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MANILA, Philippines – An adventure park in Pampanga is setting its sights on breaking and holding many records for amusement parks not only in the country, but in Asia as well.
"Gusto ko unahan [ang South Korea]," said Kerry Asuncion of GreenStrat, the brains behind SandBox adventure park Porac, Pampanga. He was referring to the park’s roller coaster zip line, which is currently being given final touches and is undergoing testing.
"[It will be] the first in the Philippines. It can be the first in Asia, [nagkakaunahan] tayo ng [South] Korea, eh. Or baka magkasabay [ang construction],” he said.
SandBox is located within the sprawling Alviera township, which is being managed by property giant Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) in partnership with Leonio Land. Geared towards being developed as a “green township,” Alviera will unveil to the public its first attraction, SandBox, on April 12.
According to Albert Ong, operations manager of SandBox adventure park, Alviera is very similar to Nuvali in Sta. Rosa Laguna.
But while Nuvali’s main attraction is its lake, for Alviera, it is this adventure park, due primarily to Porac’s rugged terrain.
"Gusto naming ipromote ang ecotourism. Para maging familiar na rin ang mga tao rito sa lugar since normally, kapag nagdedevelop talaga [ang Ayala Land], dapat may market. Iyong terrain kasi nito, bagay na bagay sa adventure park," he said.
The opening of SandBox is the first phase of Alviera's development, Ong said, adding that the park is for “kids and the young at heart.”
SandBox features the Giant Swing, the country’s tallest. Other attractions include the Aerial Walk Challenge, a high rope adventure course of nets and rope walkways; and the Adventure Tower, a five-storey structure that features a view deck and allows for rappelling and wall climbing, and serves as the jump-off point for the free fall and zip line.
Other features include all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and mini-ATV rides, a pump track for cyclists, a themed mini playground with picnic areas, a courtyard, and an open field for sports and outdoor activities.
While most attractions were ready to go, others such as the golf course and roller coaster zip line were still under construction one week before the park’s opening.
However on Tuesday, Ong said they were already testing the roller coaster zip line, which had been finished. “Hopefully, mao-open na ang zip line,” he said.
All by gravity
In accordance with Alviera’s drive to be as “green” as possible, SandBox is designed to have the smallest carbon footprint as possible. This is evidenced by the challenge course, the climbing activities, and the roller coaster zip line, Asuncion said, which are all “powered” by gravity and human energy.
The roller coaster zip line is like a regular zip line, but with a few literal twists. “It’s all by gravity. This one, you go up, down, left and right, it’s all by gravity,” he said.
“We want to be able to put in just minimal carbon footprint. We want it to be sustainable. Ang makikita mo dito [sa SandBox] na may minimal ecological footprint is the Giant Swing kasi may winch. All the rest are human powered and gravity.”
According to Ong, while the ATV consumes fuel and leaves a bigger carbon footprint than the rest of the park, “it’s a different adventure” and features some of the most beautiful views in Porac.
Another feature of SandBox is its pump track for cyclists, named for what riders do to keep in motion in lieu of pedaling.
The 5,000-square-meter track is divided into areas depending on difficulty, so that beginners up to experts, children and adults, can make use of it not only for leisure and play but for training as well.
"Ang concept niya, parang sa swing. Kung pump ka nang pump ng swing, 'di ba hindi siya tumitigil? Parang ganoon din ang concept niya," said track designer and instructor Vans Mendoza.
“Sa ganitong klaseng track, mas maganda kung kahit na BMX, mas ok. O mountain bike, iyong specially designed na hardtail. Full suspension, pwede din,” he said.
The park recently came under fire from bloggers when one blogger wrote of the accident she and her mother met while riding an ATV during the park’s media “preview” last Saturday, April 5, one week before the park’s opening.
Blogger Vance Madrid and her mother were injured when their ATV reportedly turned over when they made a sharp turn.
Her online call for help was reposted by other bloggers. In her post she alleged that she and her mother did not receive any significant help from ALI and public relations firm Stratos, Inc., but were merely provided with an ambulance that brought them to a hospital for treatment.
Blogger Corrine of SingleMomSuperMom wrote of the incident, "It is frustrating to know such incident is not even handled well by the establishment. If I [were] in the shoes of my friend I would really be disappointed. The day of enjoyment and fun became a disaster and pain."
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Albert Ong said their operator ATV Petrohead Inc. did what they could to ensure the safety of the passengers.
“They were given proper orientation for the ATV ride. Flat area ang pinapuntahan namin sa kanila. Pero pwedeng bilisan tapos may tumumba, pwede siyang mahulog sa ATV,” Ong said. “Just to be clear, alam ng lahat na extreme ride ang ATV. We are not saying na kami ang may kasalanan doon. It’s your prerogative.”
Ong also denied that ALI did not give assistance to Madrid and her mother. Aside from immediate medical assistance, he said, they also provided financial support, the amount of which he declined to divulge. He added that they also sent a nurse to check on the Madrids while they were in hospital.
When asked what ALI will do to ensure such incidents will not happen in the future, Ong said they will intensify the pre-ride orientation to better drive home the dangers of the ATV ride. They may also allow drivers to practice in a cemented area prior to entering the ATV trail.
“Hindi kami nagkulang, we gave all the safety measures. We gave them helmets, lahat kumpleto naman. We will make sure that all will be working and guides and medics will be in place,” Ong said.
In a separate interview last Saturday, Kerry reassured that while SandBox features attractions that may be very attractive to adrenaline junkies, the park is as safe as they could make it.
“Safety is a relative term. It is still a personal responsibility, but we do what we can to make the park as safe as possible for you,” he said.
“It's like driving a car. The car manufacturer put in all the safety features but there's only so much they can do. Same thing with us. There’s only so much we can do in safety standards. Everything now depends on the user. We were given parameters, but if they ignore this, iyan ang mahirap.”
As of posting, Vance Madrid had no public posts about the incident on her blog and social media accounts.