Subic: Ocean Adventure & Zoobic Safari

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Bengal tiger on the loose - - in the safari

I have been to Subic a lot. In one of my trips, with my wife, my daughter and her nanny, plus my driver, I won so much in the casino that the cost of the entire trip was more than paid for. As I checked out, I was given a promo stub to fill up. Apparently, all guests were entitled to a raffle stub with a trip to Malaysia for 2 as grand prize. I won that, too. Tubong lugaw.

Ocean Adventure

This is my daughter’s favorite. Within the park, visitors can watch a seal show, a dolphin show, a whale show, and actually swim with the whales. And ride the whales. The handlers took my daughter from the shore to the raft in what I thought was not possible. The whales were beached on the shore, and my daughter was asked to ride it and hold on to the fins. With a whistle, the whales swam to the raft, bringing my daughter there. At the raft, the handlers taught my daughter to feed the whales, after which she actually rode the whales, sometimes belly up.

from the shore to the raft holding on to the fins

they are given instructions to feed the whale

so the whales will be kind to them when they swim

Entrance fee to the park is P500 per adult, P420 per kid. The Swim Encounter is at P4,200 per person. The Beach Encounter,   an encounter with the whale just on the beach, essentially for photo-ops, is P2,800. I wouldn’t recommend the latter.

Ocean Adventure can be booked thru their Manila office at phone (+632) 2944891.

ZOOBIC SAFARI: Highlight of the Subic visit

Entrance fee to the Zoobic Safari complex is P495. The tour starts with a briefing from one of the many guides.

briefing: don't annoy the animals, please

The girl assigned to us did not seem enthusiastic about the job, and was just going through the motion. As we moved to the zoo with caged animals, she would give some trivia about the animals, almost always ending with the estimated life span of the animals. For instance, tigers can live 15 to 20 years in the wild, but live 5 years longer when in captivity. The fun part in this leg is when kids are allowed to feed the goats from feeding bottles.

I saw a service van with the name Residence Inn at the back. Apparently, without having verified it, the place is run by the same people who run other zoos like the one in Tagaytay, now named Paradizoo.

Going back to the zoo visit. We were then all ushered to the trains that will take us thru the savannah, at P5 per head. Although there is an option to bring your private car and just convoy with the train. I rode .the train.

First stop was the Tiger Safari. We were transferred to a big jeep with sturdy protection. Imagine the school buses with the wire mesh on the windows. Except that there are also grills on top of the wire mesh. We were given suggestions to buy slices of fresh chicken to feed the tigers roaming in the wild. Huh!. Until we were told that professional handlers were joining us in the jeep to feed the tigers.

The gates opened. Actually a series of 2 gates, to make sure the tigers don’t escape. And then we were inside what looked like a somewhat barren wooded area with tigers roaming, just outside of our jeep! The handler took a piece of chicken and moved it to a small opening and, pronto, 2 tigers came to feed. Cameras clicked, only the wire mesh and the grills separated us from the ferocious animals munching on the chicken from the small opening. A little boy cried, so afraid! We were face to face with the tigers, eyeball to eyeball, an inch away! A third tiger joined the contest for food. When 3 pieces of meat have been done by the 3 tigers, we moved on. The handler then put out another piece of meat and a tiger saw it.

huge Bengal tigers come to your jeepney, within breathing distance

face to face, only a sturdy screen between you and the tiger

As the tiger approached the jeep, the handler threw the chicken meat to the roof, and the tiger jumped to the roof. Our roof was made of glass, with grills for protection. So a tiger was above our jeep, munching on the chicken, for a good 5 minutes as we went on. We then made an exit, again through 2 gates. And then we were back on the train.

The train moved to the savannah where ostriches roam. Saw their eggs, each one the equivalent of 2 dozen chicken eggs.

ostriches roam the savannah, don't get close to them - - they bite

And then to the tiger den, an enclosure at the perimeter of the tiger safari. From the tiger den, we moved to an Aeta Village where natives danced and showed agility climbing trees. The tour moves from there to the crocodile section where guests can feed crocs with meat suspended from poles that looked like improvised fishing rods.

I have never experienced anything like it. It was well worth the time and the money. Although I could skip the other parts next time, and just experience the tiger-feeding safari again.

Phone Zoobic Safari at (+6347) 2222272, 2529489  mobile 09285215557

A personal encounter, and didn’t have a cam

The photo below was taken on one of my visits. I regretted leaving the camera in the car, so I had to make do with a photo to be taken by the Zoobic staff as I went inside a cage to pet and bottle-feed a full grown Bengal tiger. This was right inside the orientation area, just after the entrance gates. For P240, they will take a photo of you using their camera, and another using your camera. For this post I had to take a digital file of the hard copy I got for my P240. If you should do this, make sure your camera is with you.

Pet a Bengal tiger, and bottle feed him on a P240 photo op

More Adventures

There is Tree Top Adventure Subic where you can “get high on nature”.Cross suspension bridges, take zip line rides. cable rides, or just trek. Cable ride is P350 per pax,  Zip line is P200, Guided trek is P100, and a tree-drop is P150.

Phone (+6347) 2529452 website  http://www.treetopadventuresubic.com

Where to Stay My favorite hotel in Subic, inside SBMA, is Segara Villas. Lighthouse comes as a close second choice. On a budget, I once stayed at Pista sa Barrio, a restaurant which recently opened an inn  within the same complex.

Segara Villas has only 10 Balinese-inspired villas, with some of them classified as executive accommodations, with the bed on a loft.

photo from brochure that I kept

I stayed at the Negara, a junior suite.  Segara is actually a spa, more than a hotel. It sits at the end of the waterfront road, by the pier. An al fresco bar is by the pool. A junior suite, (57 sq.meters, one-level room) costs P7,300++ per day, while an executive suite (70 sq. meters, with loft, and a jetted bathtub) is P10,900++ per day. Rates include breakfast and snacks. Phone (+6347) 2528632, mobile +63921 3308024                                 website http://www.segaravillassubic.com

Lighthouse is actually listed as one of the Top 10 attractions of Subic, in the SBMA video shown to visitors. Indeed, it is pretty. But the rooms are only for those who are very intimate with each other, as the toilet and bath is separated from the bed only by a smoked glass. The furnishings are A-1, and definitely 5-star. The restaurant downstairs has a full course for breakfast, easily the best breakfast buffet in Subic. A swimming pool is at the back, facing the sea.

the view from my room at the Lighthouse, taken from the veranda

Lighthouse rooms are at P7,000 to P9,000 for 2 persons. Reservations can be made  by calling (+6347)252500, 2527546, or their Manila number (632) 7110019. You can reserve by email thru marketing@lighthousesubic.com. View the rooms and amenities thru their website http://www.lighthousesubic.com

Pista sa Barrio Inn is the cheapest of the hotels facing the waterfront, inside SBMA. One may not immediately see it as an inn, because it actually started as a restaurant, and the owner only recently decided to open 12 or so rooms. Nice, clean, and at only P1,500 per day for 2. Has TV with cable, hot & cold shower. 24-hour fastfood service. They have rooms with double beds or twin beds, at the same rate. The only downside is that the pillows are, for me, not comfortable. I brought my own pillows and an extra blanket when I came back. Still worth recommending – – a good value inn. Phone (+6347) 2523055, 252 3187

If you want to play in a casino, you may want to stay at Venezia where PAGCOR operates gaming tables.  Off-peak rates start at P1,688++, and a suite goes for only P3,988++. Phone (+6347) 2528399, email customer_service@subicbayveneziahotel.com

Outside of SBMA, the 2 hotels I recommend are White Rock and By the Sea.

White Rock has long been popular.

I like their rooms by the beach. They also operate a pretty good restaurant.Excellent recreational facilities – – Water Park with wave pool and water slides, including a Super Bowl slide, banana boat rides, bowling, jet skiing, kayaking, fitness center, KTV, and basketball courts for kids and adults. Rates start at P6,200 net, with 3-bedroom beach villas going for P14,200. Phone (+6347) 2222378

website http://www.whiterock.com.ph

I went to By the Sea to visit friends who were staying there in the last Ad Congress. I thought the place looked charming, but was told some of the rooms are not well maintained. If you should stay in the hotel, I suggest you first check the room, and check if the airconditioning works. Still, it is a hotel worth considering. I loved my lunch at the open air restaurant near the beach. When I went, they were on a Rainy Day promo, with rooms as cheap as P900. Executive rooms go for P2,500 per day, while a 3-bedroom villa is charged P6.000 per day. The hotel has an infinity pool, and operates a spa within the property. Phone (+6347) 2234346, 2224560, 2222888 website http://www.bythesea.com.ph

Baguio, my adopted hometown

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I was born and raised in the city. Both my mom and dad trace their roots to Pampanga, but we never really knew any close relatives there. Everyone has migrated to the big city. School vacations inevitably caused me a minor problem – – – almost everyone is going to their hometowns for vacation, I am stuck in the city. What am I going to say when the teacher asks us to write “How I Spent my Summer Vacation”. Boring. And this went on until some relatives moved back to the province. Then I started having enjoyable summers.But I still could never call it home.

Kennon Road from the viewdeck

The Lion's Head along Kennon is a most-favored photo-op spot

And then Baguio beckoned. Baguio is a special summer place. So when my wife and I finally had the means, we thought we could finally have our own “probinsiya”, and we didn’t care that it was actually a city. In one of our visits, we stayed in one of the Forest Cabins in John Hay because there were no more suites or cottages available at the John Hay Manor. It turned out to be a good sampler of a house we could own.

The Forest Cabins are brand new, log cabin type homes. These are not the old white, wooden cottages used by the American servicemen. My wife was bullish, she wanted one. Contracts were signed, and our place was ready for us to use on our wedding anniversary. Now, our own place is there for us and our visitors to stay in anytime.

It sits right beside the mini golf, and I could pass the day idly by just sitting in my 2nd floor bedroom veranda, watching dads teach their tots to putt. Or young couples enjoying a game of golf, no matter that it was more play than the real thing.

A gas-fed fireplace makes our cold Decembers more comfortable. The interior design is Cordillera-themed. Bulols, anitos, wooden this and wooden that.

Oh, there is a side story about how I furnished the house.

Way before completion, I started to plan everything and anything that will go into the finished house. I timed the purchase of all furniture and appliances so that deliveries will coincide with the turnover date. I had everything ready, including paintings, decor, and kitchen utensils including tea towels. I did this in secret because my wife was going to see the house for the first time only when it was finished. But she did not know the surprise I planned. It was going to be so finished, all she had to bring was clothes and things to cook.

For a lived in look, I wanted photos of my wife and my daughter – – – family photos, framed. I bought frames, and asked our maid to bring me our photo albums. I was going to choose the photos, and put them in frames while I was locked in one of the rooms. I felt very good that plans were going A-ok.

Came the turn-over day. Deliveries were in clockwork precision. I asked items going to the third floor attic to be delivered first, and then the items going to the second floor, and finally things going to the ground level. So that the place is not clogged with deliveries, and we can work on other things while furniture and appliances were being lifted from the trucks to their designated spaces. As deliveries were being made, two men were mounting the paintings on the walls, the tiffany lamp was being installed. Then came the contractor who did my curtains, having measured the windows while the house was still under construction. They were installing the curtains on the 5th hour of Day 1. With everything in place, one help vacuumed the floor, while the other applied wax and made the floor shiny. Walls were wiped clean, and then Lysol was sprayed generously. The house is now 100% ready.

In the evening, I invited the architect and her staff for cocktails. She couldn’t believe that on the 12th hour after turn over, the house looked like it’s been lived in for 6 months! We had drinks, and she got shocked that I had brought even wine glasses, coasters, chilled wine, canapes, and everything one can possibly think of. Well, I had a checklist in my laptop. I wanted to be sure it was going to ba a major surprise for my wife.

Next day, she arrived. And told me something.

She said that about a month ago, she was surprised that the maid asked her where the photo albums were.

So she asked me when she got to our Baguio home ” Where are our framed photos?”

.

So much for surprises. Today, we go up to Baguio to just enjoy the scent of pine trees. And collect pine cones.

Which hotels are good?

Friends inevitably ask me for my recommendations. Top of the list is John Hay Manor, and its recently added adjunct, The Suites.

The second best is the South Drive Manor. This is along South Drive, that road at the back of Teachers’ Camp, the same road going to Country Club. This hotel is charming, although the rooms are a bit small.

Best value is Mile Hi Inn, right inside John Hay, if you don’t mind being in the busiest area within John Hay.

Some people miss it because it is at the underground level of the shopping area which used to be the commissary. A room for four persons can be as low as P1,900. Or a “sharing type” accommodation at P500 per person. Telefax (+6374) 4466141 or visit their website to reserve : http://www.mile-hi.com.ph

Where to eat?

My top choice is PNKY, in front of Teachers’ Camp, directly opposite the old but recently repainted “haunted house” (previously owned by the Laperal family, now said to be owned by Lucio Tan).

The place is also a bed&breakfast, and just about everything in the place, including the lamp shades in your room, can be bought. Yes, PNKY is also into home furnishings, and operates a shop in Makati’s LRI Plaza in Bel Air. Dishes from all over the world are found in their menu. Shabby chic interiors. Not cheap.

Another favorite is Solibao at the Burnham Park. There is also a Solibao along Session Road. If you promise not to get annoyed with vendors who approach tables set al fresco, selling sweepstakes tickets, balisongs, strawberries, newspapers, or offering to shine your shoes, then sit outside. I always do, and have told myself when I sit there I won’t be annoyed, and politely tell the vendors off. Nice place for breakfast of tapsi. Fresh buco is also always available. My favorite dish here is binagoongan, the best I have tried anywhere in the Philippines.

Go boating at The Burnham Park lagoon after lunch at Solibao

The Chocolate de Batirol is also on my “to recommend” list. They have moved to a better location, right there at the Igorot Park inside John Hay, near the gate going to Baguio Country Club. Of course you go there for rich, thick Spanish style chocolate to go with your suman or turon. They also serve lunch. I like this place a lot. Imagine savoring beautiful chocolate with the golf course as your setting.

And who has not been to Cafe by the Ruins near the City Hall? They claim that kings, queens, ambassadors, movie stars, Hollywood celebs, artists, poets, politicians, and the entire genre of the high and might, together with the “masa”, have enjoyed the Cafe by the Ruins experience. Try their camote bread. My favorite is anything that goes with my salabat with honey.

Finally, Eve’s Garden. This is a hard-to-find place open only for lunch, by appointment. Doesn’t look like Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, even while Eve tells me Sonya’s went there to visit. Evelyn cooks very healthy dishes, with a lot of salad picked from the nearby gardens. Finding the place is half the fun. To go to Eve’s, you take the Naguilian Road, and turn right somewhere. I got her number and I am looking at where I kept it. Indeed, a very secret garden.

the lagoon in front of the Mansion House

photograph of a Kodak photo of previous enjoyable trips to Baguio with my then very young daughter

Palayan, You’re for Me (1969)

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I did mention that my travels go back to my Boy Scouts days.

I was in sixth grade and was one day called to the Principal’s Office. No, I was not afraid. I was a good student. Mrs. Bajet asked me “Would you like to attend the Jamboree?”. My heart was beating fast, because I most definitely wanted to go, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me then. And I did not have a Type A uniform, a requirement for participation. I said “Yes, ma’m, but….” but she cut me short. She said I want you to go, and I will make sure all of your provisions are taken care of.

We had a pre-jamboree training for a couple of days and nights at the Nichols Air Base Elementary School. I remember one of our projects was to make a “monkey bridge” such that I still call hanging bridges I see anywhere as “monkey bridge” to the guffaw of my friends.

I call this a "monkey bridge"

I call this a “monkey bridge”

I remember Palayan City in Nueva Ecija. It did not look at all like a city. It was rice paddies upon rice paddies. But it was the site of the 4th National Jamboree. In what was called Camp Atate, to be exact. Our troop’s camp site was beautiful. A river flowed on the edge of our camp, and we would hang on to ropes we tied on trees to go down the river to take a bath and wash our uniforms.

The photo below captures the beauty of our camp site:

not taken from Camp Atate, but this captures the beauty of our camp site

not taken from Camp Atate, but this captures the beauty of our camp site

We did not have to pitch a tent. There were small nipa huts pre-constructed  – – with one small hut for ach troop. As I was too young then and did not have a camera, I am posting what could pass for the hut we stayed in, albeit the hut in the photo is bigger.

something like this, but this is bigger

something like this, but this is bigger

We would go around the camps of boy scouts from other cities. I remember having swapped my beret with a head piece from a boy scout from Zamboanga. It had a mother of pearl shell on it.

Our days were spent going from one activity to the next, earning for us several merit badges. I collected so much that at the end of the Jamboree, and back inthe BSP Headquarters in our city, I went thru a review board and was promptly promoted to being First Class, a 2-step jump from being Tenderfoot when I joined the Jamboree.

To this day, I remember the song we sang about Palayan.

I know a place
Where No one ever goes
There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose
It’s hidden in a valley
Beside a mountain stream
And lying down beside the stream
I found thatI can dream
Only of things
Of beauty to the eyes
Blue peaked mountains climbing to the skies
Now I know that God made this world for me

Palayan, you’re for me
Palayan’ you’re for me

Only of things
Of beauty to the eyes
Blue peaked mountains climbing to the skies
Now I know that God made this world for me

 

Those were formative years, and my being a boy scout was probably the best thing I had when I was young. More camporees, jamborettes and jamborees followed – – – at the Philippine School for the Deaf and Blind, at Sta Monica in Puerto Princesa, and at the Jamboree site in Mt. Makiling.  And countless other overnigts on our school grounds.

To this day, I live by our oath and the Scout Law. Traveling as an adult, I know by heart that nature must be preserved for our children and for generations to come.

Take Nothing (590x270)

Welcome to my Lakwatsa blog

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I love the mountain...

... and the sea

Friends have been convincing me to write about my travels. They never imagined me to be the adventurous type, and wrongly thought I always travel within my comfort zone. So when they hear about me drinking ginebra with Infanta fishermen at 4am, they are so shocked. Maybe they even think I am pulling their leg, but just too polite to even hint any doubt. Some of my travel stories go as far back as 1969, at the 4th National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.So how do I begin? For one, I am not into photography. How do I do this – – – chronologically? OMG, that means I will have to spend months to write. Reluctantly,I need to get started. Or I will never be able to do it. Watch this space.