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Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx)

a travel blog by Joey Carlotta

Work is not really work when you enjoy it. Besides enjoying the technology involved in my business, I get to travel to different parts of the country in line with it. As I enjoy a good drive and take one whenever I can, doing so in line with work is a blessing. On this occasion, we had to travel to Subic in Zambales and Angeles City in Pampanga and it was the perfect opportunity of check out the new Subic – Clark – Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

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A new road to travel.

Subic, Philippines

Touted to be world-class, the SCTEx is currently 93.77 kilometers long stretching from Mabalacat, Tarlac to just before the Tipo gate of the Subic Bay complex. There is an access ramp giving motorists the option to exit onto the National Road leading to Olongapo. Apparently, plans are already afoot to extend this north from Tarlac all the way to Rosario, La Union where the fork to Baguio and Ilocos is. I have also heard that the road will also extend east to Dingalan, Quezon which will be very welcomed as it will open up the northern Quezon and the Cagayan Valley area.

The old route to Subic from the NLEX would take you through San Fernando, Bacolor, Guagua, Sta. Rita, Sasmoan and Lubao in Pampanga and Dinalupihan in Bataan. Travel time on this stretch would take up to 2 hours mostly dependent on traffic in Lubao. We made it in under an hour on the SCTEx running at the maximum prescribed 100 KPH speed limit. We could have made it much quicker if not for the ever present patrol cars on the road.

Getting on the SCTEx from the NLEX was simpler than the instructions we got from a newspaper clipping from the day before. This caused a bit of confusion with so many options coming from or going to Clark or Tarlac and involving the use of the National Highway. We drove down to the last main exit gate which is in Dau. We only started seeing signs to SCTEx at this point. After about a kilometer or so there was a sign to exit to apparently what is the Clark Logistics Gate. This will take you over the NLEX and over the National Highway and onto the interchange getting onto the SCTEx. In case you get disoriented specially for first-timers, watch out for the directional signs. If I am not mistaken this is the only time you actually see a sign directing you to Subic. Make a mistake and you end up heading for Tarlac City.

There was one word that came to mind when first driving the SCTEx and this was AWESOME! The road is magnificent and the countryside (still) pristine. It is amazing how the road cuts through some hills to keep it as level as possible. On some stretches you see it go on and on in a straight line as far as the eye can see. In the midday heat on the way back, the road in the distance shimmered like there was water on it. The pictures we took will not come near doing it justice.

For now it is a long and lonely stretch without any services areas nor the gas stations and commercial complexes that will surely sprout soon enough. There will be 4 interchanges between the Clark Logistics and Tipo Gates but you are committed either way until these are built. Toll for this span is P112 then there is the P19 on the Tipo gate if immediately entering Subic.

We headed for Angeles City before heading home the following day. On the way back you practically find yourself inside Clark but there is still no interchange to exit from the SCTEx. Frustratingly, you will need to exit again at the Clark Logistics Interchange and get off onto the National Highway. Again, should you get disoriented, watch out for the sign that will direct you to Angeles City and not Tarlac City. You are now on the National Highway and traffic will be heavier. It is not a long drive to the Clark gate and you will soon be crossing the Mabalacat – Angeles border. If you are in need for a meal or a snack, keep an eye out for A La Crème which will be on your right shortly after crossing the border and right before the Clark gate. The steaks and pastas are good and the cakes and pastries divine.

While we are on the topic of food, you might as well know that my passion for driving around is only second to food and to eating. In Subic, there are a growing number of food outlets including some Manila brands but 3 establishments standout. First there is the the MeatPlus Cafe where you get (what else but) good steaks and pure beef burgers. Located on Sampson Road, Meatplus is something of landmark being centrally located and surrounded by a number of duty free shops. Second is Seafood by the Sea which obviously specializes in seafood. Located along Waterfront Drive, you can opt to dine outdoors by the beach. It has a rather unique menu, one portion enumerating the different seafood they serve and the lower part the different ways they can be cooked. A bit pricey but kudos to the cooks. Finally there is the merienda of the of the Subic International Hotel - Delta. For P99 you get to eat all you can. I think the place is called the Terrace Cafe and is located along either Sta. Rita St. or Canal Road. I was assured that breakfast, lunch and dinner are just as good and equally fairly priced. The place is cool and cozy. Coffee is also good and served in full-sized mugs. Not a place for finicky non-smokers though but I smoke so what the heck.

We traveled on a weekday so there weren’t too many cars on the road although there were more people than usual in Subic but this could be attributed to the Labor Day holiday. In any case, there is more development in Subic and the general feeling and mood is optimistic and upbeat. Thankfully this project has not been touched by controversy as most other projects in the country have but as in any new project there is contention and the farmers are moaning about being displaced from their plots and the businessmen complaining about livestock on the road. Well, if our problems could only be that simple.

Happy trails!

permalink written by  Joey Carlotta on April 29, 2008 from Subic, Philippines
from the travel blog: Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx)
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