An Adventure Filled Day at Jest Camp + Foodtrips at The Aristocrat Restaurant: The Formula for An Epic Subic Trip!
Being an avid traveler and a fan of mountaineering, I’ve been looking for a perfect place to have new experiences and new adventures that can fit my weekend schedule. You know, less hassle but exciting. Far, but not “Benguet” far. Batangas mountains like Famy and Maculot have been my weekend mountains but I’ve grown tired of them.
Luckily, WIM was invited to do a feature on Subic and the one place that captured my attention was a place named JEST Camp. I thought it was some carnival because jest means some kind of a joke or a funny thing. It turns out I was wrong. It was not a joke.JEST stands for Jungle Environment Survival Training. It was essentially a boot camp. I hated ROTC so much way back in college that I did not expect to enjoy this place so much.
Departure for Subic
Before going to JEST Camp, you must first endure a 3hour travel from Manila to Subic, so you need to be prepared for a long ride. Make sure you bring the right people with you that will make your travel worthwhile. It was my first WIM out-of-town trip, so I had no idea who would be with me or what to expect.
When I arrived at Aristocrat Restaurant in Jupiter St. Makati, I was slightly intimidated. The fact that the famous restaurant was hosting our meals from breakfast to dinner added to my excitement. I entered the restaurant where I was greeted by five smiling writers who welcomed me with a hearty breakfast. My travel buddies were a bunch of crazy people out to have a good time.
The delicious breakfast and the crazy WIM writers made the whole 3-hour trip seem shorter.
That only thing that went wrong with the venue was the signage. It was placed on the other side of the road, so people going up the steep climb mitt completely miss it.
We were at least 2-3 kilometers off the track when we realized that we were already lost. Along the way, we encountered Army Rangers beside the road, probably resting from a day’s hard work and training. The guard at the dead-end gate where we stopped politely pointed us to the right way and handed us a brochure for a spa. People have probably gotten lost there before.
That’s my only complaint.
We traced back the route and found the entrance.
Magaul Bird Park
Contrary to what I expected from a survival park was this sweet surprise inside. I thought we would be greeted with ropes and ladders and everything military the moment we arrived in the jungle camp, but instead, we were greeted by birds. Very unlikely, but very appropriate for the place. Birds make a more peaceful and relaxing experience for those looking to just commune with nature.
The name of the park, Magaul, is very enlightening. In Philippine Mythology, Magaul was the legendary sarimanok who pecked and cracked open the bamboo that contained Malakas and Maganda. This was the start of the creation of Man. Magaul was neither God or Bathala, but a messenger. This lesson also holds true to us today: birds are messengers of Mother nature, and the message is that life begins when we protect our surroundings and our environment.
The birds in their care are extensive. They have been taking care of and breeding several hundreds of birds including endangered species of Hornbills, pigeons, Eagles and even chickens. According to our guide, they were successful last month in hatching and breeding in captivity a Philippine Hornbill or Kalaw which is one of their contribution to the preservation of birds.
The bird park also hosts the amphitheater where they will hold the first bird show in the Philippines “with the most number of birds”. This hopefully will be a record that they will set when they start the regular production numbers.
We were privileged to become part of the sneak preview for the bird show and it was AWESOME! Hundreds of birds were showcased and the finale was a release of different birds to interact with the audience. It was a magnificent and magical sight – a truly theatrical performance. Beyond its glamour and magic, however, the show was also very informative. They gave very detailed descriptions of the habitat of birds and what we can do to protect them. A must-see show!
If you were thinking that going to this place is just like going to the zoo, then you’re very wrong. They have facilities that can challenge the weekend adventurer in you.
The first stop in the more extreme facilities are the ropes. Imagine going from treetop to treetop while only walking on ropes! That’s a bit challenging and scary for some. The stages (six in total) are quite exhausting, so get ready to get sweaty and tired and remember to never look down below. At the end of the ropes, there is a mini zipline where you will go straight to the next challenge.
This rope-walking challenge however was not as scary as the next challenge: the GOLIATH SWING.
The swing looks simple and innocent. Do you remember how you played with the swing when you were young and pulled it way back, so that when you released it, it packed enough force to excite the one sitting on it? Well, multiply that feeling by 10,000.
It doesn’t disappoint and they really aren’t lying when they say it’s a GOLIATH swing. It works just like a regular swing. You sit on the edge and they strap you in. The difference is that a machine will pull you 30 feet into the air with your whole body literally hanging and then with just a simple pull you’ll be released plunging into the ground and then pulled up by the swing…and it all happens at the edge of a cliff. Your heart literally races outwards and then back inside.
I still imagine the moment before they released the ropes. It was a mixture of trauma and adrenaline. Nothing matters now when you’re falling down. I can only imagine the feeling of jumping down 3 stories high, its being dead and being alive at the same time. Makes me appreciate my life more. Plus 100,000 points to that challenge!