NOTE: This article was written more than two years ago. Many things
have changed since then. But the general atmosphere of the place still remains the same.
The beach front, Balers entertainment epicenter is a stretch of watering holes that
starts near a vacation house where the towns last great funeral violinist was found
dead years ago and ends near the shooting location of Apocalypse Nows famous village
attack sequence where Robert Duvall uttered his infamous "I love the smell of napalm
in the morning" line. In between these two landmarks are beerhouses, restaurants,
videoke bars, hotels, drinking holes, and girlie houses that represent most of
Balers red light digs. Of course, there are also the beach houses and even
residences of Balers rich and famous. And to top it all, the headquarters of the PNP
is also located along the stretch. Now thats what i call flocking together.
During daytime, the stretch looks sleepy because, well, most people there are still
asleep. Most of the road is unpaved and always look like the lunar surface - gray,
potholed, and dusty. Except for some restaurants and 24-hour drinking spots like
Tiagos, most of the establishments are close, so theres really not much to
look at during the day. Except for the beach, stretching as far as your eyes can see. The
beach is cool, though the sand is not the Boracay type. The place gained reputation as a
good surfing site during monsoon seasons. Most tourists visit this place because of that
"call of the wave" and theres not much of them. There are times when you
can have all of the beach to yourself. Paradise? Maybe. But the beach is another thing to
talk about. My real intention is to rant about the spots along the entertainment stretch.
Like wheres the best place to go (none really), wheres the cheapest beer or
wheres the best sisig. So lets start with the first on the stretch. Lets
start with the baddest.
TITA GUDINGs is a restaurant and videoke bar. In a fenced compound theres a
big wood and nipa structure where you can do the singing on an arcade type videoke
machine, or eat or dance if you like. They also have cottages if all you want is to relax
and smell the salty breeze of the ocean.Tita Gudings offers the baddest service
available along the beach front. Upon entering the place you will acquire the power of
invisibility where you can just sit for hours without being noticed by their
"waiters". On occasions where they feel your presence, you will encounter a
drowsy looking boy on street clothes asking for your order. You have to ask for everything
here - table napkins, ashtray, songbook, ballpen, and paper to write your videoke
favorites on - things that you think should be instantly provided when you get in. The
foods are cheap and good. I like the sitsarong bulaklak best but sometimes its not
cooked good. Maybe their chef is a mood swinger. The sisig also tastes good. Its only 35
pesos and it resembles a salad more than a real sisig. But I came to love the taste of it.
Other than the mani, i dont like the rest of their menu. The pancit is full of
kikiam and fishballs, which I dont really like. and the sandwiches and burgers are
bad. The beer is cheap, only 20 pesos and even cheaper during the day. Gin is also
available at 50 pesos per bottle, chaser included. The sound of their videoke machine is
bad. The music is very loud and noisy and you need to shout real hard so the
sometimes-grounded microphone can pick your voice. Good for drunk people I think. As with
the other arcade-type-token operated videoke machines in town a song here can cost you 5
bucks. But one thing good about this place is that few people go here so there are nights
when you are the only person in the place. Thats sing-along galore if youre
into a crooner mode. And the songbook stinks man, really stinks. I dont know if the
real Tita Guding knows whats happening in her turf. Shes a good caterer but
this place caters bad. Tip: If you really want to go cheap, you can just rent one of their
cottages for 50 bucks and bring all the stuff you need for a binge. You can also bring a
case of beer inside their karaoke house for a corkage of 50 pesos. Then you only have to
buy the pulutan.
UPDATE: Since this thing was written, Tita Guding's improved a bit but it's still on the
bottom of my charts. There was a change of characters and the 45 caliber snobs were gone.
The new replacements now served good and you won't feel invisible anymore. The karaoke
machine was replaced by a better one. The sound is better and the mic is not grounded. I
never had the chance to smell the songbooks.
I cant say much about ANGARAS BEACH HOUSE. Before Auroras most famous
last name was attached, the place was called BALER GUEST HOUSE. It was one of the first
lodging places along the beach. Now its managed by the ex-mayors daughter and
specializes in lodging out-of-towners. Since im a local, I rarely go there. Once
when Igan and I got really drunk with this friend we taught how to drink gin, we decided
to rent a room there because the only way we can go home is to crawl and Suklayin would be
a long crawl. The room has 2 beds, a small table, a retiring electric fan and a cr with a
broken doorknob. The sheets are clean and the attendant is gay, literally. We were not
able to check the food since we only had Nissin cup noodles. The whole gig cost Igan about
400 bucks. Don't be turned-off by the front view of the place, the inside court looks
better. A days stay there would cost about 300 bucks for a 2-bed room.
UPDATE: In an effort to regain it's former glory, the Angara's Beach House is now
demolished to give way to a better-looking building.
After the Beach House there are two competing disco houses located side by side. These are
the only disco places in town and could be cramped with people on weekends and holidays.
MAHARAJA Discoteque offers the tried and tested disco with live female band concept. This
is the oldest existing disco in town. Now it's rarely open, and seems to be on the brink
of extinction, eclipsed by the current popularity of the nextdoor COCOHUT which offers the
same thing - even the quality of the music are the same - bad. But theres really no
other choice if you want to practice those ballroom steps because these are the only dance
halls in town. I go there to watch the bands - literally watch them. Both of these places
have what they call Female Bands performing 3 one-hour sets every night alternating with
one-hour of dancing time. These bands are mostly imported from Nueva Ecija or somewhere
(maybe there's a school for this showbands since all of them looks the same, performs the
same songs and do the same choreography). The bands have real names and have male members
but since most of the singers are girls, we just call them female bands. The foods? Except
for the french fries for pulutan I rarely try anything here. We go there for beers mainly.
But recently I tried the sisig at Cocohut and at 50 bucks it could be the best sisig in
town. And consider this a warning, these two places collectively hold the record for most
shoot-outs in the province. Yep, this discos sometimes turns into shooting galleries. Stay
alert, be prepared to spread thin on the ground once you hear gunshots. And don't count on
the local police to help you because in most cases, they're the ones shooting each other.
UPDATE: In the past six months, the place has been relatively peaceful. No gunshots
anymore just the usual drunken stuff. Maharaja, in a bid to regain their lost glory tried
having two performing bands but the people didn't come. Maybe because the bands play bad
compared to the Cocohut performers. Meanwhile Cocohut is now under new management and
there's not much difference that happened. But the good sisig is gone and was replaced by
the salad-looking one from Tita Guding's. Turned out that one of the former girls at Tita
Gudings with the power of turning you invisible is now at Cocohut and probably the one
who's doing the sisig salad. Small World. And don't throw your bill or chit because the
guard checks it to make sure you have paid.
One British friend aptly summarized whats to expect at BAYS INN, the best
place in town for food, drinks, and lodging. He said that the place offers "good food
and bad service". Imagine that in British accent. That's the way he sees it but it's
not that bad. I really cant complain about the food, theyre really good - the
taste and the looks, but you have to bring a folding bed to sleep on while waiting for
your order to arrive or maybe a thick book, say War and Peace. The waiters are not really
trained but they're doing their best. If you're lucky there's this drunk semi- psychotic
junkie who loves bugging the customers, but mostly he just engage in philosophical debates
with himself. Then there are these hordes of cats waiting for your leftovers. On some
occasions when they have a group of visitors from Manila or other far places, they close
the restaurant to locals. One more thing, the restaurant's comfort room is a tourist
attraction all by itself. It's probably the smallest in the whole stretch of the beach
front. I mean, you have to stand on the toilet bowl to close the door. I never tried
lodging in the place, but they say that the amenities are good. The prices are manageable.
Now, those are just my rants - what I "observe". But if you ask me where's the
best place to stay here in Baler, i'll recommend this one. It's just zero meters from the
beach and the foods are great. Fave foods: the garlic chicken, the sisig on a sizzling
plate, and the different recipes of fresh fishes and seafoods. Like Tita Gudings, the
pancits are full of fishballs and kikiams. If youre looking for the best pancit, I
recommend Mely's at the poblacion.
UPDATE: Service is improving. Sisig is now served express - 5 minutes flat (or we just got
lucky). There are less cats in the vicinity and junkie i was talking about may have found
a new place to bug. One suggestion: microwave oven. But one more thing, somebody posted on
an internet message board that he noticed bays inn's kitchen drain pipes flows directly on
the beach in front of the place. I also saw it and i hope they will do something about it.
Almost facing Bays Inn is a place called Sea Breeze Resort It's also a lodging place
with 3 rooms. This place I never visited in my life and really not in my map. I think it's
also a restaurant but I never bothered going there. It's not a beach front place. Its a
road front. It comes after Cocohut and a vacant lot. Maybe a good place to stay if you got
really drunk, can't crawl home, and Bay's Inn is full.
The next place is my favorite - Tiago's. It's also a beach front place that comes after
Bay's Inn, 2 private beach houses and a vacant lot. It's quite a secluded spot and
definitely not a place for ambience. Most of the cottages are old nipa constructions that
seems to have experienced a lot of typhoons. The place offers no c.r. to pee in so you
just have to use the fences. It's official name is Baystore, but it sounds uncool so we
locals call it Tiago'a after the proprietor who seems to be always under the influence of
alcohol. It's definitely the best place to be if you want to get raving drunk. The drinks
are cheap especially the gin. And the foods are great. Their staples are the beef steak
and the rellenong bangus. Surprisingly, for a place that doesn't seem to be concerned with
looks, the service here is good - courtesy of Ka Tiago and his wife and some girls that
you can ask to accompany your binge if you like. There are two rooms here - wooden huts -
that you can rent for 100 pesos if you can't go home because of too much alcohol or if
you're a cheap chickboy. This place is really a third world experience. Not one that you
can read on a Departmet of Tourism pamphlet.
After two private beach houses from Tiago's is the DSB resort and lodge. There's no
restaurant here, just rooms and cottages for picnics and out-of-towners. A second storey
room is available for rent with a good view of the beach. There used to be a karaoke house
inside this hamlet looking compound but it fizzled into extinction. In front of DSB is a
whole house for rent that used to be the short-lived SHEKINAH videoke - Igan's favorite
hunting ground. It existed for about 1 year and was one of the places with girls for rent.
Apparently, it fell out of competition with other well-established girlie houses. I went
there once, already drunk with my alcohol buddies. It was already close but a friend
managed to hassle the manager for one more round of warm beer and two songs. I slept on
UPDATE: There's this new lodging place called M&M which seems to be a short-time place
with 4 or five one room apartments lined in a row. I have no idea about his place which is
about 1 year old.
Next stop - the SURFER'S INN, hangout of the town's surfing community. Like DSB, there's
no restaurant here just rooms and huts for rent. There's a store where you can buy gin and
Chippy or canned pulutans. They also rent-out surf and body boards. This is owned by the
family of our bud Rommel - who is the Philippines' 2nd best surfer. Foreigners planning to
stay for the whole surfing season rent rooms here for a flat monthly fee. This way they
can stretch their dollars to the limits.
Just up the road to the left is the Governor's house. And in the beach front, just after
the Surfer's Inn, is the Governor's Resort and Restaurant under construction and on its
last pace of completion. It's a real resort right out of the pages of a DOT travel mag.
The centerpiece is a huge glass-walled restaurant that looks intimidating for locals used
to the Tiago's ambience. The roof, like the cottages surrounding the building is made of
red-brown Tegulas. When finished, this beach-side resort will have 2 sprawling swimming
pools and just across the road, a hotel. My guest is price wont be cheap. Not for natives
like us but a good place for once-a-year dates.
UPDATE: The restaurant is now open. It's called Bahia De Baler, the classiest place in
Baler to dine-in. The place is really intimidating with its glass walls, huge tables,
greatly finished interiors, and uniformed waiters. There's also a live band playing on
special occasions. (The Capitol Band actually - in one of their "official"
gigs). I went there once with Metong, Allan (DJ Ray Mani for those FM listeners in
Batangas City) and Baler's secret beauties Lelet and Janice. We were in a table 3 meters
wide and we filled one-fifth of it. We ordered a sisig and beers. The price is slightly
higher than Bay's Inn's maybe because of the extra cost for ambiance. There are lots of
choices in the menu but most are not available. The chickens are listed under
"poultry" but the porks are not under "piggery" but simply
"porks". Maybe I'll have a date here, if I can find one. And the hotel across
the road is already under construction.
VILLALUZ RESORT used to be the old MIA Resort back in the early 80s, established to
accomodate the influx of surfer-tourists who were first to discover the waves of Aurora.
Now its an unkept place with lots of rusting passenger jeepneys used by the ill-fated
Villaluz Express. Now it is mostly rented out for family reunions and beauty contest
practices. The last time I entered the place was about 2 years ago and i'm really not sure
if its still operating. This place is ancient, man. A fitting location for an out-of-town
set of OKATOKAT.
After the archeologically-friendly Villaluz Resort is KTV. It operates only at nights and
one of the favorite places of the SOP rich DPWH employees who never even bother to change
their uniforms or DPWH printed tshirts before going here. It offers chicks galore, local
and imported. The place is well-kept and the quality of their karaoke is good. They use
VCD instead of the usual jukebox-type consoles. If you want to sing they will give you the
mike and you will have to recite the disk and track numbers of the songs.
If you've reached reading this far you will notice that Baler's entertainment rough road
is really a stretch of sing-alongs. Diversity is not a hip word here. It's really boring.
I've been to KTV about three times and mostly to wash guts with a pop of beer after a gin
binge. So my recollection of the place is mostly blurred and hazy. The chicks all
looked-like a Gaussian-blurred Photoshop image. The foods are the usual sisig, french
fries, sitsarong bulaklak and lumpiang shanghai. Beers and pulutans are cheap if you're
the one drinking. If you like having girls with you, their drinks costs 500% more. I'm
cheap so I just hold myself. After KTV, the beach front turns into grassland with a
sprinkle of shrubs and old coconut trees. There are few private beach houses until you
reach the gates of the PNP headquarters. But on the left of the road there are more
karaoke bars. There's the ruin of what used to be the infamous BE HONEST, a full-pledge
beerhouse and girlie bar. The place died of sexually transmitted disease. Then There's LA
FLOR. It offers the same service as the KTV but they have no in-house girls-for-rent. This
is where you bring them in if KTV or the next door STP is full to the brink. LA FLOR is a
10 square meter of concrete structure with bad-sounding karaoke set. There are also
cottages outside that are rarely lit- the better to execute your brief period of
fornication. The foods are just the usual stuff and priced like the other digs.
STP, just nextdoor to LA FLOR is the shoe-in replacement to the infamous BE HONEST. Going
there means going for the girls. It's also a videoke bar and i've never been there. It's a
hunting ground for sex starved Aurorans from high school students to off-duty policemen,
office guys, and catholic seminarians. I mentioned high school kids because here in Baler
there's no restriction on who can buy alcohols. The 18 year old limit is not strictly
enforced so you can have a ginfest here even if you're still in elementary. Also the roads
near the strip could be very dangerous on late nights. There are lots of drunken souls
practicing their driving skills so you have to be alert to dive on the roadside or duck
behind a tree when you see headlights careening your way. Well, Thoreau said "A
government is governed best when governed least". I'm yakking things out of STP topic
because I've never been to the place. Drinking beer with a girl on sexy outfit sitting
beside you is one sin too many for me. But I have friends who like going there and are
always updated of the new "arrivals". If the devil resides in Baler, this is one
of his hangouts.
AMCO Beach Resort is the biggest resort in town. It's more than an hectare in size
highlighed by the mansion like 3-floor building nailed in the center of the place. Most of
the place are trimmed grass with no trees. It's not a beach resort really, the beach is on
the other side of the road. It's a road-front and river back property. There are mostly
trimmed grasses with spots of noni trees in the area. In front of the hotel-restaurant
building, there's an oval shaped concrete tilapia pond with fountains and a bridge in the
middle leading to two large cottages. Then there are pools under eternal construction.
Along the back of the place, where a river is located are small cottages and a big
multi-purpose barn that's is now another Videoke bar, as if we really needed another one.
AMCO "beach" resort is the place to be for lodging, dining, picnics, overnights,
weddings, conferences, training, fellowship, parties, anything. They even have their own
bus to ferry tourists on a trip around town.
After AMCO is the gate of the provincial headquarters of the PNP. You enter the
checkpoint, turn to the right, pass the backside of the camp's target shooting mound, walk
a bit more and you will see a white and big beach house. That's the Baler house of
Congresswoman Bella Angara-Castillo. After that is the beach, empty and desolate. For
surfing dudes, theres a beach break here named Lindy's Point, named after the
congresswoman's daughter. If you want to have a taste of napalm in the morning, you have
to trek a little bit more, about 2 kilometers more. Then you will be just at the right
spot where the village landing scene of Apocalype Now was filmed - the delta of the Aguang
River which surfers calls Charlies Point after the Coppola movie. Walk the beach were
Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Larry Fishburne, and Coppola once walked.
UPDATE: The practice shooting mounds going to the congresswoman's place is now gone and
replaced by 4 or 5 cottages that is said to be owned by the provincial director. The
places are for rent, i think, and could be the safest cottages for rent in the province
because its inside the PNP compound. Now the police have no reason to be seen frolicking
outside the camp.
After that. nothing but beach. As far as the eyes can see. All the way to Dilasag. And
that's all I can say about it.
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