Baler After the Typhoon: Sharing the Stoke One Notebook at a Time


Christa De La Cruz
Christa De La Cruz | Jul 01, 2015

Baler, located northeast of Manila, is known as the birthplace of Philippine surfing. It is home to a number of surfing spots—from the popular beach break of Sabang to the secret surfing spots known only to the pros and locals. With waves reaching up to nine feet in the surfing season, it was described by Yahoo! Southeast Asia (May 2013) as one of the "top surf spots" in the Philippines.

Baler has also become a second home for a number Manila-based surfers especially with the relatively short bus ride from the city to the surfing town. 

In 2013, when Baler was devastated by a typhoon, Karl Torio didn't think twice about reaching out to the victims in their beloved homebreak. Through the help of Mahdox Surf School, he and six other friends got into an Aurora-bound passenger bus and distributed school supplies to teachers while stationed at a barangay post along Sabang Beach as part of a relief operation.

Karl Torio (Director of Baler Back to School Drive) and Donnah Alcantara-Rojo (Owner of Mahdox Surf School)


Instructors of Mahdox Surf School

Since then, the month of June doesn't only signal the return of the south swell—a surfer's much-awaited surfing season—but also another opportunity to bring smiles on the faces of Baler's children.


The distribution of school supplies was replicated in 2014 in a bigger venue with more beneficiaries and more volunteers. Ruperto P. Zubia Elementary School was the selected recipient since most of the local surf intructors have kids enrolled there.




Now on its 3rd year, the Baler Back to School Drive last June 14 was a huge success. Through donations from Karl's high school friends, fellow surfers whom he just met on the line up, relatives, co-workers, and Team Sirena, 168 students of Zubia were given school bags, notebooks, papers, pens, coloring materials and a hygiene pack. 

Team Sirena, a group of Manila-based surfers, prepares hygiene packs for the kids of Zubia Elementary School


Jared, son of a local surf instructor, is one of the 168 students who received a bag of school supplies and other goods during the Baler Back to School Drive last June 14, 2015.


Snacks were also distributed to both students and parents after a series of parlor games that delighted the kids and kids-at-heart.




When asked about his future plans for the outreach program, Karl revealed his wish of holding a medical mission in the coming years. A scholarship program for grommets/groms (young surfers) is also a dream he's keen on making a reality.


Why choose Baler? "They have the friendliest people! The happiest, the sweetest, and fun people on the surface of the earth!," Karl exclaims. The best Baler experience? "Oh well, that's every moment when I'm in Baler."


In the photos above, Karl and the rest of Team Sirena gesture a 'shaka sign,' often associated with Hawaii and surf culture. It conveys the 'aloha spirit,' a concept of friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity.

Indeed, what's more 'aloha' than an outreach program that extends these values to those in need?


(Check out the gallery above for more photos of Baler Back to School Drive Year 3.)


Baler Back to School Drive is a project of TELUS International Philippines Outdoor Club through the initiative of Water Sports Club. It is the brainchild of Karl Torio, VP of Outdoor Club. 

Baler Back to School Drive Year 3 was made possible through a collaboration with Mahdox Surf School, Baler's premiere surfing institution, and the donation of Mr. Arnold Warren of Fitness First.



Where on Earth is Baler?

Baler Surfing
(Courtesy of Google Maps.)

How to Get There

Baler, Aurora is a 5 to 7-hour bus ride from Manila, with the travel time depending on which bus you’ll take from Cubao, Quezon City.

Option 1: Joybus Deluxe Bus (Genesis) - has no stops, 5 hours

Option 2: Regular Genesis A/C Bus - 7 hours

Option 3: Genesis or ES Transport bus to Cabanatuan City then transfer to Aurora Bus Line at the Cabanatuan terminal.

Experience More of Baler:

WHAT TO DO: How Hollywood Discovered This Philippine Surfing Haven
Story by Christa I. De La Cruz | Photo by Phillip Kimpo Jr.
1) Baler Surfer Grill: The One & Only Car Grill in the Philippines
Story and photo by Christa I. De La Cruz
2) From Pandesal to Red Velvet Cupcakes: Baler’s Best-loved Bakeshop
Story and photo by Christa I. De La Cruz
3) Angela’s Café
Story and photo by Phillip Kimpo Jr.
4) Perfect Beach Treat: Turon Goes Choco-Loco & Super Special
Story and photo by Renzelle Ann Palma
5) 5 Must-Eats at Yellow Fin Bar & Grill
Story and photo by Renzelle Ann Palma
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