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Surfing waves in Baler. illumelation. 2015.

Life was catching up to Roxy and I when a surf trip we were planning to Baler, a beach in northern Philippines, fell through. We couldn’t even score last minute bus tickets, it being the weekend and a national holiday. But as fate would have it, we weren’t disappointed for long. A mutual friend got in touch and offered us a ride to Baler the very next evening. With the spray of saltwater already on our skin, we packed our bags, hopped into James’ surfboard-stacked Honda CR-V, and hit the open road.

Five hours of winding mountains, naughty jokes, and terrible imitations of my British accent later, we reached Baler.


Baler was beautiful. I fell in love with the place, hard. We crashed on the couch in the house of a mutual friend on the first night, and in the morning I had the shock of my life after waking up to a googly-eyed French bulldog panting excitedly, tongue out and waggling, inches from my face. For the next two nights, Roxy and I opted to stay at The Circle (hostel), since I needed to rent a board, and so we wouldn’t have to wait on the guys to drive us to the beach in the morning (they slept like bloody logs). Whilst Circle has a cringey rep, it’s affordable, chilled out, safe… and kinda fun (apart from the concrete skate pit by the entrance; that’s a drunken lawsuit waiting to happen.)

For the next three days we chilled, surfed, and bonded. It was glorious. I got to see the beautiful Cemento Reef, meet new people, and practice my Tagalog. I also had the most awesome peanut butter I’ve ever eaten in my life (Aling Pacing, holla!) and ate at great food joints including Groundswell Café (favourite), Press Start, Kusina Luntian (kamayan style), Costa Pacifica (higher end), Good Food (does what it says on the tin), and local canderas. Did I mention that my face got sunburned to within an inch of its life? No? Well, it did.


It’s weekends like these that I crave the most. Sun-soaked, carefree days filled with lapping waves and languid laughter. Minus the flaming pink sunburn, which made my face look shiny and waxed like I’d just had a round of Botox injections.

Baler, my dear, I’ll see you very soon.

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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