Baler could be another Maui if…

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Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

BALER is similar to Maui in many respects. They both have beautiful waterfalls, rock formation, board walks, mountains, beaches, surfing waves and maybe others. Maui has its centuries-old giant banyan tree while Maria Aurora has its huge balete tree.

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And that is where the similarity ends. When it comes to Balerianos, these are a few of my experiences in three-and-a-half days. I admire the people of Maui in my almost two weeks’ stay there.

First I went there to teach at the Tour Guiding Seminar, batches 1 & 2, of our Department of Tourism (DOT). Our participants were tricycle drivers, surfing instructors and homestay owners. They were all so eager to learn and are proud to be tour guides while driving their tricycle. Tricycle is the only public transportation available around Baler. In my last morning, one of them brought me to the surf beach and even gave me lots of sabutan seedlings. Sabutan is the material they use to make hats, mats and others. He didn’t accept my payment, but I insisted on paying the fare and his time; tricycle driving is his only means of livelihood. One of our participants gave me nuts and coco jam and a beautiful necklace.

On my second morning, I slipped and fell on the stairs of Machiavelli Lodge. My new and expensive Lumix camera and my handbag containing another Lumix camera went crashing on the tiled floor. Worse of all, I fell hard on my right side (palm, arm, butt, thigh and leg). It was a DOT staff and a lodge kitchen helper who helped me up. The front desk clerk did not even bother to look at me. My fellow speaker screamed and asked for help but continued to use her IPad. My scream could have been heard miles away but the other DOT officials in the nearby room did not bother to look. I told them later but they just shrugged their shoulders. Technically they were responsible for my safety since I am on official business with them.

We were having breakfast when the owner came by the hotel. Vice Mayor Karen Angara-Ularan is a niece of ex-Senator Angara. She exchanged pleasantries with the DOT personnel. Nobody even hinted on my mishap. So I told her when she was about to leave.

She simply let out an almost inaudible “I am sorry.” The DOT people had nothing to say.

My butt still hurts to this day and I intend to have it x-rayed as soon as I could. Vice Mayor Ularan should have brought me to a hospital for an x-ray. She, according to the DOT people, sent a “hilot” since I had asked for one the night before. The “hilot” came and she talked all the time but she definitely does not know about “hilot” technique. I know because I have a regular “hilot” here in Manila. And she insulted me big when she told me that I look like a 70-year-old. Even if I did, she shouldn’t have said it and I definitely look younger than her 68 years. Baleriano!

DOT assigned a tour guide for me so I could see the beauty of Baler and Maria Aurora. The first afternoon was okay because the guide was already there. The second time, the morning of the day I was leaving for Manila, she suggested that we start off at 5 a.m. so we could admire the sunrise at Sabang Beach and have time to visit other places. I was up early and I waited and waited and waited. The DOT staff tracked her whereabouts. At 9:20 a.m., she arrived smiling. No apologies. Baleriana! She wasted my time. I sent her home.

We also asked one of the local DOT provincial personnel to help us buy some goodies to bring home—fish, beef, lobsters, etc. He didn’t have anything to do at the seminar anyway, he just sits there, chats with the others and does some errands. Well, he called another person to do the marketing for us. I would have wanted to do the marketing myself since the market is just around the corner. I feel the goodies were overpriced. Of course, the guy needs to earn.

One last—among many more—I went to the bus station by taxi here in Manila twice to get my tickets in advance. I even got a senior citizen discount. When I got my reimbursement, it was short by P44, no excuses. Baleriana! The worst can’t yet be printed here.

I might go back to enjoy the beauty of Baler and I know now how to deal with Balerianos. I had a brief chat with Mayor Nelianto “Pilot” Bihasa, a close and trusted ally of the Angaras, and I gather that he seems to be interested in tourism. Baler came into the consciousness of local tourists when Kris Aquino featured it in her TV show for a week.

And so Baler is scampering to receive a surge of tourists with their limited facilities and that “attitude” of people. BTW, the whole Aurora Province is dominated by the Angaras in all aspects.

I long to go back to Camiguin. Governor Jurdin Jesus “JJ” M. Romualdo set the mood and the pace and all Camiguingnons follow suit. The magic of good management and leadership by example.

Feedback to moje629@gmail.com

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11 Comments

  1. Sherwin Paul Gonzales on

    Personal experience…to a person in her standard and status hindi dapat ganoon ang pagkakasulat…daig pa ang tablod reporter…marami namang paraan para ma solve ang problema. I believe the reason why she was invited here was to address problems encountered in tourism, educate tourism people…., but by the way she wrote the article, parang balewala yung purpose ng pagpunta niya dito and WORST, promoted other province…baka naman na baby siya doon. Sayang ang ginastos sa kanya… Baler has nothing to sorry for, she must have understood some situations, prepared for it and intellectually addressed it.

  2. Maybe if you are a foreigner they will treat you differently, they should be hospitable that is the trait DOT are bragging in the internet to convince tourist.The workers/ employees of that lodging house should be trained on how to entertain guest. These local DOT personnel should learn their lesson from this article and should take this as an advise or constructive criticism if there intention is to improve Baler as tourist spot.

  3. Patrick Angara on

    isang paglilinaw po sa mga pangyayari at impormasyon na binanggit nitong author. Ang Machiavelli Lodge po ay hindi po pagaari ni Vice Mayor Karen Angara-Ularan kundi pag-aari ko po. Opo nagkaroon po ng insidente na nadulas itong Author sa hagdan namin at sa pagkakaalam ko po isang step lang. Dalawang staff po namin ang lumapit sa kanya at tinulungan siya. Kasama rin po tumulong sa kanya ang isang member ng Victory Church. Kinabukasan po ay sinubukan ko siya kausapin ngunit hindi kami nag-aabot dahil sa schedule nila. Pero binilin ko sa mga staff namin na lagi siya kamustahin at ipagbigay alam sa akin kung ano ang kailangan niya. Naghanap po kami ng manghihilot para sa kanya. At siya pa ang nag-set ng time kung anong oras siya magpapahilot. Ilan beses pa nga po niya binago kung anong oras. Sabi niya una 9 pm daw tapos naging 6 pm tapos naging 6:30 pm. Tapos noong pumunta po yung isa namin staff sa room niya para tanungin kung pwede na pumasok ang manghihilot mga 6:30 pm po noon. Sinigawan po niya yung staff namin sabi na “Dapat kanina pa”. Dapat kami po magbabayad doon sa manghihilot ngunit pinilit po niya yung manghihilot na tanggapin ang bayad niya. Ng susunod po na umaga lumapit po siya sa Front Desk namin at nirereklamo po niya yung manghihilot “sobrang unprofessional” daw at tanong ng tanong tungkol sa kanya. Noong nakausap po namin yung manghihilot kahapon sabi po niya na baliktad ang sinasabi ng author nito at sinabihan pa daw siya na magpapahilot siya ulitsa kanya. Kinakamusta po namin siya lagi at sinasabi niya na okay na siya at “medyo sore” na lang. Pero ang sinasabi niya sa ibang tao eh sobrang sakit at di daw namin siya inaasikaso. Pabago bago din po siya ng mga sinasabi sa Front Desk namin at sa mga Tourism Office natin dito sa Baler at Aurora. Yung pong Tour Guide na sinabi niya ay pinahiya niya at pinaiyak. At regarding po sa pagkain nila ng daing ang nag-request po noon ay ang Regional Director (which is Suki na po namin). Siya lang naman po…

    • Patrick Angara on

      Siya lang naman po ang nagsasalita against it. Pwede naman po siya mag-request ng ibang kakainin di naman po niya ginawa. Gagawa daw po ng assessment report ang Local Tourism Offices natin ukol dito. At kahit po sila maraming reklamo sa pag-uugali ng taong ito. Kung laitin po niya ang lugar natin ay sadyang nakakadismaya. Pati na rin po ang mga comments niya sa taga-Baler at mga nagtratrabaho sa DOT ay nakakairita.

  4. Patrick Angara on

    With all due respect to the Author and Manila Times better check your facts. Vice Mayor Karen Angara-Ularan does not own Machiavelli Lodge. It is I who owns it. You can check it with DTI, BIR and with LGU-Baler.

    When the incident happened two of our staff members and a pastor from Victory Church helped her out. The next morning I personally looked for her to apologize but due to their schedule and my other work I was not able to do so. I told my staff to attend to her needs and always ask updates from her and always inform me if she needed anything. We got her a “manghihilot” and she was the one to set the time. She first told our staff that she will get her massage by 9 pm then she changed it to 6 pm then 6:30 pm. When one of our staff went to her room and asked her if the massage therapist could go in she shouted in a very rude manner “Dapat Kanina Pa”. It was only 6:30 pm during that time. The next morning she told our front desk that the massage therapist was “sobrang unprofessional” because she was asking lots of questions. But when we called the therapist to ask about what happened she was very much disappointed because this author of yours told the opposite story. She even said that Mrs. Ramos-Aquino told her “na magpapahilot siya ulit sa akin”. The therapy session was to be paid by us but she insisted her payment to the therapist because “ayaw daw niya ng libre”. The next day our Front Desk Officer had a conversation with her. Our front desk officer asked her how she was doing and she replied that “Im okay just a little sore”. But she will tell other people that nobody in the hotel even cared about her. She was telling us that she is alright already then afterward tell a different story to others. She also gave really bad and disrespectful comments about our hometown and its people. That our people were disrespectful but we all tried to please her. She gave negative comments about our local priest and our Fiesta Celebration. Nothing seems…

    • 1. as far as I remember there was only one guy (the kitchen helper) who helped me up. ah, I forgot that my nape also hit the last step before I slid down the floor. nobody else from the hotel inquired about my well-being. I do remember a helper-looking person asked me how I am.
      2. I was told by the provincial and municipal tourism staff that it is Karen who owns the hotel. and I saw Karen there everyday of our stay.
      3. the hilot is something else. of course, how could I tell her that I would get her services again when I was leaving in two days’ time? baleriano! I paid her php300. I simply gave her my payment without saying anything.
      3. Your priest is something else. I could write another column about his demeanor as a priest, but I will not give him that honor.

      you are truly a baleriano, Patrick. :-)

  5. Arnulfo G. Querijero on

    Tila hindi po po kayo pinalad na makasama o makasalamuha ang mga taga-Baler na mas maayos ang breeding. Nakakalungkot mabalitaan ang ganyang pangit na karanasan lalo na ng tulad ninyong tumutulong sa pagpapaunlad ng turismo sa aming bayan. Wala na po akong ibang maiko-comment sa nangyari sa inyo. Pero higit pong marami ang may maayos na pag-uugali. Huwag naman sanang maging dahilan ito ng hindi ninyo pagbalik at mag-enjoy sa magagandang pook dito at sa buong Aurora. Nawa sa pagbabalik ninyo ay makasama ninyo ang mga tagarito na hindi pa diluted ang asal. Ang mga naging panauhin ng aming pamilya at naging mga kaibigan na mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng Pilipinas at ng daigdig ay patuloy na bumabalik sa loob ng mahigit na 35 taon.

    • tama po kayo. at balak ko pong bumalik at makasalamuha ang mga tunay na baleriano. may tinitingnan na nga ho akong kapirasong lupang pangsakahan at baka doon ako magsaka sa kalauanan.

  6. Nakabisita kami (only two of us – with my wife) sa Baler last february, 2014. for 6 hrs vios driving from Manila, we arrived in Baler. Compared to a high cost (airfare) Bora, Batanes and Palawan, Baler has an advantages.. worth it for 5 days in Baler and Dicasalarin, walang pagsisisi..

    In the next 2 years, if the traffic in Cabanatuan section will improved (less 2 hrs), malaki ang potential ng Baler and Dicasalarin for local and backpacker foreign tourist..

    • not from baler on

      salamat po sa pagbisita. mas mabuti po siguro kung sa parteng palayan-bongabon-pantabangan road po kayo dumaan sa susunod na kayo ay pumasyal sa aming probinsya. less traffic po, same hours of travel (or less i think since i drive a lot from aurora to cabanatuan)

  7. jose hernani m. parco on

    something’s wrong very wrong with our DOT, pretty big on promotions blah blah blah and when you get there the place, the people are not ready. you’re in for a big surprise and disappointment! supposed to be getting there is half the fun, in reality getting there is such a b***h!