04 January 2013

Subic Bay welcomes 2013 with street party

Up to 13,000 people crammed the Waterfront Road and Boardwalk Park in this free port on New Year’s Eve to usher in 2013 and bid 2012 goodbye.

The revelers brought food for their traditional New Year’s feast, pitched tents and set up tables in the seaside venue, heard Mass and watched a mini-concert while awaiting what appeared to be the best fireworks display since the tradition started here in 2001.

“The New Year Countdown is our way of giving thanks for all the blessings in the ending year, as well as welcoming the coming new year,” Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair Robert Garcia said.

“This has become a tradition for the Subic Freeport community, a thing that also attracts visitors to the Freeport this time of the year,” he added.

Dr. Mariano Ridon, owner of a restaurant near the Boardwalk Park, said the New Year Countdown at Subic’s Boardwalk area began in 2000 during the Y2K craze, and was later adopted by the SBMA as an official activity under the Freeport Festival Executive Committee (FFEC).

Ridon, who was the founding chairman of the FFEC, added that the countdown also introduced the “potluck” tradition and sharing of food for the New Year’s feast when the SBMA, under then Chairman Felicito Payumo, prepared five roasted pig and three roasted calf to be shared among all the revelers.

“Since then, people brought food to the countdown to share with others, like Filipinos did during fiestas,” Ridon explained.

Light and Sound Show

Aside from the fireworks display that the SBMA puts up as the highlight of the New Year program, various establishments along the Waterfront Road had since adopted the custom, with the Lighthouse Marina Resort offering the grandest show along the strip, including music festivals as part of its holiday presentations over the years.

Other hotels along Subic Bay’s famous Waterfront Road have cashed in on the visitors surge, offering dinner buffets and a front-row view of the New Year’s Eve lights and sound show.

“I am sure it would attract more people if the other establishments shared some fireworks also,” Emmy, a countdown regular and resident of San Juan, Metro Manila, said.

Even families living in Olongapo City have begun bringing their sparklers and horns to the Subic countdown after the local government banned fireworks within the city limits.

“Most of our neighbors are here,” explained Josephine Cruz, a resident of Gordon Heights in Olongapo City. “We bring our food here and enjoy a grand fireworks display that we otherwise cannot afford on our own.”

Themed Parties

Others bring their parties and costumes into the scene, making the six-hour wait for the New Year countdown as colorful and as entertaining as the midnight fireworks.

“Because we’ve done this for 11 years, deciding what the theme is and what costumes to wear is tough. This year, we decided to have an activist theme,” Carrie Aspa-Empeño, a journalist, said.

Armed with toys guns made of wood and plastic, the Empeño family, together with their friends, set up camp along the Waterfront Road and put up a “picket line” that greeted other revelers with placards and banners.

One placard had an “OUST 2012!” call, a dig at Filipino activists’ penchant for calling for the ouster of every elected president.

Another read “Maki-New Year! ‘Wag matakot!” which was a parody of the local leftist chant of “Makibaka! ‘Wag matakot!” (Struggle! Don’t be afraid!)

Banner Year for Tourism

It is precisely because of these types of events that Subic Bay has become a tourist magnet.

Raul Marcelo, SBMA deputy administrator for tourism, said that the number of tourist arrivals in 2012 increased significantly as compared to the previous years.

And the uptrend is expected to continue well into the next years, he added.

“Next year will be basically the same (as far as major tourism events are concerned),” Marcelo noted. “But we still hope to improve on our record in terms of the number of visitors, and create more attractions to generate more arrivals in Subic Bay,” he added. (SBMA)

A huge crowd awaits the New Year Countdown at the Subic Bay Freeport