Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
What makes JE Camp Hotel and Resort different from other similar establishments?
First, JE Camp Hotel and Resort was a private enclave of one of the most powerful Filipinos. The owner of the sprawling, 25 hectare piece of property is no less than the former President Joseph Ejercito, more popularly known by his movie moniker, Joseph Estrada. JE stands for his initials. (Trivia: To the masses, he is simply “Erap”).
Second, this place was where President Erap was incarcerated after he was found guilty of plunder in a case filed against him by the Philippine government during the term of his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Instead of serving his penalty in the New Bilibid Prisons (national penitentiary), he was allowed to be under “house arrest” at his own farm. (Trivia: Filipinos resignedly and with a mixture of ridicule refer to this as “only in the Philippines”).
By virtue of the above, the JE Camp Hotel and Resort is steeped with history – about the owner and consequently, about the Philippines. The place was opened to the public shortly after President Erap regained freedom when he was given pardon by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
What does this hotel and resort offer to the public? It boasts of luxurious rooms with view of the Sierra Madre Mountains, mini Olympic pool, saloon with bar, fishing, horseback riding, children’s playground with pool and slides, sun decks, banquet halls, themed areas for big receptions/parties like weddings, etc.
Other than these amenities, the JE Camp also has a chapel in a forested area, a library and archive and a museum which houses memorabilia of President Erap from his beginnings as movie actor, his first political foray as municipal mayor, senator and as President of the Philippines. No cameras or videocam are allowed in the library/archive and museum.
Not too far from the museum is a burial ground with a large structure made of black granite and marble. According to the tour guide, President Erap supervised the building of this stone grave where he wished to be buried. The future graveyard is surrounded with tall trees and is perched on high grounds.
The farm turned hotel and resort is self-sustaining. It has its own piggery, vegetable plots, fruit-bearing trees, horses, ostrich, ducks, and fish. Ducks’ and ostriches’ eggs are sold fresh and/or salted. The place is also a favourite location for movies and TV dramas. The day I was there, a shoot for a TV drama show was on-going.
If you are fond of visiting places with a bit of contemporary history or would just like to satisfy your curiosity, a short daytime guided tour is available. Entrance fee is PhP150.00 per person. You get to ride in an electric tram in going around the 25 hectare property. The tour is completed in 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how much time you would want to explore the places open to the public.
Personally, the place gave me an over-all sense of “dark and heavy” feeling. I found the place foreboding, not the usual hotel/resort where there is an atmosphere of airiness and fun. I would not want to spend a night on any of their hotel rooms. I would recommend the place though for educational field trips as the museum and the library are worth looking into and the animals may be of interest to young people.
JE Camp Hotel and Resort is located at Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal. It is about a 2-hour drive from Cubao Business District, Quezon City. It is very accessible and the winding roads leading to it are in good condition.