Logs and kindling were piled and hotdogs with soft marshmallows were skewered on thin bamboo sticks. Twilight has set in a few hundred feet above Subic Bay. From a frame of tree branches, we can clearly see the city below, alive and twinkling; its electric hues illuminating the darkening sky, reflecting on the dark bay. With a flash of flint, our bonfire whooped into existence. We forgot about the electric lights as we basked at the glow of the fire, mesmerized with its crackling intensity, ready with our hotdogs, stories and bottles of beer.
|JEST CAMP ENTRANCE ARCH|
|MAGAUL BIRD PARK’S GIFT SHOP|
We were at Subic’s JEST Camp. It was my third time to visit this place and it has definitely changed since I last set foot on it. Together with a group of friends who share the same passion for traveling (and drinking beer), we went here to witness the opening of the Magaul Bird Park’s Wings of the World and to test our friendship with the JEST Camp Hunger Games.
|ACCOMMODATIONS INSIDE JEST CAMP|
Here for the night, we quickly dropped our backpacks at their accommodation (check rates) which is aptly called the barracks; a throwback to the times when Subic was still a base for American GI’s. JEST Camp has three barrel-shaped lodgings with double-decks made from bamboos. Each barrack can bed down at least 16 guests. Extra mattresses can be requested too if you’re a really big group.
|COMFORTABLE BUNK BEDS|
It’s pretty basic, but it’s not that bad. The place is fully air-conditioned, has soft mattresses, lockers and en suite toilet and bath. Don’t forget to bring your own towels and toiletries though, as they’re not provided for.
|JUNGLE SURVIVAL TRAINING DEMO|
|MAKING FIRE USING BAMBOO|
As is the custom at JEST Camp, the first activity of the day was the Jungle Survival Demo. Here local Aeta tribesmen demonstrate how to survive in the jungle with nothing but your wit and a sharp bolo knife. They showed us how to cook meals using nothing but bamboo; making everything from cooking pot, kindling and even eating utensils out of it. They’re like a one-man Leatherman tool, like the one I saw at Gear We Are.
|FIRE IN THE HOLE!|
This is a popular activity across the area, Subic being a jungle training ground for US soldiers in the decades past. I’ve also witnessed a similar demo before at the nearby Pamulaklakin Trail with Aetas dressed in their native garb.
|GREENWICH ULITMATE OVERLOAD FOR LUNCH|
|MANGO PEARL COOLERS, PERFECT FOR THE SUMMER|
The whole shebang took about twenty minutes and it was almost lunchtime when we finished. Under the scorching heat of the midday sun, we headed to some seats near the giant swing and partook on some slices of Ultimate Overload Pizza, Lasagna Supreme, Jumbo Crunchy Chicken (is love) and Mango Pearl Coolers from Greenwich. They have a branch near the area and it was easy enough to drop by their joint before going directly to JEST Camp.
|WAITING FOR RELEASE|
With our stomach dragons satiated, we headed to the Sky Flyer where some brave souls were screeching their throats out. It really wasn’t such a good idea to ride the giant swing right after a filling lunch, but everyone was simply too excited to try it out and cannot wait even for just a minute to rest.
I’ve tried riding on a giant swing in before in Alviera Sandbox in Pampanga, which is much higher than this one in JEST Camp, but the Sky Flyer looked much more daunting than the former since it faces a huge cliff drop. It actually feels much higher because of this. There’s an option of riding it out at the normal sitting position, but thrill seekers would probably enjoy the much more exciting Superman stance.
|MAGAUL BIRD PARK’S WINGS OF THE WORLD|
Right beside the swing, I saw a life-sized Angry Bird game which kids were flocking like crazy, but we were running late for the start of the Wings of the World Bird Show. The show was situated at a covered amphitheater right inside JEST Camp and would feature half a thousand birds during its entire duration.
|SHE SURE IS PRETTY|
Soon enough, Ms. Philippines Earth, Angelee delos Reyes, went up the stage for the introduction. The crowd was quite excited as this is the show’s inaugural. Magaul Bird Park’s Wings of the World was about to start.
|BIRDS GLIDING TOWARDS THE STAGE|
|PEAHENS MARCHING RIGHT BESIDE US|
The best place to watch the show is right out front where you can be up close to the birds being presented (and flying towards) on the stage. Unfortunately, I was too far off (and much too enrapt) to capture much of what was happening. The show is quite exciting and really, really cute. Even non bird-lovers would enjoy it.
|MAGAUL BIRD PARK’S AVIARY|
We roamed around JEST Camp right after the bird show, checking out its aviary (they have big-ass ostriches!), museum, bonsai garden, butterfly center, insectarium and view deck. All these, plus a few more, are included for their general admission fee.
|DOING THE JEST CAMP AERIAL WALK|
|SOME OF THE CHALLENGES ARE QUITE TRICKY|
As the sun was setting down, I remembered about their Aerial Walk which we did a few years back. We hurried through the camp and asked the staff if we could still do the walk even if it’s almost after their operating hours. They willing obliged (thank you guys!) and we strapped in and hauled our asses up the platforms several feet above ground.
|THE EASIEST ONE|
|TRYING OUT THE TEAM BUILDING ROPE CHALLENGE|
The course was still as I remembered it to be. Some are quite easy while others would make your knee shake, both with fear and exhaustion. But worry not; the aerial course is quite safe, with harnesses and such to prevent accidents. It has about five challenges, the last one being the easiest, a zip line back down to the ground.
|SUBIC BAY AT NIGHT|
Revisiting JEST Camp in Subic was much more fun with a bigger group. It was tiring but we were able to try out much more of what the camp has to offer. And as the sun finally sunk behind the horizon, we sat down at their Kawayan Kitchen and feasted on plates of bamboo-cooked dishes before having our bonfire drinking session. We’re all still friends tonight; tomorrow we’ll see what happens after we’ve gone through their Hunger Games.
JEST Camp & Magaul Bird Park
Address: Upper Mau, Cubi-Triboa, Freeport Zone,
Contact Number: (02) 218-9023 | (0917) 531-0993
Open Hours: 08:30 AM – 5:00 PM Daily
Facebook: Click Here
Book Accommodation: Click Here
GPS Coordinates Map: 14.791979, 120.294341