SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Former volunteers and current employees and officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Friday have recalled the hardship in building the first Philippine free port and renewed their commitment for a more progressive Subic.
In a ceremony graciously attended by former heads of the agency, participants and guests in the culminating activity of the month-long SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration remembered momentous events since Subic Bay Freeport was established in 1992.
Foremost among the images evoked here was the historic time when the Stars and Stripes was lowered for the last time in this former American military base, and an enormous 20-by-40 foot Philippine banner was raised.
On Friday, as SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma led in unveiling a marker for the country’s biggest national flag here, she reminded everyone of the parallelism between the struggles for national independence and the sacrifices made by SBMA volunteers to forge a brighter and better future for the community and the nation.
“It is on this very site where battles have been fought between foreign countries, seeking dominion over these precious waters and land; where the Filipino nation finally gained full sovereignty over this place; and where 8,000 volunteers answered theclarion call of SBMA founding chairman Richard Gordon and stood united and undaunted by the huge task of securing the facilities around after the Americans left in 1992,” Eisma said.
“Which is why it is but necessary for us to consecrate this ground as a witness to the sacrifice and courage of Filipinos, and for the flag as a symbol of their bravery and pride,” she added.
“Flying the Philippine flag here 24/7 permanently should be a matter of pride and honor, not just for us at SBMA or the Freeport, but for every Filipino. For it is indicative of the kind of nationalism that is expected from each and every one of us,” Eisma also said.
The anniversary celebration also served as a reunion for former top officials of the Subic agency.
Among those who arrived to remember Subic’s historic past were SBMA’s founding chairman and administrator and now Senator Richard J. Gordon; former Chairman and Administrator Felicito C. Payumo, who succeeded Gordon; former Administrator Armand C. Arreza; and former Chairman and Administrator Roberto V. Garcia.
The former officials assisted Chairman and Administrator Eisma and other agency officials in giving recognition to pioneer investor-companies, former Subic volunteers, and current SBMA employees.
Gordon, in his message at the unveiling of SBMA memorabilia here, indicated the continuing concern of former SBMA officials for the Subic Freeport and revealed some level of cooperation among them. He said that he and Payumo share their endorsement of the proposed underground road network that would interconnect Subic with Manila.
A tribute to Subic volunteers that was held at the Volunteers Shrine became the culminating event of the month-long celebration that began on November 6.
The other culminating events included a pass-by air show by the Philippine Air force, water salute by Salvtug tugboats, a silent drill by Philippine Merchant Marine Academy cadets, and an exhibition by the SBMA Marching Band.
Starting Friday, the SBMA and various tourism establishments in the Freeport also held a night bazaar and food festival at the Remy Field here, which included two nights of musical entertainment. (Dante M. Salvana)
 SALUTE TO SBMA: Tugboats execute a water salute while Philippine Air force planes do a pass-by overhead during the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24, at the Subic Bay Freeport.
 SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, assisted by National Historical Commission Executive Director Ludovico Badoy (left) and SBMA Deputy Administrator for Administration Ruel John Kabigting, unveils a marker authorizing the permanent hoisting of the Philippine national flag at the Subic Bay Freeport during the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24.
 SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma and SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Support Services Ramon O. Agregado return a salute by honor guards during a pass in review held on the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24.
 Senator Richard G. Gordon, opens an SBMA memorabilia exhibit at the Harbor Point Ayala Mall during the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24. Assisting him are, from left: former SBMA COO Rodolfo “Inky” Reyes; SBMA Directors Julita Manahan, Maria Cecilia Bobadilla-Bitare and Benny Antiporda; former SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza; SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Mar Sanqui; and SBMA Port Marketing manager Ronnie Yambao.
 Senator Richard G. Gordon and former SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza peruse SBMA memorabilia exhibited at the the Harbor Point Ayala Mall during the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24.
 SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma joins a parade of employees during the SBMA 25th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, Nov. 24.