Zambales is the mountainous province to the west of Pampanga probably best known for Subic Bay, a former US naval facility which has now been transformed into a freeport zone and is being opened up for tourism. As I wrote in an earlier post we travelled up to Subic on Boxing Day (26th December) with members of the Santos family – 16 of us in total, plus our driver. We were the guests of Jerry and Annie – Jerry is American, Annie is Filipino and another member of the Santos family. Of course we couldn’t all fit into their two bedroom apartment, so Jerry found rooms in a neighbouring guest house.
The kids really enjoyed themselves, whether swimming, throwing muddy sand at each other or being buried on the beach. Although they had to return on the 27th, we Wearys decided to stay an extra day, along with our niece Lizzy. There were several operations offering water-sports, so after the disappointment of Alona Beach in Bohol, this was an opportunity for those who wanted to go jetskiing to indulge themselves.
As I said in my previous post there isn’t anything particularly special about Baloy Beach, but it does enjoy a splendid location between the mountains and the sea. There are two ways of getting to Zambales from Pampanga. The shorter route is via the old road through San Fernando, but as we discovered when we took this road to Bataan, the road is slow and pretty rough, not helped by numerous carriageway repairs. The newer and faster route is the SCTEx, a four lane expressway which opened in 2008.
What makes the SCTEx so attractive is not just that it is smoother and faster but also more scenic, looping northwards through the foothills of the Zambales mountains. This is an area of jagged volcanic mountains (the most infamous of which is Mount Pinatubo), deep valleys, large sugar plantations and bright green rice paddies. Travelling back in the late afternoon on a slightly hazy day, I was particularly moved by the rays of the setting sun visibly shining through the clouds and highlighting the westward facing peaks of the tallest mountains. Unfortunately, as we were on an expressway, there was no opportunity to stop for photographs. However, if you would like to see some photos of our time in Subic, visit this album.