Estrada detention camp in Tanay now open for touristsBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Tourists will have more fun in the Philippines—if they care to visit military camps.
Camp Mateo Capinpin in the mountains of Tanay—more popularly known as deposed President Joseph Estrada’s former detention place—is the latest military camp to become a tourist destination.
The headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), dubbed the “Jungle Fighter” division, has been included among Rizal province’s tourist destinations due to the success of the program.
Schools, youth groups like the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and civic groups like the Rotary Club regularly visit the sprawling camp. They get an opportunity to interact with soldiers who act as the tour guides.
“This is a much better way to inform them. Because they think our soldiers are tigers. Now they get to be informed,” said Colonel Rodolfo Lavadia Jr., commander of the 2nd Civil-Military Operations (CMO) Battalion of the 2ID.
His soldiers play big brother and big sister to the students—from elementary to college—during the tour.
He said their tours began in 2007 as “Lakbay Kalikasan (environmental tour).”
Since then it has been re-launched as “Lakbay Aral (educational tour)” with a daylong set of activities.
“We want the public especially students to be exposed to the life of our soldiers, to our activities, to what we do,” Lavadia said.
“We want them to know that our soldiers are not here just for war, but we work during disasters and conduct civic-military operations,” he said.
The Army’s Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur, the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division, had earlier been declared a tourist destination by the provincial government.
The military unit has lined up activities for their “tourists,” starting with a welcoming performance from its marching band.
Then the students get to see soldiers “in action” as a nine-member Army squad in full battle gear and camouflage demonstrate their combat formations and explain their roles, weapons and equipment.
In a static display, the soldiers fire off their high-powered firearms but with blank ammunition.
To cap off the demo, the soldiers allow students to take photos with them and even carry the firearms, which are unloaded of course.
A tour of the 2ID museum to see the display of weapons, explosives and vehicles, and a video presentation about the 2ID follows.
For lunch, the visitors get to have a “boodle fight” with the soldiers. The guests provide their own food.
To get a taste of the soldiers’ training regimen, students can get on a “mini-obstacle course” (it’s for kids, says Lavadia) that would still have them crawling on the ground.
They are also treated to zipline, rock wall climbing and rappeling.
Lavadia said their guests have enjoyed themselves because they keep coming back.
“We get good feedback. They’re very happy about it,” he said.
He said the Rotarians even brought with them their guests from their New Zealand chapter.
The Girl Scouts of the Philippines regularly hold camping there.
In March, the 2ID played host to 1,200 Girl Scouts from all over Rizal for a three-day camping stay on March 15-18.
Among the schools that have held field trips in Camp Capinpin are Colegio de San Agustin, Ateneo de Manila University and Don Bosco College.
Lavadia said a tour group has about 100 participants. He said that during the “peak season” in summer, tour groups arrive almost every week.
They host only one group at a time but during summer sometimes they accommodate two groups at a time.
The 2ID charges P100 per tour participant and P150 each for those camping. Lavadia said the funds go to the maintenance of facilities and use of utilities.