Friday, October 14, 2011

For Divers: How to get to La Union and Subic Bay

How to get to La Union
To get to La Union, you can fly from Manila to baguio, then take a 2 hour bus ride to San Fernando using either Marcita Liner or Philippine Rabbit. Alternatively, you can travel by Philippine Rabbit direct from Manila (6 hr); there are several departures each day from the terminus on Rizal Avenue Extension, near the Chinese cemetery in Caloocan. Swagman Travel operate an Angeles/La Union/Baguio/Angeles bus service, with connections to Manila. But the easiest way to get to San Fernando is by car. During the rainy season, check the roads have not been closed by mud slides.

How to get to Subic Bay
To get to Subic Bay from Manila, you can take a Victory Liner bus to Olongapo (2 - 3 hr, depending on Manila's traffic). These leave every 30 minutes from the Victory Liner bus stations at Pasay and Caloocan. From Olongapo bus station, take a motor tricycle or any blue jeepney to Barrio Barretto, or a motor tricycle to the Freeport zone; motor tricycles are not allowed  into this zone, so you must ask at the gate for a representative of hotel to come and fetch you. Swagma Travel operate a bus service to Subic Bay from Manila, or you can fly.
The ferry service with a Supercat 6 called OK KA Ferry to or from Manila is recommended. Operators can transfer you from the ferry terminal to the resort.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Eruption of Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo Eruption
On June 15, 1991 Mount Pinatubo, just 33 km (120 miles) from Subic Bay, erupted with a force eight times greater than the Mount St Helen's eruption of 18 May 1980. Volcanic ash rose high into the atmosphere, affecting the world's weather for several years and, more locally, smothering everything to a depth of 30 cm (1 ft). Further earthquakes and a typhoon passing over Northern Luzon turned the event into a 36 hr nightmare, with many deaths. All non-essential base personnel and dependants were evacuated, but most had returned by the end of September, by which time the base had been largely cleared up and got back into operation. 

However, that month, the Military Bases Agreement of 1967 expired and the Philippine Senate voted to reject any further agreements. The Americans were given 3 years to leave. The US forces' withdrawal finally happened in November 1992.

Olongapo And Subic Bay - World War II

In World War II, Subic Bay and Olongapo were heavily bombed and eventually overrun by the Japanese. On 11 December 1941, Japanese Zero aircraft strafed the Catalina patrol aircraft used by the base, sending seven of them to the muddy bottom; they have not yet been found by divers.

On 14 December the Japanese inflicted heavy bombing on Olongapo and by 24 December, it was obvious that the situation at Subis Bay was hopeless. The order was given to destroy the station and withdraw. Olongapo and the base were torched and the old station ship, the ex-USS New York was towed out into the bay and scuttled. The Japanese army marched into Olongapo on 10 January 1942. The Amercans re-took Subic Bay at the end of January 1945, established a new Olongapo just inland of is pre-war site, and built up the Subic Bay Naval Base to be the US Navy's largest supply depot outside the USA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Subic Bay Pampanga

Naval Base

Subic Bay was originally established as a naval base by the Spanish in 1885, when they realized that it had better deep-water facilities and did not suffer from the malaria problems of their existing base at Cavite, in Manila Bay.

In April 1898 war broke out between Spain and the USA Asiatic Squadron, under Commodore George C. Dewy, set sail from Hongkong to attack the Spanish fleet. The Spanish scuttled the gunboat San Quintin at the eastern entrance of the bay between Grande Island and Chiquita Island (where she remains today, as a dive site). They intended to defend the western entrance with the wooden cruiser Castilla, but they changed their minds and retreated to Manila Bay. Filipino revolutionaries took advantage of this, setting up their own revolution, but this was eventually quashed by the Americans when they decided to take over the area in late 1899. They began establishing the naval base in 1900. 

La Union

La Union Cottage and Beach Resort
La Union
La Union, at the northern end of the Lingayen Gulf, is a thriving beach-resort area catering for Europian tourists and expatriate residents; its most popular beaches are around Bauang, just south of San Fernando. Most visitors do not seem to mind the 6 hr bus trip from Manila or the 2 hr down the mountain from Baguio. San Fernando airport is now open again.
Because of the considerable Chinese influence in this area, the Chinese restaurants are worth a visit. The Mandarin House on Quezon Avenue is good. San Fernando is noted for its seafood. The local delicacy, "jumping shrimp salad", is perhaps not for everyone: tiny shrimps are marinated alive in spiced vinegar and lime.


Luzon Images This is the crater of Mount Pinatubo

The island of Luzon accounts for approximately one third of the land area of the Philippines. The landscape of Luzon is mainly mountainous, covering over 100,000 sq km (38,610 sq miles), and includes three major volcanoes, Taal, Mount Mayo and Mount Pinatubo. About half the population of the Philippines live on Luzon and it is the most important industrial and agricultural island in the archipelago. It is also the home of the nation's capital city, Manila, which has a population of more than 9 million.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Typhoon in the Philippines

The word "typhoon" was derived from Cantonese "tai fung" which means "great wind". Locally called "bagyo" in tagalog. Typhoon is a tropical cyclone in which the surface windspeed exceeds 119 km per hour (76 miles).

Typhoons form over warm oceans when several thunderstorms release heat as moisture that condenses to form rain. The center, or "eye", is a calm area about 30 km (19 miles) in diameter and of very low barometric pressure. Around the eye, cyclonic winds spread over an area up to 1500 km (190 miles) in diameter, with the maximum intensity just outside the eye. Winds circling the eye are accompanied by torrential rain and can reach 300 km (190 miles) per hour in extreme cases.

In the Philippines, the typhoon season is June to November. They are most common north of 15 degrees N and very rare south of  10 degrees N. There is a three-stage warning system in the Philippines. Signal 1 means, a possible typhoon within 72 hours, signal 2 within 48 hours and signal 3 within 36 hours. With 7107 islands in this archipelago, there will always be good, safe picnic, touring, mountain climbing, diving, etc in the lee of an island somewhere!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Electricity and Communications in the Philippines

MERALCO company is the main source of electricity in the Philippines. The electricity supply is mostly 220 volts, 60 cycles, though the actual voltage is often much less, particularly in the provinces. Brownouts and blackouts are much less of a problem than in the past, but unplug any appliances during power cuts or periods of low voltage, as there may be heavy surges when the electricity returns to normal. A major problem is that, the most of the plugs and sockets are of the standard US two or three-flat-pin type, normally used for the 110 volts. To make matters worse, there are some 110-volt supplies using plugs and sockets of the Continental European two-round-pin type normally associated with 220 volts! Where three-flat-pins are used, the earth pin is not interlocked as in Europe, so two-pin plugs can still be inserted.

Meralco Building
Many larger hotels now have a system where a plastic rectangle that is permanently attached to the room key, or is the room key itself, must be inserted into a slot in your room for the electricity to be switched on. This is a nuisance if you wish to charge batteries or keep the air-conditioning on while you are out. Many of these systems can be kept switched on by inserting a piece of stiff cardboard or plastic into the slot. 

Communications have improved recently in the Philippines. Most areas now have cellular telephones and there are more overland telephone lines than before; many of the Filipinos have their own e-mail addresses, access to an internet cafĂ© or have their own computer at home or laptop.  However, telephone access is not always reliable, then few areas do not have telephone connections and in other places, the connections can be interrupted by power failures. Some of the larger resort hotels have set up their own satellite communications systems, but this does not mean that they will answer your inquiries.