Subic is to twin with Bataan in offering tour packages spotlighting the historical value of both destinations, in addition to marine and ecotours.
This strategy gives an edge to Subic – which has been eclipsed by the glitzy tourism developments in neighboring Clark- and to Bagac in Bataan – an emerging destination that can do with more marketing push.
Travel experts who attended the recent fam trip organized by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Le Charme Suites Subic, Subic Yacht Club and Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Heritage Resort noted that including the pivotal roles of Subic during the American occupation of the Philippines and Bataan during World War II in tour itineraries will help attract more tourists and lengthen their stay.
Subic itineraries must include a tour of facilities of what was once the world’s biggest American naval base until it was decommissioned in 1992. Other must-dos: Immersion with the Aeta indigenous people whose jungle survival skills helped American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War; Grande and other island hopping; and Duty Free and premium outlets shopping.
For accommodations, Subic Bay Yacht Club boasts jacuzzi in every room, yachts for rent, and a wide array of indoor and outdoor meeting rooms. Boutique hotel Le Charme Suites Subic has 40-sqm well-appointed rooms, each with a huge bathroom and a bicycle rack for athletes, a roomy lift with a padded bench, wide corridors with benches in the middle, and the piece de resistance -the outsized roofdeck swimming pool with a wide movie screen for MICE, glitzy event, movie nights or plain relaxing.
Subic has become more accessible by air via Clark International Airport and overland from metro Manila via North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) which reduce overland traveling time to two hours.
Travel time from Subic to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan takes an hour-and-a-half overland. Another option is to cruise over Subic Bay en route to Las Casas Filipinas, which harks back to the colonial era with its collection of 41 centuries-old original houses plucked from various parts of the country and painstakingly reconstructed and 22 houses that were replicas or copied from the National Archives. It also has a wide expanse of beach with lifeguards on watch.
This unique theme park is best experienced with at least an overnight stay in one of the houses. It can be a spooky adventure though, for those with wild imagination! Native dance entertainment at the Hotel Oriente is a fitting aperitif for the sumptuous Spanish dinner at Cafe del Rio, with young, talented singer Nikka Testa and her guitar impressing the diners.
Cap the night with a massage at the newly opened and well-appointed Taichi Wellness Spa at Majayjay Wellness Center. Available are foot massage using hotstone, ventossa, and guasha as well as foot massage, hand and scalp scrub and foot reflexology.
From Las Casas Filipinas en route to metro Manila, cadge a visit to Bagac’s World War II sites, including war relics at Bataan World War II Museum; the 92-meter white cross atop Mount Samat called Dambana ng Kagitingan or Shrine of Valor in homage to war heroes; Zero Kilometer Death March Marker, the starting point of the 97-km walk over seven days of up to 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war; and the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Bell Tower.
The tours can also be customized to include other stops including the completed but never used Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong and the former Vietnamese refugee camps, also in Morong.
Meantime, SBMA Chairman and Administrator Rolen C. Paulino said Subic Bay’s direction is to discourage heavy industries but encourage light industries and tourism.
He said Subic is becoming better known for sports tourism due to its three 18-hole golf courses -Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club, Subic International Golf Club, and Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club- and an array of tennis courts, oval tracks, football field, Olympic-type swimming pools, cycling and big bike lanes.
Subic held a big bike festival in April attended by 400 pax. Being planned for December is a Woodstock-like motorcycle event to be attended by 20,000 pax, replete with exhibition booths and a night concert.
Paulino shared that Subic tourism is starting to rebound, with only a few hotels not yet opened. Theme parks like Treetop Adventure, Soobic Safari and Butterfly Safari that closed shop during the pandemic are planning to reopen, if they have not yet opened.
He favors light industries such as ship and small aircraft repairs and transshipment of goods, including cars that are then brought to other countries. He said Subic used to have the best repair ship facilities outisde the US and there are still skilled workers for this industry.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is building in Subic its biggest TESDA training center in Central Luzon. The training center will be completed hopefully by year end, with capacity to train 2,000 to 3,000 pax at the same time, Paulino said. (Pinky Forte)