northern Luzon tour: Subic Bay

After preparing for our big northern Luzon trip, we took an afternoon break to see The Fantasticks — a long-running show on Broadway. It wasn't quite as good as The Spelling Bee but still entertaining if you last through the first act. After dinner, we turned in early so we could get on the road by 6 a.m. Monday morning.

A couple hour drive took us to Subic Bay. It was pouring, but we waited out the worst of it in a little restaurant over breakfast, and what Didy had planned for us was mostly indoors. First up: Zoobic Safari. Zoobic Safari, located in an old US military base, is a zoo of sorts, mainly focusing on tigers. The biggest attraction is a ride in a customized jeepney through a large area with lots of adolescent tigers. For a small extra fee, trainers will feed the tigers chicken from inside the jeepney so the tigers come up and even jump on the vehicle. We got some great photos and video!


A few other highlights were feeding crocodiles with a fishing pole and seeing the adult tigers in their cages. Our guide, Jay-wel, warned us that tigers like to mark their territory, so "rule number one: don't let the tigers pee on you." We also got a kick out of the Zoobic guide mannerisms. For example, when you hear "please remember" you think what follows will be an important instruction such as don't put any appendages outside the vehicle so the tigers don't eat your fingers. However at Zoobic, "please remember" was usually followed by some fact like "these snakes will only feed once a month because of their slow metabolism."

After lunch we headed to Ocean Adventure, similar to Sea World but on a smaller scale. Despite it's size, they did a great job. The little aquarium had tanks representing various areas and depths of the ocean, and the sea lion show was great. However, the highlight was the dolphin show, as I was selected to be the lucky audience participant. They prepped me before the show started so I'd know what to expect. I got to feed Zac, a bottlenose dolphin, dance with him, and then I gave him the command for a trick, which apparently was swim away then come back and spit on the person giving the command. Afterwards, he slid up on the platform for a photo opportunity, so now I've hugged a dolphin!

anna & zac

After the excitement of the day, we were ready to check in at the hotel and relax, however things didn't go quite as expected. First, we couldn't find the Crown Peak Hotel. After two phone calls, we found out that Crown Peak was a campus of hotels and none of the buildings were actually named Crown Peak. Our reservations were for Tiara and Garnet. While they looked a bit like run down barracks, which they were, it looked nice through the front door into the lobby. Walking in, however, was a different story. Vestiges of a clean hotel remained, but it was beginning to deteriorate, bugs ran amok, and the beds felt like box springs. During our two-night stay, we saw several three-inch ipis, i.e. cockroaches. Thankfully, the following day was much better than our night in the hotel.

Tuesday morning we started off with a visit to an area popular with the bat crowd. We took photos of a whole section of trees laden with bats the size of squirrels (at least!).

bat kingdom

After the quick stop for bats we headed to Pamulaklakin Forest Trail for a jungle tour with an aeta — the indigenous Filipino people of the area. It was incredible to walk through a rainforest, and we only walked in the outskirts of the jungle. Danny was a great guide, pointing out various plants and their uses. He also showed us an 1800-year-old tree. I feel even more committed to the cause of creation care. God's creation is amazing! (One note though, I think mom is still adjusting to her role as translator. She kept accidentally speaking English to Danny and Tagolog to Ian and I, and we all had a good laugh.)

danny in the jungle

Following the jungle tour, another aeta, Miguel, demonstrated jungle survival: how to make fire and cook using only a giant knife and bamboo, as well as how to trap jungle chickens and monkeys for food. It's really amazing to see how well people can adapt to their surroundings and resources.

miguel eating his imaginary food

Olongapo Beach was our afternoon activity. It wasn't the dreamy white-sand-blue-water beach in postcards, but it was still fun to swim and kayak in the ocean, and the view was amazing. Green mountains surrounded the bay. Ian said between the lush scenery and our stark and deteriorating hotel, he felt like we were in the Dharma Initiative (that's for all you LOST fans out there!). We finished the day with dinner at a great pizza place. Who knew you could get such good pizza here!

Next stop on our tour is Vigan, an old Spanish settlement. As usual, see additional photos on our Flickr site!