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


Olongapo – Cliff Royale tour 2

This is the other facilities and collections encountered by the author during the stay at the Cliff Royale Resort  in Olongapo.

 rows of cottage ideal for picnic and a place to relax and have a panoramic view of Subic Bay

The Cliff Resort is situated atop a cliff in  Barangay Barretto, Olongapo. Here, one can enjoy the sea in several ways: from  several  vantage point in the main resort area or up close by brisk walk down a winding path.

ideal place to have a panoramic view of the surrounding sea and mountain

surrounding beach resorts as seen from the top of the Cliff  Royale  resort

I was told that this particular resort  building ( which the resort management used as a restaurant area or function area)  had already encroached the sea frontage, since there is no available beach front .  What  might poses a problem is  during heavy monsoonal rains  or a big typhoon and a  tsunami might destroy this building.  I just browse on Presidential Decree 1067  or the Water Code of the Philippines.

nearby resort buildings

This law prohibits building structures within the easement zone of a seashore, river or stream. Said zone is “subject to the easement of public use” for recreation, navigation, and fishing, among other public activities. The distance is 20 meters for agricultural areas, three meters for urban areas, and 40 meters for timberland.

Please visit the link for more information about this law:


The pavilion had a marble mosaic tiles which was ordered from well-known marble company located in  San Rafael , Bulacan . According to Mrs. Elisa  S. Montecastro , She had to order them ( on her own specification) and the marble tiles were chipped according to the size . The design was pattern after the Arabic floral style which was copied  from one of her foreign trips.

Batibot chair or Tiffany Chair was also custom made by the owner of the resort . But instead of wood, she opted to used rattan . This particular type of chair is very popular in the 1950’s to early 1960’s .

collection of shells

furniture made from old tree trunks

statute of mother and child

one of the cottages which directly faces the Subic Bay

collection of table and chairs

door leading to one of the private rooms within the resort

old lumber made into furniture set

 basket from Benguet

The personal touches of the owner is reflected in the various furniture and ethnic items that is found within the resort compound. The fruit basket from Benguet is said to be more than 50 years old!

bromeliad mounted on a live tree truck

               Asplenium nidus or commonly called pakpak lawin

The resort is also like a botanical haven for plant and nature lover. Its full grown trees , lust foliage and flowering plants adds to the natural charm of the place.

Wood carvings from Paete,Laguna.

For those who are interested in coming to this place, the author highly recommend this resort for their ambiance, collection of various items ( which is like a private  museum )  , horticultural value, picturesque views, friendly  hospitable staffs  and even guests,  fresh foods ,  the best get away in this side of Olongapo !

biko and mochi native delicacies

The group was again treated to another round of afternoon snacks before we left for Manila . The author would thanks Mrs. Elisa S. Montecastro and her family for the warm hospitality and the accommodation that was extended to the entire group.  Maraming maraming Salamat po sa lahat  !


The Cliff Royale at Subic Bay
Km 133, National Hi-Way, Barangay Barretto , Olongapo City, Philippines

Contact Information:

Mrs.Elisa Montecastro
+63-917-8515273 (Globe)
+63-922-8672705 (Sun)
215-7923 (Landline)

Mrs. Victoria Montecastro-Benabaye
+63-906-3089480 (Globe)
+63-932-9899616 (Sun)

Website: thecliffroyale.com/

Great Value For Parties, Social and corporate celebrations, company seminars and functions , location shoot, etc…

  Capacity 100-120 People


Swimming pool with jacuzzi, club houses, picnic area and Beach

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.


* 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 .

Subic- Triboa Mangrove Park

Triboa Bay Mangrove Park  is a two hectares  mangrove re-forestation project area that features different attractions that a lot of tourists in the area enjoy.

This destination is easy to find so even those who are new to the   place will not experience difficulties situating it. The park  is now managed by the same group who maintains the Subic Treetop Adventures.

Upon arriving at the park , the group was initially met by the tour guides and quickly brief the group on the history and importance of the place . There are signage which tell the importance of these mangrove areas.

The mangrove areas is also a perfect habitat for fingerlings , mud crabs, mud skippers and we even saw butete or puffer fish .

Mr. Jun Bagat our guide at the Triboa Mangrove Park

We were greeted by Mr. Jun Bagat – an aeta guide  . He also told our group that there are two aeta group classification  from the Zambales region which is divided into  Amianan group which is from the northern part of Zambales and Ambala group which comes the southern area and may even extent to the Tarlac and Pampanga  .

Ficus nota in fruits

He also told the importance of the Ficus nota which they could extract water . The local name of the tree is Tibig / Tebey as pronounced in their local Zambales aeta dialect .

Mangrove tree saplings and a scenic nipa hut

The forest Ecosystem meets the marine ecosystem at this point. The mangroves of Triboa also contains tannin compounds that can be extracted from the barks. Tannin is a soluble substances used in tanning hides and skins that are used in manufacturing leather crafts.

The mangroves re-planting project was just started sometime in 2008 . In this part of the bay,  mangroves saplings  are still young and being revitalized.

gravel filled pathways are planted with bird of the paradise  hybrids

 There are already erected bamboo catwalks and decks for you to enjoy the interesting growth patterns of these high tide-low tide species.

pandanus sp.

Their aerial roots  grow submersed in brackish water, establishing weird root networks.   Mr. Bonifacio Pasion and our tour guide , said that the mangrove species is predominantly Bakawang babae /  female mangrove or Rhizophora macrunota.

Nipa fruticans

This is locally called Nipa , Sasa ,Pawid, Anipa . The nipa palm is considered one of the most important economic crops that strive in the wetlands or brackish water condition . The leaves of the palm is use for thatching nipa huts, leaflets are used for making hats , baskets, raincoats , wrappings for suman, the midribs of the leaves are used for making walis tingting (  stick brooms), the petioles are used for firewood while its  fruits/ flower  are process into wine or vinegar .

group picture

Situated at Ilanin Forest Area in Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Tourists who will be coming from Manila  and Pasay City can ride in buses bound to Zambales or the City of Olongapo to reach the place.

From these destinations, there are a lot of taxis and jeepneys that can transport them directly to the Subic sightseeing spot.

                              Barringtonia acutangula  with inflorescence

The Himbabalod or Putat tree  is known to have curative and folkloric value . The bark to this tree is used of poisoning or baiting the fish .

Barringtonia acutangula  flowers or Putad -Tagalog , Putat – Tagalog, Pampango and Bikol dialect

variegated or mutant ( Calophyllum inophyllum )

This mutant variety if locally known as Bitaog or Bitaoy known to be indigenous from East Africa, Southern coast of India, Malesia to Australasia . This tree is also called ball nut tree. Now widespread in tropical regions of the world. In some areas,  the tree is used for construction of small boats.

Meanwhile, for individuals who will travel in private vehicles should take the San Fernando exit along North Luzon Expressway. From the exit, they will pass thru several towns in the province of Pampanga and Bataan before they reach Subic Bay Freeport Zone Expressway. From the expressways exit, there are signs that instruct people on how to reach the mangrove park.

Contact: (047)- 252-42-42 /252-41-23 /252-40-32

Entrance Fees: Php 250.00 per head inclusive of guided tour  / group discount may be availed

Olongapo – Cliff Royale resort tour

Last December 3, 2011 Mrs. Elisa Montecastro invited the PNPCSI group for a tour in Subic Cliff -Royale resort tour . The schedule date of the tour was on January 7 and 8, 2012 in order to coincide with the club’s monthly meeting. I quickly sign-up for the scheduled tour. After a few weeks, I was informed that the planned  tour indeed finally push through .

Although I have gone to Subic before, it would me my first time to visit and have an overnight stay at a resort. I woke -up at around 5:00am  in order to come on time in our meet-up place which is at EDSA Garden house within the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation compound . I arrived at around past 6:00 , while most of the participants are a little bit late ( as usual) . We finally left MSBF past 8:00 am then  we pass Mindanao Avenue  to North Luzon Expressway  and  Subic – Clark -Tarlac Expressway on our way to Subic. The travel took us about 3 hours .

entrance to the resort

We were accompanied by our gracious host together with  about a dozen members of the society . According to Mrs. Montecastro , They were offered by the previous owner of the one -hectare  property sometime in 1995. They pooled -in their resources and divided the property into club’s shares which had common areas like swimming pools, function areas , beach front and leisure areas. They started to develop the property sometime in the year 2000.

pavilion and main pool of the resort

The resort entrance is quite unassuming. Upon entering the premises, you will find yourself on a parking lot with full grown trees with no hint of the resort’s structures. To reach the main area, one has to either climb up a few steps or walk a slightly winding steep inclined cemented stairways . A swimming pool that overlooks Subic bay is the centerpiece of this 1-hectare land. One will feel closer to nature with all the flowers and trees in the surroundings. The owner’s love for horticulture,  shows in the exquisite selection of plants.

winding cemented  staircase going -up to the resort

They also hired an architectural firm which had an experience in developing a resort in Bohol.  She was the one who personally took care of the resort landscaping which  incorporated the fusion of Filipino/ Asian style of architecture in her resort buildings.

staircase going to the second floor of the cottage dotted with ornamental plants , ferns and orchids

What is nice about the cottage buildings  it  uses solar electricity to power the water heater

a collection of  native handicrafts from different parts of the country and the world

She is also the one who purchased all the furniture and fixtures within her resort. She is an active member  of  the  Philippine Horticultural Society, Fern and Nature Society of the Philippines , Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society  Incorporated  and other  cultural groups.

Her other hobbies included furniture, shells  ,  accessories,   native handicrafts  collecting  from  different parts of the country  and other countries in Asia.

cottage with Mascagnia macroptera / Stigmaphyllon cilatum or Butterfly vine drape the walls of the cottage

The clusters of dainty butterfly vine shine in the warm days. But its seed pods that give the vine its name, After the vine blooms , the papery pods will turn brown as they mature and can be harvested and planted .

close-up view of the  seed  pod

The wing-like  pods can also be used as part of  a dry flower arrangement. This particular was renamed  Stigmaphyllon ciliatum and originated from tropical Central America .

Biko- Subic style

Our group was treated by our gracious host a simple rice based dessert ( kakanin)  , which they called Bikong- Subic , somehow there is more latik ( brownish residue from the coconut milk and meat)  than the usual biko in Metro Manila.

According to Mr. Delmer Del Rosario , it is quite similar to Tarlac’s version of sinukmani .

            After a brisk tour of the facilities, the group was treated again to a lunch buffet which consists of  tinolang  manok with freshly pick organic vegetables, fried sisig ( deep fried and chopped ) they did not use the usual  pig’s face and ears but lean pork meat, which was deep fried .

tinolang manok with fresh organic vegetable from the resort vegetable garden

ginataang langka and they also serve fresh mangoes from the wet market of  Olongapo  and Subic Zambales is known for their sweet mangoes.

organically grown vegetables


Mr. Delmer Del Rosario, Mrs Elisa Montecastro ( the host) , Mr. Micheal Calamaro, Mr. Bonifacio Pasion,  Dr. Sandra Yap and Mr. Anthony Arbias

After the lunch, Most members took time off and enjoyed the picturesque view of the surrounding mountains, sea scape and the Subic bay harbor.


There are three building complexes dedicated to accommodate guests. Then there is a pavilion  dining/activity hall and two  big pavilions  for holding large events such as a wedding , meeting or party . There are also at least  three  garden setting areas where one can also hold small functions ,meetings , team building and gatherings.

winding staircase lead up and down from the resort

Beach Front

Access to the beach is through a cemented winding path, not more than a 5 minute walk down the mountain cliff . The beach area is secluded from other beach resorts as it is bounded by rock formations.  Locals arriving in their own boats or the ambulant vendors  just walk from one beach front to another .  The beach front area is considered a public area .

When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 , the ashes that were spewed from the eruption still covered much of the beach front. According to the owner, the ashes were  so thick that the contractor were able to used the volcanic sand as construction material for the resort.

L-R Mr. Micheal Calamaro, Mr. Edwin Tadiosa, Mr. Anthony Arbias, Mr. Ronald Achacoso, Mr. Bonifacio Pasion, PAWB Assistant Director Nelson P. Devanadera , Mrs. Elisa Montecastro, Mr. Delmer Del Rosario and the author

Shooting Location

Cliff Royale  resort  is a lush, one hectare beach resort overlooking Subic Bay and the surrounding mountain area . It boasts a cove beach shoreline for its guests, with a charming, winding beach trail. Surrounded by abundant foliage of tropical greenery, vines and flowers, the resort is the perfect getaway for both family and friends. The place is not only known as a perfect get away but also an ideal venue for location shoot.  GMA Channel 7 prime time  drama show ” Magpakailanman ” Forevermore  hosted by Ms. Mel Tiangco had a location shoot within the resort premises at least   three  times  . The show ran from 2002 to 2008 .

picturesque view of the beach with native huts and native boat

According to one of the staff, nearby beaches  are also an ideal venue place for location shoot . Sources  from the rumor mill  confirmed that the  Filipino- American Php 745 million lotto winner last November 29, 2010  draw, bought a beach front property  within the area.

It was past 3:00 pm when PNPCSI members had its monthly meeting held at one of the open air pavilion of the resort .  This year’s projects and proposal was already calendar and the results are quite positive for the society.

This room provides a 360 degree view of Subic Bay and surrounding mountain views

This is the master bedroom with loft, this room  features a 360-degree panoramic window in its attic, where guests can view Subic bay and the surrounding  Olongapo city . The dorm type rooms are great for big families or groups. You can always request for an additional mattress with corresponding fees in order to squeeze additional person in one room.

Food and Drink

There are no restrictions in bringing your own food inside the resort. There is a personal refrigerator in every room to keep some of your homemade food fresh , There are grilling stations with the resort compound . But guests  may opt for the catering services that the resort is offering  .

In any case, guest  may purchase freshly caught bounties from the sea from the peddlers like fish, squid or marine crabs  in the beach side  and have them cooked ( paluto style)  by the resort staff for a certain fee. They can cook delicious food, even for big groups! Cold refreshments like bottled water, soft drinks or beer are sold in the green building lobby.

back view of the cottage

The author together with Mr. Delmer Del Rosario and Architect Patrick Gozon took a respite from the meeting  to explore the surrounding neighborhood beside the resort.

CBM Building

Love shop

We saw a store which sells lingerie items, sex toys , lubes and costumes obviously  to those people who wanted to have another adventure in their love life!

bedroom with a lot of ethnic inspired furniture.

The group had a brief rest on their private cottage and by past 7:00 pm the group was again treated to a dinner buffet.

enseladang talong, grilled fish  and fresh bananas

evening meal which consists of rice,  tinolang manok, labong- ( young bamboo shoots )

This endless buffet meals is also like having a food tour of the place.  Meal buffet usually starts at Php 150.00 per head  for breakfast and Php 250.00 per head  for lunch / dinner depending on the menu. 

The Cliff Royale at Subic Bay
Km 133, National Hi-Way, Barangay Barretto , Olongapo City, Philippines

Contact Information:

Mrs.Elisa Montecastro
+63-917-8515273 (Globe)
+63-922-8672705 (Sun)
215-7923 (Landline)

Mrs. Victoria Montecastro-Benabaye
+63-906-3089480 (Globe)
+63-932-9899616 (Sun)

Website: www.cliffroyale.com

Great Value For Parties, Social and corporate celebrations, company seminars and functions , location shoot, etc…

  Capacity 100-120 People


Swimming pool with jacuzzi, club houses, picnic area and Beach

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