The mountains, weather and routes at Baler were learning opportunities for us. They stretched our wings, our decision-making and our experience base.
More important, the Crispy Buntot is great!
Fast-forward seven months. December, just after Christmas. Carlo and I vegetated on the beach at Vigan, wondering where to fly next on our Yuletide flying holiday.
As a rippled sunset glowed over the South China Sea, we got a text message from Ruth:
Merry Christmas! She and her family were in Baler for the holidays.
Carlo and I sat up. Baler! Of course!
It was the amihan season. Drizzly northeast trade winds on the Pacific coast, lots of surf action. Baler was way across Luzon. It would be a coast-to-coast flight. But that’s what airplanes are for.
We left at sunrise, refueled at La Union. Climbed to 8,500 feet across Baguio, then doglegged across the Puncan, Caraballo and Sierra Madre mountains to Pantabangan and Baler.
We were fetched at the airport by an irrepressible lady with the utterly charming name of Isabela.
Isabela! Carlo and I loved her instantly, even if she was a bit haughty at first, as a proper lady should be. After she got to know us more she became outgoing and more, er, demonstrative.
Since Carlo and I left Vigan at sunrise, we attacked the home cooked lunch at Baler like pilots home from the wars.
The movie Baler! was sweeping awards at the Manila Film Festival.
We visited the church where the Spanish soldiers were besieged for nearly a year, unconvinced that Spain had surrendered the entire country to the Americans months before.
We toured the two-storey Baler Museum. Beside centuries-old tribal artifacts were costumes and props from the movie. There is a rich photo collection that spans more than a century of photography at Baler.
Dinner at Bays Inn, right on the beach, featured Crispy Buntot, like crispy pata except it was not, well, the pata.
The next morning a Pacific Ocean sunrise, barely showing through rainclouds, spotlighted the horizon and capped a great 24-hour journey.
In the past 24 hours we had flown coast-to-coast right across Luzon, seen the sun rise and set at both Vigan on the South China Sea and at Baler on the Pacific Ocean. Not bad for a small Cessna.
It was raining when Ruth and her family took us to the airport. Isabela called Clearance Delivery while we pre-flighted the airplane.
Except that the master switch was off.
Carlo spiralled us up in an instrument climb to VFR on top. Later he studied the track with interest — the wind had drifted us closer to the mountains throughout his spiral climb.
Ruth and her family drove off for Manila. The airport caretaker told them to wait, since our airplane would surely return because of bad weather. Ruth firmly told the driver to go. She knew the pilots well, she said.
When Carlo and I landed at Omni, Isabela and her parents were driving down the Sierra Madre into the Central Luzon plain. We haven’t seen her since. She sent us pictures of her birthday party last month.
Posted from Bangkok, August 21, 2009.
Ninoy Aquino’s 26th anniversary.