Flashback: Olongapo 64 years as part of the Philippines

This a bit historical and I bet that majority of the residents of the city are not aware that December 7, is not only the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, it also marked the significant date of Olongapo.

It was on Dec.7, 1959 that the US government turned over the jurisdiction of Olongapo to the Philippine government, after placing the community under the administration of the US Military, although the Philippines was granted its Independence on July 4th 1946.

It took more 14 years that Olongapo after 1946 that the US Navy relinquished its hold on the community of 60,000 and allowed the self-rule of locals. Olongapo as a reservation place was ruled by the US Base commander who also acted as the head of the school board. The boundaries of Olongapo were guarded by US Marines and the currency in circulation was USW printed Scrip Money and this currencies are trade in the black market of Manila.

It took the reservation community leaders to agitate the turnover to the community from US rule due to Anti-Filipino harassments, abusive and dictatorial rule. The abusive governance were exposure by the series of write-ups published at the Manila Chronicle and reported by the paper ace reporter Jose Baquiren. It was during the leadership of President Carlos P. Garcia and on the D-Day, Dec.7, 1959, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Felixberto Serrano accepted the turnover documents from the US government. Olongapo was a barrio of Subic town complete with electricity, water utilities and telephone.
From a barrio, it became a full pledge municipality of Zambales then headed by Gov. Manuel Barretto. A few days after, the town officials from mayor, vice mayor, municipal councilors were appointed by the Governor and the same with other officials from the police, judges and health authorities.

Olongapo was a picture of a “wild West place” according to the tales of some community leaders. Two years after the turnover, I migrated to Olongapo and stayed at my Auntie’s house along West Bajac-Bajac. I was just 17 years then and newly hired as correspondent of the Evening News, the country’s leading afternoon broadsheet owned by Harry Stonehill. My editor then was Felix Bautista, former professor at UST and most of the desk people recruited were former students like Julie Daza, Manny Azarcon, Jimmy Viray, Sonny Valencia and many others.

It was fun doing my press work in the evening as it afforded me to orbit the nightclub row in the company of detectives.

I ventured to interview community leaders like the late James L. Gordon, Jose Pacheco, Ching Arriola and even provincial officials of Zambales. I bet that these people no longer ring a bell to the generations today.

From Dec. 7, 1959, Olongapo has achieved several milestones and it is now a highly urbanized and first class city with more than 250,000 people, mostly migrants from all over the Philippines. I pursuit to write historical tales of city will continue. I am frustrated that the turnover is not well known to people at City Hall much more the generation of incumbent officials.

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