend, so Rafa with his friend Yuri took us to The Good Food Project. It's walkable from Circle but on a hot summer day I'd suggest taking the tricycle.
|Fish Tacos - Php 60 |
(chunks of Mahi-Mahi, salsa, plus homemade Mediterranean sauce)
|Chicken Quesadillas (2 pcs)|
|look closely at the bar code|
A serving is Php 165 and is good for 4. The bananas are wrapped in lumpia wrapper, fried until golden brown, then topped with homemade (and very gooey) vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with choc'nut chunks, and finally drizzled with chocolate syrup. Throw your diet out the window ladies, this is a sinful dessert.
That afternoon before we conked out and slept, a very "friendly" game of chess between Rafa and Vincent Rabuel (our new French friend) ensued. Guess who won?
We woke up at 4pm and checked out the beach, there were way too many people and very little waves. The beach still looks marvelous though...
Another place to try is Gerry Shan's (conveniently beside Yolly's) and is popular for their Php 200 buffet spread. I was told not to expect anything extraordinary, but then again my expectations weren't that high to begin with because what can you get for that price? All I wanted was bone marrow, and (thankfully) the gods were feeling generous that night.
'Twas perfect timing that fresh Bulalo was brought out the moment we arrived. All the salads and teas I've been consuming have been cancelled out by this huge and fatty piece of bone marrow! I am guessing I'll have to go back to healthy eating pretty soon..
There's a dessert table as well but wasn't able to take a photo, it includes fresh fruits, leche flan, puto, gulaman with milk, kutsinta, etc. Iced Tea is unlimited in Gerry Shan as well.
There was a dance competition happening at Buton Market that night, so we stayed for a bit and in lieu of drinking liquor (I didn't want to drink Emperador) I bought the Salted Caramel Iced Coffee at Charlie Does.
I also challenged Rafa to a game of Air Hockey to which he won by a point (6-7)!
|The whole gang: Jerome, Me, Yuri, Rafa, Carl, and Vincent.|
Woke up at 5 am to watch the sun rise along Sabang Beach, as what I did the last time. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the smell of saltwater, the stillness of everyone waiting for first light...I was seated on the ledge between two new friends and I've never been happier.
What was going to be just a regular trip to Baler turned out to be such an amazing weekend once again! I love how the Circle Hostel brings people together, how random strangers who share an affection for the beach and travel suddenly become great buddies, how Baler feels like home.
To my friends who always wonder why I spend so many hours travelling to the beach [to surf], the reason is simple: I have never been so happy in my life just being here.
Sea you again next week, Baler!
The Circle Hostel - http://www.baler.thecirclehostel.com/
Joy Bus - pinoytravel.com.ph