JEST Camp: An Adventure Awaits

Jungle Environment Survival Training (JEST) Camp is a survival school that started in the late 1960s when the Americans visited Subic Bay, Philippines. They found a group of indigenous people called Aetas and became curious on how they can survive inside the forest using only their “bolo” (knife). Realizing that this specific knife would be a vital survival instrument in the upcoming war, they studied the Aetas’ primitive ways.

Today, JEST Camp is one of the country’s premier Survival Course Providers in the Philippines, offering adventurous souls a chance to uncover their primitive instinct for survival through teaching them indigenous skills with the widest range and most comprehensive survival training courses.


I was fortunate to join a group going to JEST Camp last December 2013. It was a 2 1/2 hour ride to the 3-hectare survival camp. We were all trying to get sleep during the trip but Shawn (one of the guys) was constantly talking. It was like listening at the disk jockey's booth for the live entertainment we had. Everybody was amazed at how he can monologue non-stop. Then he interviewed everyone, not even I was spared, though he was not able to get much from me. Finally, he stopped, when everybody was dozing off.

I was still yawning when we arrived at the camp's entrance. It was like entering Jurassic Park sans the dinosaurs (how I wish there were). It was still early and we were the only guests yet. We had a light breakfast as the operations manager gave us an overview of JEST Camp. I was excited to experience the adventure that awaited us.

Jungle Survival Training
Jungle Survival Training

Our first activity was a short lecture on Jungle Survival by Eduard Tolentino, one of the Aetas who pioneered at JEST Camp. He taught us how to determine the kind of trees to get drinkable water from. He also demonstrated how to make utensils, plate, and mug out of bamboo poles. Good thing Utazo was not with me, or he would have given a demo on how to eat bamboo stalks! Eduard even cracked some jokes and showed us two versions of the mug, one for Filipinos and another for Americans. Lastly, he discussed how to produce fire from wood and cook using a rice cooker and cookware made from bamboo.

Butterfly Gardenutterfly Garden
Bird Discovery Center and Butterfly Garden

The lecture was overwhelming with helpful information. I saw another group coming in for the talk as we left. We then headed to a museum that features facts about birds and prehistoric animals. The exit led us to a butterfly garden where kids were trying to get as close as possible to these beautiful creature. The next door is the entrance to the insectarium where spiderman and his friends are housed in fiber glass casings. Young ones and young once will surely enjoy this gallery and garden.

Goliath Swing
Goliath SwingThe Traveling Panda at the Goliath Swing
Goliath Swing

Our next stop was the dreaded Goliath Swing. Why is it dreaded? The swing is pulled up to around 30 meters high by a pulley and then is let go once it reaches the peak. Though we were safely zipped, I felt my balls left me, since I did not know when the swing will be released. After the first cycle, you will enjoy the ride as wind gushes onto your face. I would have had another round but our stomachs are already crumbling.

Luto sa Kawayan
Luto sa Kawayan

The aroma of rice cooked inside bamboo stalk made its way to my nostrils and made me even hungrier. While the Sinampalukang Manok looked really tasty as it was poured out of the bamboo. There was also lechon kawali, although it was not cooked using a bamboo. No one talked when we started lunch, not even Shawn. "Galit-galit muna!" was how I can describe what happened during our sumptuous lunch. Burp! Guest should try the Luto sa Kawayan for the rustic dining experience.

Bird Feeding
Bird Feeding

A little rest and we found our way to the Bird Aviary. It was time to feed and play with the birds. The birds flew into our palms filled with bird food. There's a good variety of birds in the sanctuary. Some were being trained for a bird show, an upcoming attraction once the amphitheater is setup.

Aerial Adventure
Aerial Adventure Walk at a Glance

We thought that would be the end of the trip, but lo and behold, another experience was waiting for us. The Aerial Adventure Walk is an obstacle course on top of the trees. Here you can experience the thrills of moving from platform to platform (tree to tree) via wobbly bridges, tight ropes and more! It has 5 rope challenges connecting several trees, which we need to cross to get to the other side.

Aerial Adventure
Burma Walk (left), Barrelling (top right) and Monkey Vine (bottom right)

The first two challenges were both a walk in the park. Burma Walk is constructed with just a single cable for the feet to walk on and two parallel rail cables for the hand hold. The users here will simply step on the lower cable, hold on the support cable rails, and walk to the platform at the opposite end. Barreling is much easier as guests are just to crawl in and through to the next platform. Monkey Vine started the real test. Several vertical lines drape down from the top cable as available hand support. What makes this exercise tricky is the foot cable that can sway from side to side, depending on how people are to balance on top while traversing.

Aerial Adventure Walk

Jacob's Ladder is comprised of 8 hanging planks that are spaced equally apart so that when a person steps on this, each one will give a good forward and backward motion. Now, this was tough! There are three ways of going through the Cargo Net: sit or crawl, do a low ride walk over it, or crawl on prone position. Whichever way it is done is not much of an issue as long as the person safely gets to the next platform. You would think it was easy, but it was not. A zip line caps the last part of the obstacle. Think of it as a reward as you make your way to the end.

Other Attractions
Other Attractions

Other upcoming attractions include the Myriad Maze similar to the labyrinth, View Deck Restaurant where you can eat and have coffee while overlooking a cliff and the Perch, where events and conference can be held overlooking the whole of Subic Bay.

There are also options to hike and trek in the Boton Falls as well as camp overnight. This could be a good training ground for new mountaineers who aspire to climb major mountains including Mt. Apo in Davao. Other overnight activities include Overnight Jungle Survival for the little ones (perfect for boy/girl scouts), Hunter Gatherer, Survival Bootcamp and Tribe (team building).

JEST Camp Rates, Shows and Schedule
JEST Camp Rates, Shows and Schedule

I enjoyed our mini-adventure and hope to come back here and try the overnight camp and other survival courses.

Upper Mau, Cubi-Triboa
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Zambales, Philippines 2200
Tel: 63 47.252.1489
smart: 63 908.820.7048
sun: 63 922.883.2763
globe: 63 917.796.4668


Tickets and Tours
Main Attraction
Opening Times
Entrance Packages
Camp Challenges
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