Old Spanish Gate at Subic

It was early morning on January 8, 2012 when the author woke-up  at past 4:30am . The first instinct was to close the air-conditioning  unit , since it was rather cold . Then the alarm clock of Mr. Anthony Arbias finally set the tone for everyone to wake -up.

Subic bay early morning

The group was delighted by the early morning breakfast which consists of rice, corned beef , fish , scramble eggs  accompanied by hot pandesal and hot coffee .

welcome arch to  Subic

After the breakfast buffet meal, the group quickly set up for the next leg of the Olongapo -Subic tour . the group went to the main gate of the former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and meet  Mr. Mr. Alex Mesia and Engineer Ricardo A. Alcantara Jr.  our guides who were already patiently waiting for our group .

History :

Explorer Juan de Salcedo reported its existence to the Spanish authorities upon his return to Manila after Salcedo arrived in Zambales to establish the Spanish crown but it would be a number of years before the Spanish would consider establishing a base there.

Although there is already a naval base in the province of Cavite during the Spanish occupation, Most of the workers suffered from unhealthy living conditions and was vulnerable in time of war and bad weather because of its shallow water and lack of shelter. Because of these, a military expedition was sent to Subic Bay in 1868 with orders to survey the bay to find out if it would be a suitable site for a naval yard. The Spanish explored the entire bay and concluded that it had much promise and thus reported their findings to Cavite.

This report was not well-accepted in Manila as the Spanish command was reluctant to move to the provincial isolation of Subic. Finally, in 1884, a Royal Decree declared Subic Bay as a naval port.

Old West Gate, which the Americans  called the Spanish Gate, as the main gate to the station for many years. Behind the Spanish Gate was a little Marine Cemetery.  The Gate was also used as a jail by both the Spanish and Americans.

West Gate circa 2012

Beside the West Gate ruin lies a replica of the Spanish gate with modern cement and painted in pastel color – the former Spanish Gate KTV Restaurant is just a few steps away from the old fort.

Spanish Gate Restaurant

Unfortunately the KTV restaurant is for rent ,  tourism in the area had slowed a bit  and  there were countless of restaurants, bars , grocery , business ventures and even first class hotels had already stopped their operation.

There was a boom in business during the American stay  and when Mayor Richard Gordon took over  in 1992.

Mc. Kinley street signage with Chinese character below

Proof of the  business and tourism  boom are the bi-lingual street signage which also had Chinese characters written below . The tourist guides initially thought that the characters were Korean .  They quickly reiterated that there were a lot of Taiwanese and even Hong Kong tourists especially in the early 1990’s .

compound of shipyard building equipment

At present , there were a wave of Korean expats which make the  area as their second home . Most of the Koreans are investors from nearby Hanjin shipyard , students  and tourists.

Boardwalk Inn
Boardwalk Inn and Restaurant is one of the highly recognizable hotel facilities within the Central Business District of Subic Bay Freeport Zone. This simple yet very cozy  hotel  features a dive center, which is perfect for people who really love the great outdoors, especially aqua sports and other recreational activities. It offers scuba diving tutorials, advanced diving lessons, and other valuable information that people need to learn this super fun and exciting activity.

Bldg 664 Waterfront Road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone , Philippines

 Contact information: Mobile phone number 0910-3609771. People can contact  via the land-line number (047)-252-2894, or through the alternative phone line (047)-252-2893.

 Visit their website

beach front

 The Subic sea front  area had a  wide variety of resort amenities and activities are planned within the community and designed to offer a wide range of social, cultural , recreational and bird watching experiences for visitors and residents.

This boat shape stage serves its purpose during important event

 play ground with anti-littering poster

Compared to major towns and cities across the country , Subic  is indeed an example of a city which strictly imposes its anti-littering campaign with scores of residents and even tourists apprehended for violating  this simple rule.

beach front is a favorite promenade area for joggers, tourists  and hawkers 

         Subic Bay Gateway Park

Subic Bay Gateway Park (SBGP) is a world-class industrial park offering approximately 300 hectares of prime industrial land and is host to about 80 direct locators and 60 plus sub-lessees. SBGP’s development is divided into three phases. Phase I is already operational and is 98% leased. Phase II is still being developed and is already 42% leased out.

Website: http://www.sbdmc.com/

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority logo

Website : http://www.sbma.com/

Sources:   Laurel , Tiu Herman ,  The Olongapo  Colonial Experience

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Hill 394 Forest Reserve

It was past 9:00 am when the group reach the forest reserve in this side of Subic. According to Engineer Ricardo Alcantara one of out local guides in the area. When the Americans were in control of the area.

Mr. Alexander Mesia showed the trail left by the troop of monkeys

         The forest reserve is usually off-limits to the locals, until 1992 when the area was formally turned-over to the government . Very few groups  were permitted  to visit the reservation . In 2011,  they only allowed two to  three  groups to visit the place .

panoramic view of the surrounding mountain and forest areas from hill 394 summit

Subic’s most popular peak takes you 394 meters  or about 1, 293 feet above sea level and offers a spectacular view of the legendary Mount Natib and Subic Bay, in the northwest.  Hill 394  let its beauty speak for itself. This is a popular area for bird watching, mountain hikers  ,  students of biology and botany .

Concrete ammunition bunkers are found all over the forest reserve , apparently they can easily be mistaken as a small hill , but in a close inspection these are storage places for the ammunition of the Americans.

 ammunition depository bunker during the American stay in Subic now these bunkers are abandoned and swiflets  and  Eurasian tree sparrow or maya-maya  make these bunkers as their second home

According  to our guides , these bunkers are camouflage by the thick forest vegetation and grasses .  There are about 400 to 500 such ammunition bunkers  that were scattered around the former military naval base forest reserve and adjacent area.   The  construction zenith of these hill- shaped depot  happened during the Vietnam war in the mid 1960’s  to early 1970’s . These are multimillion dollar project and a closely guarded military secret of the American naval station .   Some of  the bunkers  are now converted into art galleries or restaurants.

The group first had to get the necessary permits from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority . Here are some of the conditions :

1.) Extreme precaution shall be taken not to cause any disturbance / destruction in the forest , aquatic / marine environment .

2.) Proper waste disposal shall always be observed.

3.) No trails shall be created on forest areas.

4.) Collection of flora and fauna maybe allowed for identification purposes only.

5.) Results of the study can only be used for academic purposes and shall not be published without proper coordination and approval from the office.

forest trail created by the Americans

Normally , the hike going up the trail up to the topmost part will only take between 45 minutes to 1 hour however it took the group almost 2 hours to reach the  hill summit  ( due to initial surveys conducted )

old ficus balete  tree -possibly more than a century -old

The debate among botanist and forest experts would reveal that this is a disturbed lowland forest which means that the forest was already disturbed long time ago from logging (  Americans and Japanese occupation  )  Since it was assumed that the trails were made by the Americans. The topmost portion of the hill was flatten and bulldozed using heavy equipment . Apparently the area was used as a helicopter landing  site during their jungle survival trainings.

summit of hill 394 – notice the lack of natural vegetation and flat terrain

You can see that the area was disturbed and most of the trees are missing .  The area is said to have been used as a forest survival training site intended for jungle survival .  The fallen logs  must have been used by the US military when they were in Subic long time ago.

 group picture

The area that the group visited  , is said to be the extended ancestral domain of the Aeta living in the nearby Zambales area.

Notes:

* The team saw some plastic bottles and brought them down to our van ( we had to dispose of the plastic bottles properly)  We saw at the trail, apparently the plastic bottles  were from the previous hikers who just left them .

* The group is highly compose of credible people from various environmental NGOs and experts coming from DENR, National Museum, and Academe .

* A  preliminary survey of flora and fauna was done  within the trail areas.

* At the end of the 2 hour trek, the group  surveyed more than 100 species of trees, about 2 dozen birds, 1 orchid species, about half a dozen ferns  and half a dozen aroids  ( along the established trek path ).

* The team  saw tree sapling that are germinated ,  this is a natural way of re-forestation . however there are signs that foreign non-endemic trees  examples are Gemelina , Mahogany , weeds, flowering plants that were naturalized  in this part of Subic.

* Feral population of cats and even rats poses a treat to the local endemic wildlife bird and small mammals .