It's a jungle out there.
Not my urban jungle - a highrise amongst highrises in the heart of Makati city. The real thing - steamy, mysterious, primordial.
A few weeks back after some San Miguels at the incredible Plantation Bar, a friend and I got talking about her childhood home. A place of mango orchards, palm trees and untouched beaches accessible only by foot. Waterfalls, giant trees and farmers living their lives as they had for generations before. Even though she warned the drive was a long one, by the next day we had our bags packed and were ready for our first Pinoy jungle adventure.
Baler is located in Aurora province, located on the North East corner of Luzon. Since the opening of Costa Pacifica and other great resorts, the area is gaining more visitors, but prior to that it was a place beloved by local and international surfers alike.
On the 9 hour drive (there is a road over the mountains, and a road around them!) I was astonished at the clean air, blue sky and rural surrounds you simply don't have in Metro manila. Carabaos, cows, and children playing in mountain streams made my home seem like another world.
As we drew closer to our destination, I said to my husband "It looks like evey Vietnam War film ever made". And turns out I was right. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippines untouched jungle and countryside made it a favourite for directors such as Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), John Irvin (Hamburger Hill) and Francis Ford Coppola.
His iconolastic war materpiece Apocalypse Now was filmed primarily in the Philippines. The famous helicopter attack scene, known for its lines "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" and "Charlie don't surf" were filmed around Baler Bay and an isolated beach now known amongst locals as Charlie's Point.
This magnficient spot is only accessible through rice fields and jungle. It is strewn with driftwood, has the occasional hut and of course, lots and lots of coconuts.
We stayed at the wonderful Azbahaen Leisure Resort & Farm where we treated like family. For three days we swam, ate and basked in the jungle sun. An enormous thank you to everyone there who made our stay so wonderful.