Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aurora


At first, Aurora to me is like a silent beep in my radar. I'm almost clueless about the place so when my friend Alain invited me to travel with them I was willing to exchange it with our Pinatubo trip. Aurora before was a town in Quezon and was made into a separate province. Manuel & Aurora Quezon are the only spouses who have provinces named after them(-from Wikipedia). When I mention Aurora to my friends, they would say, "Aurora, in Quezon, right?" I always had to remind them that it is a different province.

That night we met up at the ES Bus Terminal. There was a bit of a bad weather then but we pushed through with it. Though others weren't able to join us. I was already used to freak weathers anyway. My motto is "Rain or shine!".  I looked forward to discovering Aurora. It was 7 hours long trip but it was comfortable. We rented a van in Cabanatuan to take us to Maria Aurora Town, named after Quezon's mother. We drove along lush greenery,as the cold breeze & dew kiss our cheeks. We passed by Pantabangan dam, a very serene scene. We also passed by a very deep gorge where it was difficult to see the bottom. The forests breathes & it is truly beautiful with tall untouched trees.


I was traveling with Alain, Grasi, Polie, Jena & Ma'am Cinch. That morning we reached the town, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of hotdogs & Ampalaya. Afterwhich, while it was drizzling, we rode tricycles to the ancient tree. We firtst passed by the 4-Wheel drive Race, they were still preparing when we reached the bridge. The bikers were also doing their laps.


The Balete tree stands strong, it is 600 years old. It's beautiful and eerie at the same time. The branches & roots spread out at different directions. It takes 56 people to hug it.  We walked inside the tree. The roots criss-crossed & wound up into impossible knots. It was like a labyrinth inside, like an eerie cave. It was a scary experience because in Filipino notion, Balete trees are inhabited by elementals/nature spirits. When I took the photo of the top, I tought I saw two big pair of eyes but they are just points where the sunrays peeked. The tree is truly Maria Aurora's treasure, imagine it stood witness to everything over those years.









Giants trees guarded both sides of the road on our way to the waterfalls. It was a bumpy tricycle ride uphill the gravel path. We are in the middle of the forest & it is a beautiful experience. The hike to the falls is relaxing & not so tiring.  We were all excited to see it. We crossed streams and stepped on some slippery rocks. The sound of the water gushing sends magic to the soul. When we saw the waterfalls, we can't wait to get a dip in the pool. It's high and grand. The water is freezing but we needed it for it was really hot that morning. The powerful waves it created massaged our backs. It's like an all natural spa. Jena was ecstatic, while Polie was shivering in the cold. The trek is all worth it. It was Grasi's second time, but I'm sure she had fun


















 Afterwhich, we drove off to Baler, passed by expanse of lush green rice fields. We first had lunch at the Plaza. Polie even tasted their local chillis which are fried, the best way to preserve them said the lady. 




After filling our tummies, we went to see the artifacts at the museum. It has a very interesting mural on its facade. I somehow had my answers about Aurora, but most of all I learned much about the 1st Commonwealth President of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon. The kind lady also explained to me about the Spaniards who took refuge inside the Church of Baler, & I've also heard the movie "Baler" from her. It is the most awarded movie in 2008 MFF. The museum also housed the photos of the Angara's, a family of politicians who hailed there. 






At the sidewalk we saw some footprints which stopped at a red circle, but it left us clueless. We even passed by the Baler Church & the replica of Doña Aurora's house.



Dona Aurora's House




That afternoon, we went to the famous Baler Beach, known as one of the surfing sites in the Philippines. We took a dip in the warm sea water and played with waves. We had drinks at the nearby restaurant. They tasted the Banana Crepe & I had the watermelon shake with some bits of its seeds. They enjoyed cold beer. Alain showed us a stranged fruit they call Catmon  which is green and sour.We also met up with Alain's friend Jason, who is one of the counsilors there. We rode at the back of his pick-up truck and went to buy fish at the market.  Grasi & Polie were joking around maybe it's just the beers' alcohol kicking in. 



Catmon
Driving at the highway is fun, it was truly dark & we even passed by group of fireflies in the middle of the road. It seemed as if they were shooting stars from the speed of our truck. We freshened up as soon as we arrived at the house. We enjoyed the food that Alain & his friends prepared for us. It was my first time to taste their "Paco" fern ensalada. It tasted good. After dinner, we all gathered up the round table, told stories & passed shots of "Lambanog"- local liquor made from coconut juice. It has a clean & crisp taste & it smells good.

It was several days before the town Fiesta. Sunday morning, we had a filling breakfast. Alain left with some friends once again to go the falls, no wonder why he stayed so slim. It was also my first time to taste "Marang" a fruit originating from the Minadanao region. We even ate their local pandesal which is elongated. We roamed the streets to judge the "arches". Every barangay built & decorated following a "theme". There are almost 50 arches. It was a very hot morning, the sun not so friendly. We passed by a store and bought pretty native hats. I loved the arches,you can see how creative each barangay can be. One of each has a unique banana fruit with hundreds hanging on it.I liked the one with the red varnish with stag horn ferns, it looks so native & reminiscent of Aurora.
Marang









It was lunch time when we finished summing up the scores. We got to view the photos taken during the pre-fiesta activities & I love the video on Aurora tourist spots. I still have Aurora on my list. The bros had prepared a beautiful meal of crabs cooked in coconut milk with ferns, and Sinigang na Hipon. Though I was allergic to this stuff, it was too fresh so I didn't have any itch at all. After lunch, we bid farewells to the "Band of Brothers". They brought us first to the last stop of the trip. But before we went to Ermita Hill, we passed by to buy their delicious crispy banana chips. Ermita hill is a park overlooking the whole Baler Beach on the left & Cement Beach on the right. They say during summer, the view is truly beautiful, the sea in deep blue and the sky clear blue. Baler Beach is where they shot the movie, Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola. A movie about Vietnam war.














Before going home, we passed by the pasalubong center at the terminal. Aurora's native products are hats, mats & Lambanog. Ma'am Cinch, Polie & I rode a very unreliable van to Cabanatuan. 


We took the old road. There are no cellphone signals, it's in the middle of the forest & on the right side of the road is a deep ravine. But all is well, even if most of the time, the van would loose gas or have some trouble,etc. It was scary though to have a thought of sleeping there in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed the fresh cold breeze & the beautiful views of the green forests. Alain informed me that, it is where Aurora Quezon was ambushed by the Hukbalahap group in the WW2 era. I've also learned that Aurora Blvd. in Quezon City was named after the her.  When we reached the main highway, the van had a full stop, everybody was stressed out about it, but good thing a kind man took us to the bus station in his van.



The Aurora trip is a great experience. We get to see more of our country that we usually read in history books or magazines. Thanks to the friends who helped us open our eyes to Aurora's beauty. There are still lots to discover in Aurora. The province spans wide across the Eastern Part of Luzon, welcoming the Pacific Ocean. Even with the notion of it being hit by the incoming typhoons, the lush green rice farms goes to show that most of the time it is spared from it & besides it's protected by the mighty Sierra Madre at the western side.


I'm thankful to Alain, and the "Band of Brothers" who were all accommodating, a proof of Filipino hospitality that other countries can not ever compare. Thanks also to my new found buddies, Grasi, Polie & Jena, looking forward to more adventures with you all. & to Aurora, I guess we have to be back.

If you want to experience Aurora, you can contact:

MAOC Inc. Noel, his mobile no.+09088850058

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