When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I asked him for a family trip to Baler, Aurora. I’ve seen stunning photos of the famous surfing destination posted on Facebook but the long 6-hour drive from Manila always discouraged me from making the trip. I was also scared that my tiny car might not survive the bumpy, winding roads since it’s the rainy season.
My adventurous side kept urging me to go. I read in a few travel blogs that there’s no need for a 4×4 to get there as long as you take the Pantabangan Route, which is farther but much safer.
Thankfully, the weather was kind on my birthday, with clear skies and not a single drop of rain. We packed the car and left Manila at 6 am and arrived in Baler 7.5 hours later. We would have arrived sooner if we hadn’t stopped to eat.
The resort we chose to stay in was Costa Pacifica. After being on the road for so long, I was relieved and happy to arrive at such a beautiful resort. Our room was tastefully designed, spacious and had a private veranda with a spectacular view of Sabang Beach. I couldn’t help but jump for joy on the huge and cozy king sized bed.
Anyone else would have been tempted to lounge and relax in the hotel room all day long, but not me. I prefer to spend my vacation doing outdoor activities.
On our first day at the resort, my husband, Bernd, and I took our daughter swimming. She had so much fun splashing around in the kiddie pool.
After a whole afternoon of swimming, we were famished, so we headed out to the hotel’s in-house restaurant. I was delighted that the menu had many healthy options. I ordered the “Catch of the Day,” which was grilled tuna, and a side of ensaladang pako.
Pako or fiddlehead fern grows abundantly in the province of Aurora. Typically, it’s eaten raw and prepared as a salad or stir-fried with tasty Baler longganisa.
I was pleasantly surprised that my one and a half year old daughter also enjoyed eating the nutrient dense green leafy vegetable. The humble pako is rich in calcium, iron, phosphorous and vitamins A and B.
On our second day, I wanted to go surfing but there weren’t any swells. The ocean was flat and calm. The hotel’s surf instructor told me there should have been sufficient waves by now.
I was quite disappointed since surfing was on top of my to do list. Fortunately, Baler has so many other fun activities to offer such as waterfall trekking, biking and simply visiting the local landmarks.
Bernd and I then decided to go on a whole day tour of Baler, which we booked through the hotel. You can also hire a tricycle driver to take you to all the spots, which would have been a more affordable alternative.
Before heading out, I fueled up with a hearty breakfast. The buffet that came with our room was a mouthwatering feast. It served waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausages, assorted cheeses and many more sumptuous dishes.
As much as I wanted to gorge and eat everything in sight, I didn’t want to feel too full before hiking. I opted for healthier fare such as butterflied dilis with baked eggs, rice and my favorite ensaladang pako.
Our first stop was Ditumabao Falls. The lush green scenery made me feel like I was in the movie set of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. To get to the Mother Falls, we trekked for about 45 minutes, which included crossing rickety bamboo bridges, climbing over rocks and going through shin deep water.
The hike was fairly easy, but make sure to wear comfortable slippers with good treading since the rocks can be quite slippery.
Our next activity was to explore the largest balete tree in Asia, called the Millennium Tree. It’s 600 years old and stands a whopping 200 feet. For a minimal fee, one of the local guides took pictures of us climbing and going through the massive tree. I was amazed how great the photos turned out.
Since we wanted to get back to the hotel early to take our daughter swimming again, we just made quick stops to Ermita Hill and the Lukso-Lukso Islets. Both places had majestic views of mountain and sea.
On our last day in Baler, Bernd and I conducted our own bicycle city tour. We visited Museo de Baler, ancestral houses and biked along the boardwalk. For me, biking is the most intimate and cheapest way to travel around town. Not to mention, it’s great exercise, too!
Before leaving for Manila, we made sure to stop by Nanay Pacing’s Homemade Pasalabong Shop. I heard from the locals that she makes the best peanut butter.
Nanay Pacing’s unrivaled product is all natural, preservative-free and greaseless. It doesn’t have the pool of oil normally found on the top when you open a jar of commercial peanut butter. The taste was out of this world. I was tempted to eat the entire jar by scooping out the creamy goodness with my fingers.
It’s even better when you pair it with Suman de Baler.
The Suman de Baler we bought from the roadside stand on the way back to Manila was made with organic black rice and coconut milk. Not only is it high in fiber, it is also dairy-free and gluten-free.
I bought several clusters of suman and jars of peanut butter since I wanted to use them for a new recipe I had in mind for my health food delivery business, The Sexy Chef.
I combined my two amazing food finds and made a nutrient dense snack that’s rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and anti-oxidants. They’re also gluten-free, dairy-free and 100% delicious. Here’s the recipe of my Superfood Suman Balls. Enjoy!
Recipe: Superfood Suman Balls
Makes 12 balls
- 6 pcs Suman de Baler or regular suman
- ¼ cup Nanay Pacing’s Peanut Butter or natural peanut butter
- 1 tbsp coconut syrup or raw honey
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Blend all the ingredients except for the coconut flakes in a food processor until it becomes a sticky paste.
- Form the mixture into one tablespoon sized balls, then roll them in coconut flakes.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck is co-owner of the diet/healthy meal delivery service The Sexy Chef and also a best-selling author of a healthy lifestyle cookbook with the same name. To learn more about their offerings, visit thesexychef.ph, follow Twitter @thesexychefph and IG @thesexychef.