My Rotary Club just spent a great weekend inside the sprawling former Subic Naval Base-turned-bustling economic zone. It was a Junket masquerading as our Planning Session filled with lotsa food, laughter and camaraderie for everyone.
We were like adults on our kindergarten field trip. There was Tio Paeng, the funniest septuagenarian-doctor on the planet; Bob, who was acting like a 13-year old trapped in a 38-year old’s body; the Rotarian twins, Joy and Jacqueline; Attorney Jobie who was with his pregnant wife, and our predominantly male officers who were looking forward to gallivanting that weekend. Mike was excitedly showing the “call cheating” software on his cellphone which simulates traffic noise and other sounds when wife was a-calling. Daaarn..the evil things that men do! An exception was Andy who brought along his whole family (despite the “no-bringing” policy).
I can’t believe it has been more than a year since I’ve been to Subic, which is a little more than two hour’s drive from Manila. I have spent too many weekends here in the vacation houses of Ex-Boyfriend. My Subic memories consist of camping out in this little known place called EOD and watching the Fed-Ex planes hover by, yachting to El Grande Island, motorcycling through the dense forests, hanging out in a cozy relic-filled bar called Magellan’s Landing, tasting those yummy barbecued lamb chops, spending time at the Aeta Tribal Village, among a host of other things.
Subic is all about the vast sea, the virgin forests and the open-wide highways. Some people feared that the former American naval base would deteriorate once it is put on the hands of the Filipinos but it is to the credit of the executives here that the place has been maintained the way it used to be.
For this trip, we were checked in at the Subic international Hotel which was the former barracks of American soldiers. The rooms were nice but the bathtubs needed an upgrade. The compound is huge that it would take quite a walk to go from one building to another. They also have a number of restaurants but I particularly liked the food at the Terrace Cafe. I discovered their Eggs Benedict with Mini-Tenderloin Steak for breakfast.
Eggs Benedict is a popular brunch food in the West and since I am (obviously) not a Caucasian, I simply had to taste this. The two poached eggs looked like they were screaming out of the oven when put on top of the ham and an English muffin. Paired with the oh-so-tender tenderloin steak, it was a pleasant diversion from the tapa-sinangag-itlog I am usually accustomed to.
We took our other meals at the hotel’s Golden Dragon Restaurant where we had a lauriat (not recommended) and Gerry’s Grill along the Boardwalk which had a superb and airy ambiance by the sea.
For an enjoyable Subic/Olongapo trip, Ajay recommends the following:
1. Head to the beach. There’s White Rock, Miracle Beach, Dungaree and Grande island, among others. Watersports enthusiasts can swim, snorkel, jetski and dive. Subic alone has 19 fascinating wreck dive sites.
2. Chill out in any of the bars along Magsaysay Drive where those hordes of go-go girls used to be. I particularly like hanging out in Scuba Shack and Magellan’s Landing which has a talking parrot and a museum of relics recovered from the sea.
3. Watch dolphins, sea lions and whales at Ocean Adventure. The entrance fee is quite steep but the show of the amazing sea mammals should be worth it.
4. Indulge in your own style of thrill-seeking a la Survivor and Fear Factor by trying out the Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST) Camp. Programs include a demo of basic jungle survival skills as taught to US troops and hiking up the trails within Subic’s lush forests.
5. Go visit and camp out in the Pamulaklakin Aeta Tribal Village. Take a peek at the unique cultural heritage of the Aetas, an indigenous tribe and see how they use their hunting tools and cook food the primitive way. Witness how our ancestors lived eons ago.
6. Engage in sports. Subic has golf courses, a world-class marina which can be found at the Subic Yacht Club, a karting circuit, swimming pools, equestrian fields, a cosmic bowling center (have to check this one out) and other facilities for recreation.
7. When boredom sets in, go shop. Shop for those “converted” Pajeros from Japan in the auction motor shops. Shop for duty-free bargains in Royal Subic, Puregold or the other stores which offer lots of discounted treats.
Subic is really one mini-cosmopolitan city which offers everything. Just be prepared to bring your own car because there are no public utility vehicles inside the base. Be careful..American traffic rules apply.