48 hours: Subic Bay Freeport
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Be it a day tour or an overnight vacation, this former American naval base offers an adventure that you can enjoy while one feasts on the natural scenery that is mostly forest on one side and sea on the other.
From being known as an investment haven and an economic zone, Subic Bay Freeport has rapidly become a one-stop shop for tourists looking for a holiday destination that offers nature-based attractions and a family-oriented recreational retreat.
“Make a break for it and experience a journey of untouched forestry and grand transcendent scenery. With its spectacular theme parks and walking and trekking trails, Subic Bay is a nature lover’s wonderland,” writes Subic.com, one of the travel web sites that arrange tours here.
Considered by the Department of Tourism as the top tourist destination in Central Luzon, the port is conveniently accessible by land travel. It is 110 kilometers north of Manila or just a two-hour drive.
Before heading off to some of the tourist attractions, you can check in at a hotel at the heart of the central business district (CBD) near the beachfront area, where restaurants are clustered. The CBD is about 500 meters from the main gate and can be reached in only 15 minutes (taxi fare is P100).
Moonbay Marina complex offers an array of hotels, cafes, convenience stores, resorts and restaurants. Buma Hotel, Lighthouse Marina Resort, Vista Marina, Bayfront Hotel, Terrace Hotel and Subic Park Hotel are just a stone’s throw away from each other. Hotel room rates for standard rooms start from P2,400 a night.
A family may check The Villas, which has 30 suites, which are fully furnished, cozy and spacious.
Water theme park
You don’t have to leave the complex to see and enjoy one of the port’s newest attractions, a water theme park called Moonbay Marina Resort and Wave Pool.
The 1,500-square-meter park features a raging river pool and a large water slide, according to Marcel Nepomuceno, project architect of Subic Coastal Development Corp. (SCDC).
SCDC is the developer of an 18-hectare beach area that has been turned into a commercial area under a 50-year lease agreement with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
“With the opening of this resort, we’re seeing an influx of tourists to this free port,” Nepomuceno said.
At least 50 steel-framed “floating” cottages with “nipa” roofs will be put up in the resort, each accommodating 10 to 12 people.
Marianito Fernandez, president of SCDC, said the pool would become an alternative destination for tourists looking for a family-oriented recreation place.
“We’re adding more amenities such as a 150-meter bomanite bay walk area, a wharf, a kiddie pool, a playground, and water fountains to make the experience of our visitors more enjoyable,” Fernandez said.
After a dip in the wave pool, one can take a leisure walk along the bay and visit historical sites, monuments and modern-day landmarks at no cost at all.
These include the Children of the Sun Returning Monument (also called Subic Volunteers Monument), which honors the thousands of men and women who helped secure the facilities of the former Subic Naval Base from looting after the Americans left in 1992; and the 96-foot SBMA flagpole (the figure symbolizes the number of years of US military presence in the Philippines).
About 200 meters away is the Spanish Gate, a remnant of the Spanish Naval Station.
Restaurants thrive in CBD with more than 300 dining and shopping facilities to choose from. Among these is Pier One Bar and Grill, which offers “sisig litson,” “crispy pata,” “kare-kare” and various preparations of “sinigang,” as well as Asian and continental dishes.
At night, Pier One Bar Subic becomes one big party scene with performances of live bands.
Apart from resorts and restaurants, the free port is home to mostly nature-based attractions because of its well-preserved natural environment, making it so popular for its theme parks that are situated near its forested mountains or open seas.
Most of these sights are located south of the CBD and can be visited on a day tour. It takes 15 to 20 minutes of driving to get to any of these destinations. If you are taking a taxi, the fare is P500 for a one-way trip. If you want a tour of the sights, the total cost will be P1,500.
Zoobic Safari is a 25-ha amusement park that gives guests a chance to experience a close encounter with exotic, wild and semi-domesticated animals in their simulated natural habitat. Its Forest Adventure Park at the former Naval Magazine also features Savannah, a wildlife sanctuary that houses ostriches, potbellies, wild boars and guinea fowls.
The theme park is also known for its Tiger Safari, a closed area of full-grown tigers on the loose. Aside from the year-round day tour, the zoo has reopened its Night Safari that allows tourists to get a glimpse of how animals interact during nighttime, said Zoomanity Group president and chief executive officer, Robert Yupangco.
Visitors can take a walk together with the greyhounds and follow the night trail in Greyhound Walk.
An educational stage play by Aeta performers along with fire dancers and musicians will cap the night at the amphitheater.
The night safari is being held only on Saturday nights, Yupangco said.
Tree Top Adventure
Another thrilling adventure allows tourists to experience nature tripping from a breath-taking view—100 feet above the ground.
Tree Top Adventure is the world’s first motorized canopy tour within the Subic Bay’s well-protected and densely forested area.
Magaul Bird Park
Bird lovers and hobbyists can visit the Magaul Bird Park, which offers what is considered the world’s first half-a-thousand birds show. Hundreds of pigeons circle the audience on their seats, hundreds of guinea fowls descend toward the stage, while majestic hornbills and macaws fly over them.
The bird park is inside the Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST) camp where one can learn indigenous skills such as making fire out of bamboo sticks and extracting drinking water from a bamboo stalk.
Dubbed the only open water marine park in the country, Ocean Adventure stands at the foot of a rain forest and opens to the blue waters of Subic Bay, making this attraction close to the marine animals’ natural habitat.
Visitors come here for up-close encounters with whales, dolphins and sea lions that are featured in spectacular animal shows.
Ocean Adventure offers a free shuttle at the bus and taxi terminal at the Subic Bay Sports Complex, which is near the Harbor Point mall beside the main gate.
After visiting the theme parks, if you still have time, you can relax in a nearby beach resort called All Hands Beach as your last stop. It is just a 10-minute drive from Ocean Adventure or Zoobic Safari.
All Hands Beach is among the major areas inside the free port that have been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as nesting sites for marine turtles.
Explore more nature-based tourist attractions in known ecotourism sites inside the free port such as the Pamulaklakin Forest Trails, Triboa Mangrove Park, Malawaan Park and Apalin Forest Trails./rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.