The budget beach resorts of ’Gapo

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BEIGE-SAND beach awaits swimmers. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

The town of Subic and Olongapo City, lying along shimmering Subic Bay—with its marine life, deep natural harbor, beaches and coves—are resort country. The facilities range from upscale to budget.

Unable to afford the high-end resorts (unless there is “media exposure,” of course), some friends of mine from Olongapo and I have been, in recent months, rain or shine, settling for the less pricey resorts along the bay and within the limits of the city.

You won’t find the rich and famous here. Nor, for that matter, the corporate crowd for there is no team-building ek-ek. But these budget resorts will do if you just want to swim, snorkel, relax, laze around, read a book, have a beer and pulutan (bar chow) with friends and, well, join in the video racket. “My Way,” however is not recommended, as a safety precaution.

FAN-COOLED ROOMS. Bring your own towel, soap and mineral water. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

During the peak season you will see a lot of local folk, families, excursionists from Manila, and young people. But during the rainy season, these resorts are rather forlorn-looking. So, in a way, now is the best time to visit them, in between typhoons, of course.

The trip from Metro Manila to Olongapo takes about three hours, quicker if you pass through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). This was under repair, however, the last time we visited recently.

Careful drivers

If you don’t have a car and just commute, like me, take a Victory Liner bus. This company is known for its careful drivers and polite conductors. The fare to Olongapo is about P200, with a 20 percent discount if you’re a golden oldie like me. Past Dinalupihan, Bataan, a zigzag announces that you are approaching the city, and you catch a glimpse of the marvelous virgin forest.

PICNIC sheds for day tour. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Downtown Olongapo, especially its avenidas like Rizal and Magsaysay, is busier and more congested than ever. You would think you were in Divisoria or Raon in Manila. There is a clutch of pedestrians, students, stores, fast food braches, inns, and all sorts of commercial outlets.

Robert and Jun-Jun join me here and we take a jeepney bound for Subic town. Soon we are passing by resort row and you will see signboards like Subic Half-Moon Resort, Dumlao Beach Resort and, farther, a beach resort owned by a Korean, and Baloy Beach Resort.

These resorts usually have a wide expanse of brown-beige sand beach, long rows of picnic sheds and accommodations for an overnight stay: A cluster of fan-cooled rooms as well as air-con cottages. The rates may vary from P1, 000 to P3, 000.

OUTRIGGER boat will sail along Subic Bay. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Bring your own towel, soap and mineral water. And best to buy your food and drinks downtown.

In the evening we exercised our vocal cords in the videoke jukebox in front of the rooms. Jun-Jun, a choirboy like me, turned out to be the better singer, pitch-perfect. Robert did not bother to sing, being tone-deaf.

By night Subic Bay became pitch dark, with only the lights from the shipbuilding facilities visible. The last videoke crooners, including a girl who sang off-key, soon gave up; and quiet descended upon the resort.

I was lulled to sleep by the sound of a gecko. And it was the cry of another (or the same) gecko which woke me up in the morning.

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