So we’re in Manila for our annual physical and I had some other medical tests to take. Once it was all done, I wanted to get away for awhile but didn’t feel like dealing with airports and airplanes and so I opted for Subic. I’ve never been there but was curious about it for a variety of reasons, thinking that it might be somewhat like Clark but with the added attraction of being on the coast and having some beaches. My gf had managed a restaurant up there many years ago and thought it might be fun to go back for a visit. I didn’t do a whole lot of research on the place up front, just picked a hotel via the reviews on Trip Advisor, the #2 rated place was on Waterfront Road, which seemed like it would be a good place to be, and so we hopped in taxi for the three hour drive.
(Lesson learned – On the expressway between Clark and Subic, there’s this spot where you can see where the lava flowed down from Mount Pinatubo when it erupted roughly 20 years ago. It was a sparkling clear day and one could see all the way over to the volcano very clearly … and I didn’t ask the driver to stop so I could take a picture. Two days later, on the drive back to Manila, I did ask the driver to stop, but the view was nowhere near as clear or as special. I am really kicking myself over this.)
Entering Subic and not quite sure of how to get to our chosen hotel, our taxi driver made the mistake of not making a left turn when he was in the left-hand lane, right where there was a group of cops standing next to signs that said “pull over area” or something like that and sure enough, we got pulled over and he got a ticket for lane-swerving on an almost empty road.
Then we found the hotel and it was like, why are we here? Segara Suites is a gorgeous boutique hotel, the rooms were great, modern, flat screen TV & DVD, high thread count sheet, rainforest shower, nice pool, decent restaurant. But the location? Sure, Waterfront Road, all the way at the wrong end, where it was surrounded by warehouses and a commercial wharf. No view, no beach. (The staff later told us that thanks to its secluded location, it was a favorite rendezvous point for politicians.)
On checking in, I was required to sign a sheet stating that I’d read the house rules – which included “no partying” and a corkage fee if I was to bring any alcoholic beverages back to my room. Already I’m not liking this very much. Strong sun, no shade, so we called a taxi to take us the 7 or 8 blocks down to where there were some restaurants. The 3 minute ride was 100 pesos. We went to Giligan’s, a Filipino chain, and we could sit out by the local beach. The only other customers in the place weren’t actually customers – 4 old Filipino guys who came over to us as soon as we sat down to try to sell us some bullshit trinkets. The music in the place was all sappy sad old songs of unrequited love, music to commit suicide to. I was low on cash so I went to the ATM next door which was “unable to dispense cash at this time.”
Some friends drove over from Clark and joined us for dinner that night. We drove around and every place we looked was dead dead dead. After dinner we went to a “hot spot” on the beach called Pier One. Live band (4 musicians, 5 (!) singers) playing the usual crappy pop. We walked back to our hotel from there, my gf walking a lot faster than me and soon there was enough distance between us that girls sitting in the park along the beach started calling out to me.
Get the feeling that I wasn’t having a good time? Back at the hotel, I told my gf we should get out the next day – the hotel was prepaid and I’m sure we would not have gotten our money back but I was really feeling as if going there was a huge mistake.
However, the next morning, after having a decent breakfast poolside, we decided to call a taxi and go to the Kamayan Beach Resort. It’s a hotel with a private beach. If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can pay 300 pesos per person to use the facilities and we figured it was worth that to sit on a beach where we wouldn’t get hassled by vendors every three seconds. It turned out to be quite nice – not really remarkable in any sense of the word but pleasant, peaceful, stretched out on the sand for several hours and a little bit of swimming.
After the beach, we went to the town that adjoins Subic – Olongapo. This place at least seemed to have some life to it. The town seems to be “owned” to some extent or another by one family. The current mayor is James “Bong” Gordon Jr. and there’s a long line of Gordons running the town. “Fighting for excellence!” Signs all over the place with a quote from the first Gordon, “what this country needs is not a change of men but a change in men,” something like that, plus signs of how it was a “no firecracker zone.” But at least it was lively.
Okay, maybe not so much on that particular street.
There was a small SM Mall there (with signs everywhere giving directions to a breast feeding clinic – hmmm). And of course wonderful food.
(Her name, according to the poster, is Shamcey Supsup.)
That night, my gf said we should go up to Barrio Barreto, which is just north of Subic and is basically a mini-Angeles. Lots of cheap beachfront hotels and a dozen or so girly bars. We had dinner at a place she remembered, “The Coffee Shop – Home of the Jumbo Taco” (and it was a freaking huge taco, just 99 pesos, and not too bad).
After dinner, we hit one of the girly bars. About 20 girls working inside, standing on stage, not even pretending to dance, just standing on stage. It was pretty depressing. My gf called down the one relatively cute girl from the pack and bought her a drink and started to ask her questions about how things worked there. After the first round of drinks, she had this brilliant idea that we should barfine the girl and go off to the gay bar with dancing guys. “I took you to a bar where you could watch sexy girls, it’s only fair that you take me to a bar where I can watch some guys.”
And so we did. Her, me and our new friend. This place wasn’t exactly Chippendales. There were about 5 or 10 guys there taking turns dancing on stage. Each guy had essentially the same dance moves, each one wearing a tight wife-beater shirt, shorts, kneepads (!). My gf was disappointed that none of the guys there were tall or especially well built. But she found some guy to sit with her and give her the rundown on the joint. I kept looking at my watch, kept trying to get her out of there, but she wasn’t budging. I ended up asking the DJ how come they weren’t playing Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Relax” – I would have thought that would be the song they’d play every 15 minutes. The guy put it on to get me to shut up. Finally there was a low rent Priscillia Queen of the Desert two guys in wigs and dresses lip syncing to records show. I think we ended up staying in this joint for close to 2 hours. And no, it was not my idea of a good time.
Probably needless to say, but I was pretty happy to get out of Subic the next morning. I don’t think I’ll be rushing back there anytime soon either.