Posted 2 weeks ago
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Ten units of the iconic Philippine jeepney rumbled out of the popular Camayan Beach Resort/Ocean Adventure theme park here last Sunday, August 20, heading out for hitherto parts unknown.
Story and photos by Henry Empeno
|In Photo: Race briefing: An organizer sets ground rules just before the race starts at Camayan Beach.|
It was a perfect day for a tour: The sun was out after weeks of intermittent rain, and Subic was crawling with visitors again. But the jeepney passengers here— some in military fatigue, some in corporate colors and others in sporty beach attire—were no ordinary tourists out for a weekend ride. They were on a mission to outrace, outthink and outlast one another to earn the bragging rights for being race champions.
Winning jeep: Team Raco’s camouflaged jeepney wins best in design.
Welcome to the fifth edition of the Amazing Jeepney Race, an inspired spinoff of the hit reality TV game show, which put the uniquely Filipino means of mass transport into the center of the competition. Launched in March 2013 by the Philippines-New Zealand Business Council (PNZBC) in part to support its chosen charity Operation Restore Hope, the jeepney race has taken competitors to historical landmarks in Manila and Makati in 2013 and 2014, to a Batangas fiesta in 2015, and to a wet and wild adventure in Bulacan last year.
In Subic on August 20, it was a little bit of everything for the racers. They had a taste of eco-adventure among forest trails, went hunting among historical sites, and enjoyed a fiesta of traditional Pinoy fun among theme parks and resorts where the challenges lay waiting.
The race pitted 10 teams of 10 persons each, with groups coming from as far as Makati and Laguna. There was a team of teachers from the International School in Manila, a family team with grade-school kids, and, of course, a team composed of office staff from the Embassy of New Zealand.
The competing teams were assigned one jeepney each, which they dressed up in team colors and decors. Two jeepneys wore camouflage twigs, some donned balloons and paper masks and flowers, and at least one sported toy guns on its visor.
Sammuel Benedick V. Nieto of Voice in 7 Events, which had coordinated the race in its past three outings, said adult competitors had to shell out P2,800 to join the race, while children 4 to 10 years old paid P1,300. The fee included the jeepney ride during the race, race kits and materials, raffle ticket, loot bags, souvenir team photo, as well as buffet lunch and drinks during the awarding ceremonies. The contestants were allowed free access to the Camayan Beach after the race.
Getting fired up
THE Amazing Jeepney Race kicked off early in the morning at the Camayan Beach Resort, where, after a last-minute briefing by organizers, some members of the indigenous Ayta tribe taught competitors the serious survival skill of fire-making and the raucous steps of the native courtship dance.
A deep hush fell among the racers as they watched a native jungle-survival expert coach fire from nothing but bamboo sticks and shavings. But they soon erupted into wild cheering as they followed the monkey-dance steps from Ayta instructors.
With the dancing done, the teams were on for the first challenge: Fire-making. Each team was given a set of bamboo splints, one with a notch where the other bamboo stick fitted. Rubbing these together, as the jungle expert demonstrated, was supposed to create a spark that would, in turn, set the bamboo shavings below on fire. But no one among the teams successfully created fire within the time limit, so off they went to the next challenge.
From Camayan, the racers rushed on foot to the Ocean Adventure marine park next door, where they had to look for the park mascot and get a key that would take them to the next pit stop. Here, each member of the team paid P150 as donation in exchange for the stamp necessary for the next task.
NOW aboard their dressed-up jeepneys, the racers had to go to the Pamulaklakin Forest Reserve, a good 30-minute drive from Camayan Beach. Once on their vehicles, the racers, most of whom were first-time navigators in the forested areas of Subic, had to rely on the drivers’ good sense of direction. As it would turn out, precious minutes were lost in wrong turns and missed side streets—or even from a misreading of the map provided at the start of the race.
At Pamulaklakin, the racers used their stamps to enter the forest reserve guarded by the Ayta tribe. It turned out that the stamps, which represented the cash donations, were to be given to the natives. Then with the key from Ocean Adventure, the teams tried to unlock suitcases containing the next clue.
The third clue directed the racers to the Volunteers Shrine, which contained the names of some 8,000 volunteers who secured Subic Bay from looting and damage after the US Navy left in 1991. Here the participants had to find eight names of volunteers under time pressure, stencil the names on paper and submit the same to the Amazing Jeepney Race staff for their next clue.
THE next challenge took the teams to the flagstaff in front of Building 229, the head office of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. Here, they were asked to look for flag stations, given a set of art materials and asked to create a miniature Philippine flag. They then submitted the completed flag to the race staff, who checked if the design was accurate, and posed with it for a photo before receiving the next clue.
From there, the racers moved on to the next challenge that asked them to go to Hell Ship Memorial. But because it was a one-way street, most of the teams who boarded their jeepneys after the flag challenge had to go around the block only to realize they had come back right next to where they left off. Those with the presence of mind to check the map first, however, simply walked the short distance to the next challenge.
The Hell Ship Memorial paid tribute to 270 prisoners of war aboard the Japanese cargo ship Oryoku Maru, which was bombed and sunk in Subic Bay on December 15, 1944. Here, two members from each team must look for the plates honoring the allied countries in World War II, take pictures of the ones for the Philippines and New Zealand, and show the photos to the race staff for the next clue.
FROM the hunt among memorials at Subic’s central business district, the Amazing Jeepney Race went to Tree Top Adventure at the Subic’s Cubi area. Known for its cable rides, Tree Top Adventure provided the next challenge, where two members of the team were asked to either “fly” or “surf”—a choice that only spells the difference between being in a prone or upright position while riding the zipline.
This done, the racers found themselves at another Subic theme park, the Funtastic Park, where they were challenged to find their way out of a maze by answering questions posted along the way. Wrong answers led racers to dead ends, while correct ones brought them out to the exit where one team member must complete another challenge: Ride the grass slide down to where an event staff would issue the next clue in the race.
FROM the maze, the racing teams went back to Camayan Beach, where more challenges awaited: “Barya sa Palanggana” and a mini-triathlon with a twist.
In the first task, team members must uncover 10 coins from a basin full of flour by just blowing (or licking or sucking) off the white powder. The coins, too, must be transferred from the basin to the table without the players using their hands.
Next, the competing teams must finish a mini-race in three stages. The “swim” leg of the mini-triathlon required them to form a line to reach the clue tied to a rope hanging over the water. Then, instead of the “bike” leg, the teams had to complete a sack-relay race, with four members of a team hopping inside one huge sack. The “run” part of the contest called for all team members to crawl on the beach under a net set just a foot above the ground.
JUST before 2 p.m., the last team straggled back into Camayan Beach, where the awarding was held. Most of the teams arrived just after noontime, but this one group reported having engine trouble, thus causing their delay.
All told, the fastest team award went to Converga, an outsourcing-solutions firm based in Makati. However, in terms of overall points gained in the race, the first place went to Team New Zealand, composed of embassy staff. Second place went to Team Yellow Submarine, the group of International School teachers from the United States and the United Kingdom; while third place was won by Team Junglist Massive.
Meanwhile, the best in jeepney design went to Team Raco, a group of international trade consultants in Makati; while the best in costume award went to Team Yellow Submarine.
Special prizes comprising of round-trip tickets from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand were also given away to Matthew Dewitt of Team New Zealand Helen de la Cruz of Team Converga and Maria Nenita Jarlego of Team Raco.