A brief escape from the modern world
I’ve spent weeks searching for the best vacation spot for my family, and Paradise Ranch is one of the places I’ve chosen. I have a knack for resorts and overnight accommodations since I want my kids to temporarily forget the busy life here in Manila. Pampanga is a memorable city for me. During one of my high school field trips, Clark is in the itinerary and seeing the abandoned quarters and hospitals, which dates back to early 1900’s during the 2nd world war, was a rock star dream come true. I longed to go back to Clark and see those abandoned places again. But things are different now. I have kids and they surely wouldn’t like the sight of those quarters. All we want to do is to have fun.
How to commute
Yes, we don’t have a car. Commuting around the Metro is difficult and you always have to allot extra time for unexpected events and heavy traffic. It is always wise to leave earlier than the estimated time it takes to travel by car to make sure you still have time for other activities. Today, we left Antipolo City at 11:30 AM.
Five Star bus terminal
From Cubao, which should be the “default” starting point for any trips, since almost all bus terminals here covers routes to provinces and other points of Luzon, you can ride a bus going to Dau, Pampanga at the Five Star bus terminal. The fare is 139 pesos.
Since the bus is not crowded, (maybe because it’s a weekday) it’s Wednesday, the man didn’t charge us fare for my 10-year-old kid.
Passing by NLEX, it only took us just an hour and a half to get there.
Dau bus terminal
Alighting at Dau bus terminal, where all the other buses are: Florida, Victory and Five Star, we had to take another jeepney ride.
Besides the terminal, there were tricycle drivers who offered us a ride to SM Clark for 100 pesos. They charge that much if you’re obviously a tourist (backpacks and luggage bags). But it’s your choice if you want to take the ride for your own convenience. We just walked past Hotel Sogo and the dry market to get to the road where you can ride a jeepney going to SM Clark. The fare is only 8 pesos.
The jeep will stop at SM Clark and from here, there are different jeepney and UV Express terminals to other points of Pampanga. We asked the drivers and store clerks where the exact location of the jeepney terminal is. I was looking for the route to Clark picnic grounds since I also want to go to another tourist spot-which is Dinosaurs Island. Upon research that is the closest to Paradise Ranch.
Dau jeepney terminal
We had to cross the footbridge at SM Clark and come out on the other side of the road. You can easily see the jeepney terminal from here.
Now when we asked the drivers how to get to Paradise Ranch, they confirmed my guess correctly, after weeks of research that there is no direct way to commute to Paradise Ranch. We have to rent the jeepney worth 500 pesos to get there. Why? Simply because Paradise ranch is at the end of Clark, near the border of Tarlac, and it’s a secluded area.
The Jeepney Ride
Clark Freeport Zone
I agreed to take rent the jeep solely for the convenience of my kids. And I am not familiar with the place so better take it than to get lost. We passed by at Clark Freeport Zone. This is the perfect environment for me. I was happy to see all the big factories and American-inspired restaurants around.
Once you pass by Sacobia River, it would instantly remind you of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption back in the 90’s. Yes, I was right, the volcanic ashes that you see are from Lahar. Kind of damned in a way that it’s not a free flowing river anymore. Now it feels like we’re going far from the city.
Once you come across the bridge, you will see the homes of Aetas, or the so-called Katutubo. The road is very rocky and bumpy. Now you will believe why this place can’t be reached that easily. It is surrounded by some military forces to protect the indigenous people, as well as the habitat. There were more homes of Aetas, and they were decent enough. The kids go to school. They also own sari-sari stores.
Now we’re going uphill.
Entrance to Zoocobia and Paradise Ranch
I’m not sure if they have the same owner for those two places. We were greeted by an American soldier at the entrance to the ranch. Zoocobia comes first. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t cement the road, but if you’re a tourist, you will have second thoughts of continuing the ride. The jeep almost stopped halfway. We got the driver’s cell phone number so he could fetch us the next day.
Finally, we’re here! We arrived safely at our destination. That was pretty easy. The commute is seamless. Remember, we only took three rides: from Cubao going to Dau, from Dau going to SM Clark, and from SM Clark going to Paradise Ranch. Now it’s almost 3 PM and we’re getting hungry.
The Mahogany room is best for a small family like us. That covers 2 adults and 2 children. From 2 PM to 12 NN the next day, accommodation is 2000 pesos. 1000 deposit fee not included. We got two beds here and glass windows covered by white curtains. In my opinion, this is perfect for couples since it gives off a honeymoon vibe. The place is secluded.
At first, I thought the entrance to Zoocobia is included, but it’s not. I let it pass since there is a mini-zoo inside according to reviews on the internet. We entered our room and I asked my husband to buy some food outside. Apparently, they only have one restaurant open and it offers boodle fight bundles for 600 pesos for 4 persons, 700 pesos for 6-7 persons. We asked if there’s any other store around, but they only have small souvenir shops owned by the employees themselves. The shops are hard to find because they are situated per “amenity” inside the ranch. Some are even closed. He was only able to buy soft drinks and bottled water which costs 25 pesos each.
I only slept the whole afternoon thinking we could still go out late at night, but we found ourselves trapped inside the forest, literally. It was too dangerous to go outside at night. Knowing there is NO vehicle that would take you out of the place, in case of emergency. You will not risk your life just to take a walk outside.
The next day
Still hungry and weak, I decided not to let the day pass without seeing everything inside the ranch. The accommodation does not include breakfast which was so sad because I wouldn’t want to spend another 600 pesos for another boodle fight. We dressed up and took a trek at the park.
This is what we found along the way.
It was too early when we arrived at this place. There were two floating huts but no one was there to assist us so we didn’t have a chance to buy food for the fish.
They have a small garden here where you can buy potted plants and herbs. There is a small store but I didn’t ask the man how much the plants were for I am not buying anything with soil because it’s hard to commute with such baggage.
The former Butterfly Garden is now an Aviary. The entrance point is downhill and there was no employee inside. We had to search and ask where the entry point is but the grass was too high and on our way there, almost reaching the screen door, we saw a snake. We didn’t proceed.
This is the most beautiful part of the ranch. Overlooking Clark, and some of the famous tourist spots like Expo Filipino, Duty Free, and Clark Airbase, all spots in this place are picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy. We were already tired at this point because the sun is already high at 9 AM and we had to walk uphill. But as you can see, it is wonderfully surprising and it was all worth it. The place is being used for events and gatherings which mean you can rent it for special occasions.
There were three of these houses and you are free to go inside, pose and take a picture. We met a lady here who lives in one of these houses and she also owns a souvenir shop in this place. She literally saved our lives because she sells biscuits, drinks, and snacks like Mang Juan.
So after an hour of taking our pictures here, we decided to walk back to our room. But wait, I thought Little Baguio was the highest point in this place. I was wrong.
There is another staircase leading to what they call “The Prayer Chapel”. The chapel has a painting of Jesus Christ. The inside of the chapel looks like it hasn’t been cleaned for a long time you may even call it abandoned. It was kind of creepy. They say people come here to cast their wishes and there’s another feat.
The Wishing Well
Toss a coin, cast your wish, and ring the bell. The grass is a little bit high so I was adamant to reach the spot because of snakes. It was a real copper bell so good luck to your ear drums if you can resist its sound. As for me, I wanted to ring the bell thrice but did not make it.
The Swimming Pool
We went back to our room to change into swimming clothes. It was already 10 AM and we still have an hour left to swim. This is the part the kids enjoyed the most. They have an adult and kiddie pool. Nobody was there so we were free to do whatever we want.
The Kiddie Pool
The kiddie pool was perfect for my 3-year-old daughter. The water is at chest-level for her thus, she did not have any fear of swimming or playing around the water. Her big sister doesn’t swim and was afraid of adult pools and she also enjoyed being at the pool. Well, same goes for me. Ha ha ha.
We got out of the pool at 11 AM, just enough time to take a bath and pack our things for our next adventure. The driver that we contacted yesterday called us and was waiting for us when we got to the reception area to surrender our keys. To sum it up, this is one of the most unusual out of towns I’ve experienced. A-okay.
- If you have nothing much to carry, don’t forget to bring packed lunch or snacks beforehand. Even biscuits will help you survive your midnight craving and the day after. You will pass by at SM Clark, so be sure to eat lunch there.
- Don’t ever forget to bring first aid kits and flashlights.
- Bring extra cash. Credit cards not accepted.
- Having said that the park is secluded, there is no WiFi connection here. Not even LTE nor GPRS. Get ready to disappear from social media for a day.
- If you have kids, bring some toys or electronic devices so they won’t get bored. Make sure the games does not require internet connectivity or else, it will be a total fail.
- They have Cignal as their cable provider. MTV will remind you of your good old days.
- Enjoy being away from the city! Have a safe trip.