SINCE the opening of the country’s first-ever free port in 1992, Subic Bay has come full circle—being one of the top tourist spots. From an American naval base, it has evolved into a duty-free zone, weekend family hideaway, a business and tourism enclave, a convention place and a theme park, among its many reinventions.
But despite its evolution for the past 27 years, never lost in the flurry of things is its being an executive escapade because of its exceptional qualities. Subic boasts of having the merry mix of tropical rainforest, a panoramic bay, world-class countryside villages, diverse recreation and everything in between, just two hours away from the big city.
Going by the slogan, “It’s more Fun-tastic in Subic,” the free port combines nature, adventure and leisure, and is home to scores of homegrown tourist establishments distinctly found only here.
A social-media sensation is the four-star Le Charmé Suites, which arguably has the most Instagrammable poolside in the area which is best shot during the so-called golden hour at dusk. Called Ibiza Roof Deck, it is jazzed up occasionally with exciting themes, such as Game of Thrones motif.
The 45-room boutique hotel, was originally intended to be a furniture showroom, but was repurposed for a lodging for the active business person, evident in the bike racks in its well-appointed suites. It boasts being an exponent of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), encouraging biking among its guests, and its bevy of fitness amenities—a rock-climbing wall, a spa and the Spin Cycle Station of the Johnson Fitness and Wellness Center, which has Subic’s first-ever spin bike class.
With the active lifestyle it has been espousing, Le Charmé Suites has become a favorite among triathlon participants.
The two-year-old facility also boasts of its in-house restaurants, the Asian fusion Teppan 101 and the Spanish-inspired Mi Tapas, where the free port’s stakeholders often gather for cocktails and small talk. Adjacent the hotel is a cluster of surplus stores and specialty shops, which puts interesting stuff under one roof.
A new must-see for staycationers is Acea Subic Bay, an amenity-laden resort hotel nestled on a secluded palm-lined cove of the former Dungaree Beach away from the usual crowd.
Managed by Hospitality Innovators Inc., it pampers its guests with generously sized beachfront rooms, three swimming pools, children’s playground, fitness gym, game room, billiards hall, full-service restaurant and two karaokes, which make the resort like a self-contained recreational complex.
Acea also has a complete range of water sports so guests can bask in its powdery sand and clear waters, considered as perhaps the most scenic cove in Subic.
Golf aficionados would be delighted that the last piece of the puzzle in making the free port a consummate escapade is finally in place—the Subic International Golf Club, the second and grandest reincarnation of the former American playground in Binictican. Operated by a group of Japanese businessmen, the 18-hole, par 72 golf course measures over 7,100 yards from the tips, making it ideal for professional tournaments.
Originally designed by Desmond Muirhead, it was reconstructed into a challenging course which incorporates the natural environment and allows the player to enjoy picture-pretty shots. Surrounded by a lush rainforest and abundant water sources, the view from any angle is simply stunning.
In addition to its world-class environment-friendly fairway, the property is envisioned by its developers to be an upscale community for expats, retirees and executives with housing, recreation, medical care and other amenities.
The club also prides itself with its charming and smart caddies, which are not mere eye candies but meaningful companions on the greens. Conversant on topics other than golf and solicitous on every player’s needs, they also work as starters and tee house attendants, and are perhaps the best in the industry because of their rigid recruitment and training regimen.
After sweating it out, the club treats guests like royalty at its classy clubhouse with its wide -range of delectable international dishes, Filipino favorites, desserts and drinks.
Another sport which lends an executive touch to Subic is sailing, thanks to its deep natural harbor, tranquil and scenic bay. A major naval and maritime hub since the Spanish era because of the galleons and merchant ships that have come and gone, is regarded as the country’s premier yachting destination and sailing haven.
Regular regattas are held here to promote tourism and enhance yachtsmanship for international competitions and foster camaraderie among its gentlemen sailors. Spearheaded by Subic Sailing Club based at the Lighthouse Marina Resort, the bay is home to the Subic Bay Around Verde Island Passage Race, which is part of the prestigious Asian Yachting Grand Prix Circuit and the Chairman’s Cup Regatta, which saw the biggest assemblage of sailboats in Philippine waters.
A reboot of the Commodore’s Cup, the recently concluded sailfest was highlighted by the FarEast 28R One-Design Race, and keelboat divisions of IRC Class 1, IRC Class 2 and Cruising Class. Adding color was the Dinghy Division composed of Optimist, Streaker and Oz Gooze classes for greenhorns and young sailors, as well as categories for stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to entice more spectators get into water sports.
Capping the five-day aquasports fiesta was the M1 Freedom Party, which featured the hottest local and foreign DJs and rock bands.
Organizers say the Chairman’s Cup hopes to breed the next generation of sailors who will give pride to the Philippines in international contests and will continue to rediscover our legacy as a maritime nation. On a typical day, the nautical-themed Lighthouse Marina Resort offers basic sailing lessons on dinghies and romantic sunset cruises around Subic Bay and outlying coves.
With its elite sports and leisure lifestyle, Subic is undeniably the consummate escapade for the executive class.