It was more than 13 years ago when I first set foot in Aurora. It was an exciting road trip with friends. From Manila, we drove through the Sierra Madre mountains down to Baler. Though I am fully aware of the surfing scene boom and the growing development of the province, I only got the chance to go back this early September when I chanced upon a good getaway deal at Deal Grocer for a three days and two nights stay at L’Sirene Boutique Resort in Baler. The resort looked hip and stylish, and the remote location made it even more appealing to me. It would make an ideal base for exploration and relaxation.
Rolling in Baler
Our bus rolled early into Baler at the break of dawn. It was an hour faster than expected riding the deluxe JoyBus from Cubao. We hopped in a tricycle and immediately headed to L’Sirene Boutique Resort. The resort is about seven kilometers away from Baler town proper, just behind DPWH Aurora. The cold sea wind blew during the ride. As the morning colors slowly unveiled behind the coconut trees, I felt excited as we approached the resort.
Again we came in early, and the staff was just getting ready for the day. The HNGRY MRMD Bar and Restaurant opens at 7AM so we spent some time at the beach before having our breakfast. It was only a short walk. The sand on the beach was gray, but it was wide and expansive. No unsightly structures, nor unpleasant crowds in sight. Just my kind of beach. Desolate yet profound. The waves were moderately high that morning. The soothing backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountain range made the beach quite picturesque.
L’Sirene Boutique Resort
The mermaid and siren inspired L’Sirene Boutique Resort is the brainchild of actress Sam Pinto, who fell in love with Baler. With enough land to build not just a retirement home, she decided to set up her own resort, a chic 15-room boutique resort with a lovely dipping jacuzzi pool at the center. Beside the pool are beach chairs, and along the pathway to the beach are several lounging areas too, some with swing beds. All of them are cushioned with white foams accented by a splash of purple, teal, pink and turquoise throw pillows.
Check-in process was smooth as I already called ahead to book my Deal Grocer voucher. We were led to our room, one of the five Super Deluxe Rooms at the resort, a spacious 40 sqm room with two queen sized beds just enough for me and my 3 good friends to stay in. Room is fully airconditioned, with a private shower and toilet room and a personal patio. I’m kinda partial to a sliding door and curtains as I like to sleep in a dark room but it’s nice that the doors have sound proofing when closed. A plus is a reusable water container instead of plastic bottles. Water refill is available at a dispenser at the lobby. Shampoo, lotion and body wash also come in refillable containers. Since L’Sirene is a pet-friendly resort, guests can bring their canine or feline friend along!
Baler Town Eats
One thing we had plenty of at the HNGRY MRMD restaurant was their good coffee. We also tried their sumptuous breakfast offerings like the Wagyu Tapa and HNGRY MRMD breakfast. The bacon was just the way I like it—a little crispy but still juicy.
With only a 7 km ride to town, we were able to enjoy some highlights of the Baler food scene: Yolly’s grilled seafood fare of shrimps, squids and liempo (grilled pork). A favorite kamayan (eating with bare hands) place, Kusina Luntian. Good local craft beer brewery in Charlie Does. Their Baler brew is best paired with their nachos, pizza and rice meals, which are all healthy and good for vegetarians. Of course, there’s the local delicacy of suman (rice cakes) paired with coco jam.
I can no longer remember how Baler was a decade ago. Now it looks like a modern well-planned rural town. Several main commercial banks, large hotels and the presence of two 7–11 branches say something about the progress of the place. Despite that, the province still feels laid-back.
Surfing is the main draw of Baler and L’Sirene have surf boards for rent and surf lessons from their capable instructors. The beach is an ideal place to learn as it has a feel of exclusivity and less people around. It wouldn’t be embarrassing to fall off the board many times. The waves weren’t optimal for surfing during our stay though, so it was fun to just body surf with the waves.
Arriving on a Friday, we decided to visit Ditumabo Falls as we figured there would be less people there. And we were right, many shops were closed that time and there were only a few people going up to the falls. I can imagine the hive of activity here during weekends. The hike to the falls was moderately easy as we followed the large pipes and established trails. A few cross rivers and up some cascades. Ditumabo Falls was wonderful despite the landslide that has eaten a large portion of its natural basin. I made sure to take time to enjoy the cool waters and the shower.
We also did a quick side trip to the 600-year old millennium tree in San Luis, one of the largest Balete (banyan) trees in the country. It is a fascinating parasite tree that swallows its host tree, making it hollow inside.
Chasing Sunrise and Sunset
On two occasions, we visited Ampere Pebble Beach in Dipaculao, Aurora for the sunrise. It was conveniently only 7 kms away from L’Sirene Boutique Resort. The beach here is a haven for landscapists, especially because of the rock formations found at the coast. But the weather wasn’t always on our side—it was gloomy the first day. On the second day when we were about to leave, we were rewarded with beguiling light.
Diguisit was our location for the sunset. I clearly remember the Anao islets and other rock formations in this stretch of beach. I could imagine good light here if only the clouds had lifted. But that’s how landscape photography goes. Some days we get lucky, others days we do not.
Chilling at L’Sirene
At the end of the day, after all the tours and eats, we just looked forward to taking a peaceful evening dip in the warm jacuzzi pool. After all, weekends in Baler are about relaxing and enjoying your time away from the city. If it weren’t drizzling on one of our evenings there, L’Sirene can arrange a bonfire by the beach. That would be great while stargazing at night.
Many thanks to Deal Grocer for the L’Sirene deal. Grab this limited offering (PHP 11,100 from PHP 16,120) for a 3D/2N stay for 4 in a Super Deluxe Room at Deal Grocer. If you’re planning to go on your next getaway, be sure to always check out Deal Grocer’s Getaways page for more travel deals, exclusive offerings and ideas. Availing a voucher is hassle-free and secure with plenty of payment options here in the Philippines like Paypal, bank payments and even cash pick-up.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.