Outbreak Manila: Fun run with zombies

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Young event organizers dream of an 'Outbreak Philippines' and even an 'Outbreak Asia'

ONE-EYED ZOMBIE. Photo by Jee Geronimo

MANILA, Philippines – After finishing college, most graduates would do 3 things: take a rest (and go on a vacation while they’re at it), pursue further studies, look for work.

But for Deborah Victa, it was different; after graduating, she was busy planning a zombie apocalypse.

It all started with a dream. Deborah, or Deb, knew all along what she wanted—way before she even received her Ateneo diploma.

“I’ve always dreamt of putting up an events company,” says Deb, in a mix of Filipino and English. Such a dream coming from a fresh Communication graduate is not surprising; after all, she has a background in production and public relations, and had a stint with Mellow 94.7’s School of Jock. In addition to these, her parents had their own events company in the past.

“The only problem was that if we were to put up an events company, it would be so hard to set up an event that would really mark [our] territory in this already thriving industry,” she continues.

All it took was 1% of inspiration to jumpstart her young company, Re-create Events, with her partner, Angelo Cruz, and 99% perspiration to make Outbreak Manila possible.

Zombies? In the Philippines?

Deb admits that the idea of a zombie fun run is not entirely original. When Angelo went to the States for work, an event called Run for Your Lives was happening there. He immediately informed Deb: “You want to put up an events company, right? I already have an idea for you.” 

But with the originality issue notwithstanding, they still brought the idea here in the Philippines and had it patented under their company.

“We think it’s very timely. Of all the fun runs that are happening here in the country, and at the same time, the undeniable zombie apocalypse fad that’s going on, [when you] combine the two together, you got the perfect mix of a great event,” Deb says.

According to research conducted by Angelo for his undergraduate thesis as a Management major, the non-runners greatly outweigh the number of non-runners who join fun runs in the country.

With this information at hand, the partners decided to tap into the market of those who would go for the fun, more than the run.

“We want to cater to those types of people who have no motivation to run; that when we present Outbreak Manila to them, what they would think is ‘This is fun, I want to join,’” Deb says.

PREGNANT TOO. Photo by Jee Geronimo

Getting big

On race day on Saturday, April 14, more than the expected 5,000 runners came to outrun the living dead. The crowd started arriving at Nuvali Laguna as early as 4 in the morning, and the first wave of runners were released an hour-and-a-half later.

During the planning stage, however, Deb admits they did not expect a great reception from Filipinos. After all, compared to a regular fun run, the preparations for Outbreak Manila were a bit rushed.

“[In the past], when my parents would plan a fun run, it required roughly 8 months [before race day]. In order to get 5,000 [runners], they [would] have to have registration at least 13 weeks ahead of time,” Deb says.

But conceptualization and preparations for Outbreak Manila began December 2011; registration was opened last March 2. Into the 2nd week of registration, already half of their final runners were registered.

Outrunning the dead

Once the race began, wave after wave of zombies appeared from everywhere — behind a tall bush, waiting at the pavement ala patintero, or running from behind, hungry for a runner’s brains (or flags).

But more than the zombies themselves, the obstacle courses sprawled strategically in between the 5-kilometer trail, adding more fun to the experience. “It’s not your typical military teambuilding-type of obstacles. We wanted to make the feel of this run more of like a horror house walkthrough, video-game type,” Deb explains.

The runners were able to choose between the easy way and the horde (hard) way. In the easy way, the trail was longer, but with fewer zombies along the way. The distance was shorter along the horde way, but it came with a price: more zombies.

Along the horde way, there was an obstacle course called Zombie Guts wherein the runners were made to wear a red lace and walk like zombies to fool the real zombies into believing they were already dead.

When one got past and finished an obstacle course, he or she got additional health flags to survive the outbreak.

And when it came to the zombies themselves, Outbreak Manila did not disappoint. For this first event, while zombie registration wasn’t opened to the public yet, those who became part of the run attested to the professionalism and endurance of the zombies — half of whom were auditionees, and the other half, trained professional runners and stuntmen.

PHOTO OP WITH A ZOMBIE. Photo by Jee Geronimo

Successful invasion

Despite a lot of people getting bruises because of the nature of the trail, most of the participants were satisfied with the zombies’ performances and the overall event.

“Kudos to the zombies for keeping up with the scorching heat,” Rea Geraldino comments on Outbreak Manila’s Facebook page. Marianne Trinidad echoes the same sentiments: “We really felt the thrill with [the] hyper and career zombies!”

“That was just pure fun! Crazy concept and it turned out to be awesome! But what really took the cake was how organized the event was. Good job, Outbreak Manila, I’m definitely going to be in Season 2!” says Michelle Santiago. 

Leny Escalante comments: “Bruises—hand and knee—but it’s all worth the pain =)” 

With all the positive feedback, it’s safe to say it’s just a matter of time before the next Outbreak Manila.

When asked about the future of Outbreak, Deb smiles and excitedly says, “Hopefully, in the long run, we can change the name to Outbreak Philippines, or, dreaming bigger, Outbreak Asia. We really want to make this a traveling event.” – Rappler.com






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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.