It was a rough 6 hour drive from Manila, one is literally moving from one mountain to another getting to this beautiful and scenic province of Baler.
The tourism activity in Baler is in a sustained pace. Never in the history of this town that they enjoyed the apex of their dream. Baler then was thriving primarily from agriculture—mainly from coconut products, sabutan-hat weaving, fishing and to take it bluntly—from unabated logging!
According to the people of Baler they are very thankful to the present leaders of their town that they concertedly halted the illicit destruction of their forest. In so doing, the pristine and intrinsic beauty of their jungle added much to the allure of nature that the tourists, local and foreign alike, loved so much.
Now, the tourism industry becomes the bread and butter of Baler. The fruit of Tourism largely supplements the coffer of the municipality. It also brought numerous jobs to the people of Baler due to the continued proliferation of the hotels, transient houses, tourist vehicles, etc.
Baler is dubbed as a Surfing City. It is also known as the surfing capital and the birth place of surfing in the Philippines. It started when the film “Apocalypse Now” of Francis Ford Coppola was shot in Baler in the late 70’s (1978). The stars of the picture, Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall—were into surfing as part of their R & R (Rest and Recreation).
When the shooting was finished and Coppola ordered “pack up”, the crew left their surf boards to the Balerianos as souvenirs. The Balerianos, especially those from the Barangay Sabang area, tried hard to imitate the style of the much practiced Americans until they too became accustomed to the rigors and ecstasy of surfing—thus putting Baler into the surfing world.
Baler may still be called a virgin city. Its lush forest cover, its unpolluted rivers, pearly ocean waves contribute much to qualify for that monicker. However, the town itself is now beaming with lots of business entities from restaurants, boarding houses, hardware store, drug stores, souvenir shops and banks…not to mention the smoke that they inhale from the vehicles of their visitors. The N.E. mall was first in Baler but it was bought by Puregold. Now there are many business organization that would want to do business in Baler: the 711 food chain, Jollibee, Chowking, SM among others. There are plans for a convention center and for a sports stadium. From the outset, the boom would primarily be to the advantage of Baler in terms of business taxes and the bliss they could give to the tourists and the people of Baler as well. But they are also preparing for the garbage it would give them in return.
People would always come and visit Baler not only for its scenic surroundings but they would come for its historical niche in the annals of our history. Baler Church was the last bastion of the Spaniards in the Revolution era—the Spanish flag waving atop the Baler Church was the only one left throughout the country at that time. The incident was called the “Baler siege”.
The Spaniards stubbornly stood up against the relentless attacks of the Filipino guerillas for nearly a year despite the numerous attempts to try to convince them that the Spanish_Filipino war had ended. Newspapers dropped from the belfry that bannered the truce were ignored and was believed to be a ploy to flush them out of the church. Diseases and hunger finally took the wits out of them and surrendered. They were escorted out and led to the place where Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo received them not as enemies but as friends. Thus, the Philipine-Spanish friendship day was born. The survivors were brought back to Spain and the Queen regent rewarded them the highest accolade a government could give their soldiers.
Indeed Baler is not only a place with scenic and enchanting beauty but also rich with a fascinating history.