LIBERTY CALL: Olongapo City

Olongapo - Looking up Magsaysay Blvd.

Looking up Magsaysay Blvd from near the bridge.

Well, what can you say about the City of Olongapo on the island of Luzon in the Philippines? When I was in high school, I had a couple of friends who were older and had joined the Navy right after they graduated. When home on leave they would tell stories of a place in the West Pacific that you just couldn’t believe. You sort of blew it off as over-excited storytelling and tell yourself that there just can’t be any place on earth like this. Then, you get there and realize they were pretty accurate in their descriptions of this small Philippine city that appeared to pretty much survive on the money spent by soldiers, sailors and airmen looking to cut loose.

Whether you just spent months at sea or crawling through a jungle you need some sort of way to just relax for awhile and have some fun. I’m guessing that in 1972 the average age of enlisted military personnel was probably in their early 20’s. There were those who enlisted after high school and were sent to the fleet immediately after boot camp. So many who had never stepped foot into a bar, tavern or night club were allowed to do so here. This was where many young men could test their endurance and capacity for consuming alcohol among other substances, since many weren’t of legal age stateside. When off-base you were still

responsible for being an “ambassador” for the United States, so there was some form of decorum and conduct you were expected to follow. Let’s just say there was some “leeway” in what was considered proper conduct, but if there’s one place on earth where you can act like an uncivilized animal, it was this place.

Subic Bay Naval Base Gate

Near the gate to the base.

The main street right outside the Subic Bay Naval Base gate was Magsaysay Blvd. In 1972 there were concrete sidewalks that dropped off to a dirt road surface. They were just starting to pave the center of this road with concrete at the time. To cross the street during the monsoons you stepped off the sidewalk into dirt or mud for about 15 feet and then stepped up on a concrete slab in the middle, then off it into the mud and over to the other sidewalk. This main street was lined with bars with hotels sandwiched in between. One evening I went to a bar off the beaten path by myself. I must have been nuts! I remember walking back toward Magsaysay Blvd. on muddy side streets where there were no street lights, it was pouring rain and yet probably 75 degrees. We had been warned to not travel alone or off of the main streets there. You had to be very careful if carrying a camera or wearing a wristwatch as it would most likely get snatched. I never went to town with my wallet. I carried money in a front pocket and in my back pocket I carried my military ID and Geneva Convention card. At the time there were known terrorist and guerrilla camps in the jungle outside of town and it was reported that they would love to get hold of a U.S. Serviceman. There was one other time I ever went off the main drag and that was with friends. One of the guys had a girlfriend there who invited us to her place for a meal. I think the only use for electricity in her shack was a refrigerator and a light bulb. Oh, she must have had some sort of stove because she made us some stir-fry vegetables and fish which we washed down with ice cold San Miguel beer.

Olongapo - Cab to White Rock Beach

My cab that took me to White Rock Beach

There was one lazy Sunday I didn’t have the duty and wanted to get off the ship. To hell with terror threats and street crime, I’m going to take off to see some sights outside of Olongapo. I can take care of myself, since I couldn’t find any of my buds that would want to go with and it was the middle of the day. I went into town with a bunch of my new recently purchased 35mm camera gear. I got into a cab and told him to take me to White Rock Beach. This ride was pretty harrowing in that the driver would go like hell squeezing this little Datsun through narrow slots, around blind corners in the outside lane and zooming around ox driven carts. It was nice that part of the trip was on paved roads! He dropped me off at the beach where I spent a few hours just kickin’ back and chillin’. I peeked into the pool area at the resort near the beach and then caught a cab back to town. Pretty uneventful day but nice to just get away.

Olongapo - Alternate transportation

An optional mode of transportation here.

Olongapo - White Rock Beach

White Rock Beach, located west of Olongapo

Olongapo - White Rock Resort

White Rock Resort.

As I mentioned the main street was lined with bars and night clubs. The cool thing here is that most of the places had a musical theme. What I mean is that there were rock and roll places and next door may be a country western bar and next to that may be heavy metal (well, heavy as it was in those days). Walking down the sidewalk was just like playing with the tuner dial on your car radio. You would hear a Chicago song and then next door you would hear Janis Joplin and next door to that you might hear Led Zeppelin. What fascinated me is how the Filipinos were such masters at imitation. These weren’t records or tape playing that I heard, they were live acts. Imagine hearing Ring of Fire coming out of a bar and it sounds exactly like the bassy, baritone of Johnny Cash. You walk in and there is this little brown guy in a western shirt, jeans and boots, about 4′ 6” onstage with his band making this sound. It was incredible! It made you want to stick around and see how they did with Folsom Prison Blues or I Walk the Line. There were a couple of places that had a Janis Joplin act. There you would find this tiny native Filipina belting out this big sound on stage. She would even have the Southern Comfort bottle (probably ice tea) at the base of her microphone, occasionally grabbing a swig. She had the sound and the mannerisms down to a tee. There were some places where the band may follow up a Buck Owens song with something from the Beatles and they would sound spot-on! These people could pick up on the instrumentation and vocals of virtually anyone they studied and of course, western culture was the money-maker.

Olongapo - Alternate transportation

Another form of transportation here.

Another place I remember was called Swanky’s International. It was up at the end of Magsaysay and a short block or so to the east on Rizal Avenue. The bands there always covered songs by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple. The girls there could “doctor” your cigarette for you if you chose to partake. It was interesting that this place had a uniformed guard at the entrance, as some of the joints did. He was usually leaning in the doorway with one hand up around the corner of the door jamb. I was told that there was a button up there at his fingertips and when he would recognize someone from the local police, vice or drug force approaching, he would trigger a certain light on the wall that alerted the girls to hide any contraband that may be out.

The music was rather comforting in that it reminded you of home. Sometimes it was sad for the same reason. The one common thread with all the clubs was our beverage of choice, good old San Miguel beer. When especially sultry out you would offer the boy an extra 25 cents to bring you one from the bottom of the cooler with frost on it. And if he dug one from the bottom of the freezer/cooler that still has slush in it, give him an extra dime! They really could occasionally find one in that condition! The “working” girls would always come to your table and try to get you to buy them an over-priced cocktail with which the bar raked in their revenue. The girls were also there to solicit favors for later in the evening, if you chose. Most all of these women would tell you that they from some distant village or province and were here to make money for their family and for college. These girls were like temporary wives or girlfriends to some of the guys. They knew when you were getting shipped out and when you would return, so were available for you on your next visit to Subic Bay. Evidently there was a coconut telegraph that could provide the “ladies” with ship movement and know what we were doing before we did. John had his Yolanda and another shipmate had Jane Fonda Superstar, who worked upstairs at the D’Wave Club. Now I don’t remember how she got that nickname by us, but I’m betting it was before we were aware of the full impact of Jane Fonda’s (the actress) anti-war stand. Oh, to be young and single in this third-world Adult DisneyLand. Sort of a kinky nirvana. This was everything (and more) my friend Dave said it was several years prior. As I recall, the interiors of most of these places seemed the same; dimly lit and muggy. Some had swamp coolers or real a/c units, others not. Some had more spiders or lizards on the walls than others. Some had floor shows that would be really hard to describe.

Olongapo - Beachcomber Club 1973

The sign in the middle of the image says it all!

One club I remember up on the right side of Magsaysay had a pond out in front with a wrought iron fence surrounding the water. In this pond lived a 5 foot alligator (or was it a croc?). A woman stood outside with a basket where you could purchase a cute little live baby chick (or were they ducklings?) from her. Once you made the buy you were to toss it into the pond for the alligator to toy with, eventually gulping it down. One night I witnessed some inebriated marines daring each other to bite the heads off the little live creatures and then throw them in. Guess what? Headless chicks bobbing in the pool sort of took the sport out of the gator’s tortuous activity, but he ate them anyway. Don’t let anyone tell you a U.S. Marine ain’t tough!

Olongapo - Grand Ole Opry Club

The Grand Ole Opry on Magsaysay

Olongapo - The "working" girls at Grand Ole Opry Club

Some of the "working" girls of the Grand Ole Opry Club

Walking this street was a multi-sensory barrage of sights, sounds and smells. When you left the main gate at the base, the road leads you right over Shit River. Smell would tell you how it got the name as well as looking upstream, you could see all the shacks of the barrio built up to and over the water. As you crossed the bridge there were children below in their small banca boats begging GI’s for change. I suspect there was a hierarchy within these beggars because there would be some poorer ones with no boat who simply bobbed around treading the stinky brown water. Whether you tossed pennies, a nickle or a dime, they would dive for it and come up holding it in their hands. This river was a 40 foot wide open sewer, for god’s sakes!

Olongapo - Beggar kids in Shit River

Beggar kids from the barrio working in Shit River

As you walked into town, you smelled the beer and tobacco wafting out of the bars and clubs. You smelled the street foods, like fresh popcorn and the monkey meat or chicken livers grilled on skewers on sidewalk hibachis. Smells from cafes or restaurants were usually pleasant but may be followed by the odor of sewage and then a few feet down you’ll get a whiff of some sweet jasmine and then back to something rotten wafting from an alleyway or bad plumbing. On the road you could catch the roar of a colorful jeepney passing by or the smelly exhaust and putt-putt sound of a passing 2-stroke motorized tricycle or sort of a moped rickshaw contraption that could carry 1 or 2 (or 3 close friends).

Olongapo - D'Wave Club and 007 Club

Jeepney in front of the D'Wave Club and the 007 Club.

One food ritual I had there was when first going into town I would go to a little cafe on the left side of Magsaysay a few doors past the bridge and get a plate of pancit canton, a noodle dish. Sometimes I would order the lumpia, too. They were like spring rolls, sometimes fried. In addition to anything grilled on a sidewalk hibachi, I also ate a few hum baos. These were a sweet doughy bread that had meat in the center that was like it was in a barbeque sauce. I asked a mama san once what the meat was and she said “dog”. They were still pretty tasty. The one street food I always thought that some evening I would get drunk enough to eat was the balut. I never did. Women would stand on a street corner with a basket with some steamy towels in it. Buried in these warm towels were duck eggs. These fertilized eggs had an embryo inside that when at a certain stage of development, were then boiled. Essentially, it was like our hard boiled eggs but with a little feathery body treat inside. Just peel the shell off, sprinkle with some salt and eat. I was told that you should keep track of the semi-developed beak so you could use it as a toothpick.

Olongapo - Patrick & sweetheart

Patrick & his honey-ko

I had another food ritual there that took place on the base. When we would come back to Subic Bay from Viet Nam for repairs and maintenance, the very first place I would go was the enlisted mens club on the base. Wasn’t that called the Sampaguita Club? I would go there and order a filet mignon and a 7&7. Those several special meals there are the only time in my life I can recall ever having filet mignon. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered it stateside.

158 Responses to LIBERTY CALL: Olongapo City

  1. Jeff Zavada says:

    Dennis, remember the old couple who would take turns begging for money. One night it would be the woman with her hand out and eyes rolled back in her head and then the next night it would be the husband.

    • No Jeff, I don’t remember them. I do remember an occasional cruel bastard that would throw a handful of shiny washers into Shit River from the bridge. The kids would dive for them thinking they were dimes. When they surfaced they would be super pissed! It wasn’t too funny when they had an accomplice on the bridge that would give chase and slice the offending sailors achilles tendon. Ouch!

      I heard stories that before our time over there when you had to wear a uniform off base on liberty. When crossing the bridge you would be pestered by the boys wanting to give shoe shines. If you refused or gave them any shit, you got a streak of black shoe polish across the back of your whites.

      • John says:

        69/70 Had a shoeshine boy rubbed neutral polish over my spitshined shoes when I said no. Never anything on my whites

      • wayne mc cullough says:

        I guess me and my buddies were cruel. We threw those big Hong kong dollars AT the kids in the boat in shit river

      • I never had much trouble with kids but did get in a knife fight with some guy I tried to sell my watch to and he fried a folding money trick. I never went to the White Rock but a fellow crewman went there and was murdered. Our ship the Shangri La was there in 1970 and I lost count of how many times. I did have a bar girl wife who would greet me when we came in except when she had gone to stay with her family and then she would provide a substitute for me. Our favorite drink was the Cuba Libre and of course when money was low it was San Miguel. I never wasted me with alligators but usually went right to the club or out to eat off base. I only went to the club on base once cause why would you put yourself in that positon when across the river you could do anytning you wanted. We also went to the VFW once or twice for meals, etc. I never had much problem with kids cause I knew where I was going and didnt waste time getting there. I remember having to bargain with all the drivers of the different types of vehicles. We went to shows which had a standard show they might still have somewhere today. You would have people dancing between sticks being banged together. Then it would lead up to a girl with no or few clothes who would pck cash out of sailors mouths with her
        vagina. I also remember listening to a band practice on the island near the base where the navy ran a small resort. They did practice songs until they were perfect. I remember when we were in yokuska they had bands from the Philipines providing enertainment there because the Jap[anese could not do it well enough.

    • Donny Uherek says:

      Jeff, I remember the two beggers, I tipped them at least once back in 1973. (USS CORAL SEA-CVA43)

      • Richard, '65-'69 CVA-14, TemDu, Subic says:

        66-67-68 (USS Ticonderoga)
        Yes, whites only for liberty. Shiny stuff thrown at SR divers. Aggressive shoeshine boys – although we had an armed RP gate guard – occasional racing stripe awarded. But it was a very violent place at that time. We had snipers, pick pockets, the “Mickey Mouse” bomber, strong arm robbers (armed pick pockets, murders, “Pirates” and the Hukkabakuk Communist Provisional Revolutionary Government. Or, just the “Huks”. Funny how command filtered everything to fit their narrative requirements.

        Organized gangs (Ziggi, Roxos, B’nai alam) didn’t exist. Snipers (Or how’d that big gouge get on the foredeck of the harbor patrol boat?) were ‘Japanese holdouts’. Pirates (again, didn’t exist) were a continuing problem for the recreation facility on Grande Island. Not like aggressive pan-handlers. Like armed squads with AKs IEDs, and gas powered dugouts. Trying to rob the casino and the hotel.

        Interesting times, as they say. And. like the old guy sez, “They look taller with machine guns.”

    • David Lush says:

      I was stationed there 71 to 74 and don’t remember anyones heals getting sliced. I worked Armed Forces Police at the gate and in town.
      The memories I will never forget and that’s why I’m going back around July/August to retire or maybe Cebu City.

  2. Bobby (Stubby) Daniel says:

    My favorite port. I was stationed there from 1974 to 1976. The aligator was in front of Paulines. I worked Harbor patrol Security on PBR’s, Special Operations Branch, and Kennelmaster at K-9 (Military Working Dog Branch). Learned to like baluts.

    • Hey Stubby, thanks for the memory clarification on Paulines! That definitely sounds very familiar. It sounds like you had some interesting duty there after your time on the Franny H. Congrats on the baluts, LOL!

      Stay tuned for other LIBERTY CALL: posts, but the rest will just be mostly photos. The memories of Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila and Kaohsiung,Taiwan in 1972-73 are just not as vivid to me as Olongapo.

    • David Summers says:

      Was there in 74. Spent most of my time at the “L” club or the Sierra Club. Did balut once! (It was raw, not boiled) Tried dog once as well…loved the monkey meat!

      • Oh man, you must have really been toasted to eat a raw one! I used to like those steamy doughy things with the sweet BBQ meat filling in the center. One time I asked a mama-san in a club what the meat was in the center and she told me it was dog. I still ate a few even after that in addition to the awesome “monkey” meat on the stick. I think those steamed dough things are called hum-bao.

      • J. Jones RM1 USN (ret) says:

        those doughy things you mention below are called Sho-pow, a chinese steamed bread, which is why it is doughy, steamed, not baked.

    • wayne mc cullough says:

      I’m glad to see something about the alligator in print. Now my friends & family will believe me when I tell them about getting baby ducks drunk and then feeding them to the alligators. I can’t believe we were that cruel during my 3 deployments on the “Connie” in the 60’s

      • Jon Covey says:

        Well, mine is the best, we had a RMSN that when the kids wanted him to buy the ducks and feed to the gator, he just said the hell with the gator and bit the head of himself. The locals about came unglued for that one, think it was in 1973/74, and the rm was our own dave hughes. If I remember right….

    • then you remember Col. Towey

    • Richard, '65-'69 CVA-14, TemDu, Subic says:

      Yep. I was sent back to the hospital, and while waiting for my ship, I invested a lot of time drinking and whoring. I must have been obnoxious because the MAA ‘drafted’ me to Base Security. I worked security from O City to Grande Island. Man! There were a lot of ways to get yourself messed up. Most fleet visitors had no idea how many guys got robbed, rolled, hurt, and occasionally killed. They just saw it as an Adult Disneyland of bars and brothels. Which it was. It was also not a good place to take shortcuts off the beaten path. Even if you were an SP, in uniform, with brassard and nightstick.

      Meanwhile we’re fighting Huks, performing EOD against the Mickey Mouse bomber, and dealing with petty gang crime in the vill. I still remember a couple of those nights; The Guy who was to Dumb to know he was Dead; One Riot, One Ranger; and Hey, it’s just one eye. Lets go F*Ck ‘em up! We coped by forming the “Murder of the Week Club” – pun on the “Book of the Month Club” – where we all get completely drunk and compare notes on the most gristly murder we were involved in, cleaned up from, or transported the body. We didn’t kill anybody that I know of, but some guys were really busy in that town

      Glad you guys morphed those Liberty Boats into PBRs. Those Proahs could run circles around our fastest Liberty Boats. Guns would have been nice, too. But, hey, technically, we were not at war, the Huks didn’t exist, the last Japanese sniper died out, and PI was an ally. So why do you guys keep asking for 45s? Could it be the big gouge on the bow? The one that just ‘happened’ one day?

      But, you know, you’re right. They just never would believe it at home. They just won’t believe it. Oh, and don’t ever ask me about the ‘job interview’ I had after the “One Riot.” incident.

  3. Bobby (Stubby) Daniel says:

    Remember the Spanish Gate. We use to eat there on the way to the Club for happy hour where the drinks were about 10 cents. Then we would hurry out the main gate. When the liberty limit was reached in town, the gate was closed off. This may have started when the Battle Groups increased.
    I think the Radar Gang settled on D’ Wave Club. We didn’t feel too comfortable in Swanky’s.

    • Man Stubby, your memory is great! I think I’ve fried most of mine, hehe. Yes, now I remember the Spanish Gate. I believe you may be correct on the D’Wave Club being a sort of central location for the Radar Gang. That’s where Scotty’s girl “Jane Fonda” worked. I think Swanky’s may have been the hangout for the Weapons guys or maybe it was Engineering. I know that the couple of times when I left there, the sidewalks felt like walking on a waterbed all the way back to the ship!

  4. Bobby (Stubby) Daniel says:

    I once talked a new guy into wearing his dress blues on liberty in Olongapo. He was very popular with the ladies (must have sweated off 10 pounds).

    The base was outstanding with the beaches (dungaree, all hands, Cubi Point, Grande Island), golf, bowling, horses to ride. There was even a football team that played in full pads against Guam, Japan, Okinawa, Clark, and maybe Korea. The players were mostly TAD from the large ships. When I was on the Connie we had an OS there for the whole cruise. I went to a game during the rainy season once. Too windy to use umbrellas and trash cans beeing tossed around but the game went on.

  5. J. Jones RM1 USN (ret) says:

    Brought back some memories. I was there well before any paving of roads or sidewalks….First appeared on the scene in ’65…Hung out n the Joy Club, Lil China Inn, and a few others..Was actually stationed at the ComSta at San Miguel about 30 miles north towards IBA. Spent lots of time in Subic City….sometimes never made it out of there to get to Olongapo. And could I tell you stories.. similar to those you experienced or heard though….I just had a bunch of them after doing 3 tours all with extentions there and at Sangley Pt. Anyway enjoyed the read….good job.

  6. Jim Val says:

    I was TAD from NSGA Taipei to San Miguel May-Jun ’71. Took a few trips to Po Town, but only when Subic was void of ships. We would rent a micro-bus, stop at the San Miguel brewery in San Antonio for a case of beer and finish it by the time we got to PO. I remember the gator pit, and a place called the Rocket Room that we stayed away from for some reason that I don’t remember. My recollections of Subic are hazy as we were hammered before ever arriving. I have a better memory of the Cross Roads at San Miguel. My favorite spots were the Sampiquita and the UAC (Ugly American Club) – what an appropriate name. There was a kick ass band at the UAC in those days. There was one place that was off limits after the Huk’s shot it up one night – or so the story goes. The bars at the cross roads would rotate the pay day floor show. I have this vision of a drunk sailor laying on the floor of the UAC with a dollar bill in his mouth, and someone yells out “does your mother know what you’re doing?”
    Liberty in Taipei was excellent also; but much more civilized and pricey – everything cost 3 times as much as in the PI.

  7. AL Wellman says:

    Thank you for the photos. I was there from 1970 to 1972 and regret I never risked taking my camera outside the main gate. During the 71-72 cruise I was assigned to Shore Patrol every duty night in port. I usually spent the night walking back and forth along Magsaysay, but one night they had enough SPs to assign me to the Olongapo jail to take custody of any sailor unfortunate enough to be arrested by the local constabulary. The city was home to three political parties at that time; and the party controlling local government incarcerated the other two as outlaw gangs. The back wall of the jail was a line of three cells separated by bars. The place was illuminated by a single naked bulb dangling by an electrical wire from the ceiling in front of the center cell. Each cell was standing room only. Male members of the two gangs were in the two outer cells to prevent them from injuring each other through the bars. The center cell was for female prisoners. There was a small crowd of visiting friends outside the cells bringing food to the prisoners since none was provided otherwise. The crowd was generally attired in shorts, tee-shirts, and shower sandals, but the immaculately groomed police wore crisply pressed military-style khaki uniforms and carried M16 rifles.

    • Thanks Al, for the comments! You notice I have no photos at night, hehe. I too stood Shore Patrol duty during the ’72 WestPac and the ’73 WestPac a few times. It was a different perspective on an evening in Olongapo when you were stone cold sober. I don’t remember if a senior Petty Officer carried a side arm or not, but all I ever had was the billyclub. We broke up a couple of fights, but it was pretty uneventful for the most part. I we saw a sailor taking a leak in an alley we made sure he came back toward Magsaysay and not wander off the other direction. Do that and you may never be seen again! There was a club down at the end of Magsaysay where it met Rizal that I think was up on a second floor. We were supposed to break up a crowd but nobody was causing a real problem so we let everyone have their fun. We did get to shove our way through the huddled mass of guys to get a front row look at the “floor show” the girl was putting on. When we would walk into a club a girl might ask me “Hey, what your name?” In the deepest bass I could muster I’d reply “Johnny”. She’d say “Johnny who?” I’d reply “Johnny Cash!” “Oooohhh, we love you!” LOL

      That jail sounded pretty hairy!


      • Stubby says:

        Sounds like the New Jollo Club where once a sailor swallowed a peso coin during a show and was taken to Cubi Point Hospital to have it cut out. Once referred to as the New Jollo Chapel before taking our Squadron Chaplin to services there.

    • John Arnold says:

      Thanks for getting me back to the base, never thought I’d make it. I was in Subic, 70, 71, 72, 73 off and on. DD852

    • bobby says:


  8. AL Wellman says:

    On my first Sunday off duty in Subic Bay, I decided to see what Grande Island offered as an alternative to Olongapo. At the boat landing they warned us to stay within the cleared area on the landward side of the island because the harbor boats couldn’t patrol the South China Sea side, and pirates would come ashore armed with shotguns and machetes to rob any sailors they found. When the boat reached the Island, most of the passengers headed for the Navy club to the left, but I chose to explore the outdoor recreational facilities to the right on my own. When I reached the far end, I found an off limits sign where a single lane dirt road continued walled in by nearly impenetrable jungle vegetation on either side. It had rained the day before, and I could see no recent footprints or vehicle tracks on the dried road surface of raindrop pocked mud. No one was watching from the cleared area behind me, so I decided to take a short trip down the road. I was almost immediately hidden from the clearing as the road curved into the jungle. I continued cautiously watching for footprints or recently disturbed vegetation beside the road. I found none and followed the road around the island to ultimately emerge from the jungle behind the Navy club. Enroute I found numerous concrete fortifications (some damaged by second world war artillery fire) and a rusted 6-inch coastal artillery gun being overgrown by the jungle. There was also a rocky beach on the South China Sea where the water was decidedly clearer than the turbid sandy beach on the bay side recreation area.

    On later trips I took a mask, snorkel and swim fins to explore the coral reef off the rocky beach. It was like swimming in an aquarium with the colorful tropical fish and reef animals. I never saw any pirates, but there were numerous small, transparent jellyfish which were difficult to see and relatively painful when I accidentally let them touch exposed skin. A tee-shirt was usually adequate protection, but I recall a painful episode when one got inside my shirt.

    Another time I took my camera to get photos of the old coastal artillery disappearing rifle of what the Army had called Battery Flake of Fort Wint. As I was focused on finding a good perspective for natural lighting of the subject, I was discovered by one of the Filipino security personnel employed by the base. He was patrolling the road on foot with a shotgun. He was happy to help me continue my photographic documentation, and would theatrically posture with his shotgun to clear subject areas of interest before I entered. We talked about our backgrounds and jobs as he escorted me back to the Navy club. I thanked him for his help and he invited me to visit his family’s club in Olongapo that evening.

    He turned out to be just another guy collecting a fee for each customer he could bring in. He had a couple of side routines for making sure I spent all the money I brought with me and he established his percentage rather than the club owner. As we were walking down Magsaysay, he surreptitiously pointed me out to a conspirator who then made a clumsy attempt to pick my pocket. He promptly suggested it would be safer if he carried my money. I had only brought a few dollars with me, so I played along to see what happened. He called one of the hostesses over as soon as we selected a table at the club. As we were having drinks, he inquired indelicately if I liked the girl; and then asked if I had any more money, because it wasn’t really enough. I thanked him for showing me his family’s club; and walked back to the base saddened by the evidence the corruption of Magsaysay didn’t stop at the main gate.

    A friend aboard a minesweeper awakened in his bunk one night to find one of the shipyard employees searching through his trouser pockets. Do you remember the story about the truckload of Japanese cameras and stereo equipment being stolen from the Subic Bay post exchange and ramming through the main gate to disappear into Olongapo? Air Force personnel had a similar story about one of the Clark Field crash trucks running through the front gate with sirens blaring. I don’t know if they were true; but I remember each US gate guard was unarmed, but accompanied by a Filipino with an M16 — because it might be an international incident if a wealthy American were to shoot an impoverished Filipino. I wonder if the Filipino would have fired high if directed to shoot an escaping thief.

    • Thanks again for more Subic Bay memories, Al! I don’t recall ever hearing of the infamous PX heist on the base. I like your story of how it’s hard to trust anyone there during that period of history. It seems as if most of the locals were networked or in cahoots somehow to separate sailors and G.I.’s from their dollars/pesos. In regards to your last sentence, YES, my cynical side says that the armed Filipino would have fired high, since the thief was probably a cousin-brother-uncle who would later share in his bounty with the “guard”.

      I only have one vague memory of Grande Island. Some buddies and I took a water taxi out there one evening to have some drinks at the club. I suspect we had already “prepped” at the Sampaguita club on base. All I remember there is stepping off the water taxi and walking the narrow dock toward land. It was night-time and there were lights under the dock illuminating the sealife below in the crystal-clear water. It felt sort of like walking over an aquarium. I don’t think we stayed there very long and headed back to Olongapo for the rest of the evening.

  9. AL Wellman says:

    Some of the clubs could be rented for a private party. One of the Australian ships held a party allegedly beginning when the Australian crew simultaneously removed all their clothes. That event was long remembered by the surprised party hostesses.

    Do you recall the US Navy swap program in effect during the Vietnam War? It was possible for a sailor to swap duty stations with another sailor holding an Identical billet on a different ship. There were a number of restrictions, but it was attractive to sailors on a deploying ship who wanted to avoid a prolonged separation from their families, and to sailors on a returning ship who wanted to continue enjoying Olongapo’s life style.

    I met a division officer who related a swap story illustrating the possibilities. As I recall, one of his third class petty officers was in the midst of a difficult family situation which was likely to degenerate into a hardship separation, or at the very least distract the sailor from his duty responsibilities. So a swap was arranged with a sailor from a returning ship as his ship prepared for deployment. The division officer reported the replacement petty officer was a good performer at sea, but made various arrangements to live ashore whenever the ship was in Subic Bay.

    The first visit to Subic Bay was marked by the new sailor informally scheduling a division party at an Olongapo club which rewarded him with an individual room with food, drinks, and hostess services for as long as the ship was in port. New sailors returning to the ship reported the colorful party with stories encouraging shipmates to visit the club on subsequent nights ashore. The environment encouraged testing limits to provide new experiences maintaining the popularity of the club for subsequent visits to Subic Bay.

    Ultimately the wild party excesses killed one of the hostesses. The replacement petty officer was reportedly arrested by Philippine authorities; and the ship sailed without him.

    • No Al, I never heard of that “swap” program. I first reported for sea duty in 1970. That was when Rear Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was in charge and it was called the “new” Navy. We saw lots of other changes effected that bothered the senior PO’s and other career guys in the way we were allowed some relaxed restrictions. It’s possible the “swap” thing could have been Zumwalts doing, I don’t know.


    • Stewey says:

      Yeah well,,ya gotta admit it was hot up there,you know us Aussies don’t stand on ceremony.
      DDG. Snipe 1969

    • Greg Hoffer says:

      I remember the swap program. I was stationed at NSD in subic from 7/1969 to 9/1971.
      A chief I worked for had been in the Philippines for 9 years and told me how he would swap his eligible stateside duty for the subic duty which was considered preferred sea duty.
      I think he planned on staying there till he retired

      • AL Wellman says:

        I remember rumors of some CPOs and warrant officers purchasing clubs in Olongapo and retiring there. It seemed like a good retirement income at the time; but I wonder how subsequent political changes may have affected their lifestyle.

      • Dan O'Riley says:

        I spent 69 thru 72 on wespac ships and in fact my last 10 mo’s in the navy I swapped off a LPD onto a DLG with another SM3 who had a family in San Diego . For me it was I didn’t want to sit in SD and chip and paint after the wespac cruise I had just been on! Also remember Blaylocks base taxi’s I think he was an old retiree! Favorite hangout was the U&I Gardens inside /outside bar!

      • greg says:

        Thats funny because I use to hang out at the U & I club a lot. They had the greatest band who could imitate any group. A really fun place!!

  10. J. Jones RM1 USN (ret) says:

    The “swap program” really had more to do with your detailer in Bupers. I pulled off a swap with another RM after we finished ComSysTech school. We both entered the 3 month school with ongoing orders to our final duty station. I had been ordered to NorthWestCape Australia, and he had orders to NavCommStaPhil at San Miguel where I had been stationed previously. All during the three month school, I made up things I knew he would not like about the place. I pretty much told him he may as well get his divorce now as he surly would have one before getting out of the PI. Then as a good friend, I told him I would trade orders with him. He would love Australia and hate the Philippines. He agreed, so I got on the phone to my detailer (someone I knew and had previously been stationed with), and we both agreed on the phone to him that we wanted to trade orders…With the phone call completed a week later a message came in amending both of our final orders. He went to Northwestcape, I went back to Comsta Phil. I then took 30 days leave upon arrival, went to Cavite City, to Sangley Pt, my old duty station. The comcen there was part of ComstaPhil. I had left 9 months previous and my old Chief was still there. A few strings were pulled and I was slotted to return to Sangley Pt. After my leave, I went back to San Miguel to check in again, pickup my orders sending me to Sangley and left again for Cavite City….I would still often go to Po town via Victory Liner or Saulog whichever left Cavite first. Since my work schedule much of the time was rotating two eves, two days, two mids then 80 hours off, I had plenty of time to spend once getting there.

  11. AL Wellman says:

    I found an interesting history book by Gerald Anderson entitled “Subic Bay from Magellan to Pinatubo”. He indicates there was nothing left of Olongapo after the scorched earth evacuations of World War II. The Olongapo we remember was part of the Subic Bay Naval Base when the Philippines became independent in 1946. The Navy built a community with water, telephone and electrical utilities for Filipino civilian employees at the base. When NAS Cubi Point was built during the Korean War, the runway alignment included the Filipino village of Banicain. Filipinos living in Banicain were relocated to Olongapo when their village was demolished. Although they may have enjoyed new homes with public utilities, unemployed Banicain Filipinos chafed at the restrictions of living on a naval base. Olongapo became a focal point for perceived continuation of US colonial practices. The issue reached national proportions when an American sentry at the Naval Supply Depot shot a Filipino and the Navy failed to put the sentry on trial. In response, the mayor of Manila announced in July 1955 that American servicemen accused of crimes in Manila would be tried in Philippine courts rather than released to military authorities. Martial law was declared in Olongapo when the American owner of an Olongapo auto parts store was murdered in October 1959. Although Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay (for whom Olongapo’s main street of clubs was named) had ended the Huk rebellion in 1954, the murder was attributed to the Huks when the town of Olongapo was turned over the Philippine government in December 1959.

  12. AL Wellman says:

    I just remembered a song of the era sung by some of the talented musicians of the clubs. I was sung to the melody of the Ballad of the Green Berets substituting “Subic Bay” for “Green Berets” and using a chorus of “She went short-time with America’s best.” Unfortunately, that’s all I remember. Can anyone recall more of the lyrics?

  13. John Hodges says:

    Green back dollars hangin’ on her chest.
    She’ll go short time with Americas best.
    One hundered men she’ll lay today.
    But only three in a normal way.

  14. Frank McManus says:

    was on the Newport News ca 148 ,1972 veitnam tour,,Had a blast in po city,,,,,,,thats about all i remenber.

  15. What about the Sanpageita Club on base……downed a lot of Paul Mason Cold Duck there before heading out to town…….yee haa

  16. chuck graham says:

    Dennis, this site was a great find. !! Your memories from Subic brought back soooo many mem’s from my time there. I don’t quite remember the names of the bar’s I visited just the great times. You’re right about the singers, they could impersonate anyone, and it did make you homesick on some of the songs. Was out there with you on the gunline brother, Newport News CA148.

    • Hey, thanks for the comments Chuck! I remember one day I snuck up topside for a quick smoke. You guys were sitting north of us firing inland somewhere between Hue and Quang Tri. I had my Instamatic camera with me but you guys were about a mile away. I borrowed the starboard lookouts binoculars and held one of the lens up to my Instamatic lens to get a shot of the Newport News. That distinctive sihoulette was even more awesome with all that fire-power! I just ran across that photo lately somewhere around here recently. Take care, bro!

      • chuck graham says:

        Yea I remember eating a nice meal at the EM Club one night and the band playing in the other room started singing I beleive it was the Beach Boys ” and I told my buddy, My God The Beach Boys are here !! We stopped eating and stepped into the other room and there on the stage was just a local PI band playing…What a surprise !!! The Filipinos were capable of a lot of things, I remember a shipmate who worked in the Officers Wardroom and one day he and I were sitting on the mess decks and he took the celophane wrapper from my cigarette pack and with just a few twists he made a ballerina out of the celophane. Unbeliveable !! I have a lot of respect for for the Philippine People. I beiive the US did a great diservice to our allies the Filipinos.. Just my opinion.

  17. Ralph Cain says:

    I served on the USS Gray DE 1054 about the same time. ’72 would have been my first cruise. We were probably in Subic at the same time. Your article brought back some interesting memories. It sure was an experience for a small town Pennsylvania boy.

    • Marge says:

      Hi! I’m looking for a man named Ralph that met a woman named Sally year 1972. He fathered a daughter in year 1973. Our mom passed away and thats all left with us. I’m trying to help my sister.
      I apologized I know its out of your topic.

  18. Dave Dysart says:

    I was an RM on the USS Ranger in 1974 when we were in Subic… this brought back so many memories… I had a real cutie pie from the Pearl Club named Marlene that was stunning… spent many days on Grande Island with her but she had a secret about her home life that I tried to crack but couldn’t, probably married but wouldn’t admit it. Then I moved in with Bonnie who lived in a little apartment somewhere behind the clubs, I would just poke my head out of the door and there was the little neighborhood store where I would get my cold ones… Bonnie took real good care of me and we lived with her mother, sister and brother who all had jobs around the town… then I got daring one night and decided I would drop in on Bonnies sister at what ever club she worked at…. last thing I remember was the shattered San Miguel bottle around my feet and my body heading toward it…. Things went down hill from there and probably a good thing cause Bonnie was looking for a ride to the States. I had a blast in the P.I…. went back in 1994 to shoot fireworks off the barges in Manila for the centennial celebrations… sure did bring back a lot of memories…. I used to have home movies of me diving off the diving board at White Rock… smashed my nuts everytime, but I was the only one who dared and I loved it… There was a little quiet joint around the corner that also had hot peanuts and we would listen to my buddy Lang play guitar, drink San Miguel and eat peanuts…. what a place… I still beg every Phillipino I know for a plate of Pancit…. only they know how….Monkey meat, lumpia, pancit, and an occational baloot for breakfast with a healthy dose of White Castle Rum. … I can still hear the Moody Blues Nights in White Satin, playing over and over and over.
    And then there was the American community 1976 4th of July celebration in Singapore….
    OR….. the excursions to MIDWAY ISLAND…..

  19. Jim Mount says:

    Wow, so many memories of times long ago. I was attached to VA-52 that deployed on the Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War. I remember many great times in Olongapo, walking down the streets hearing the bands in the clubs play, going in for a few San Miguel beers and lots of dancing with the local girls. If you closed your eyes sometimes you would think you were listening to the actual band that recorded the music. “Smoke on the Water” or as I use to refer to it as “The Phillipine National Anthem” blarred everywhere. I remember one particular afternoon sitting in a bar listening to “July Morning” ( a Uriah Heep song ) and savoring the time. I was single back then and I rermember the sadness I had when we left port for the last time to head back to the states. So happy to be heading home but so sad to leave behind so many memories and friends.

  20. Keith Winterowd says:

    Wow! what a memory. I was there on West Pac in 77 on the Whipple. You sure triggered a lot memories. I used to tell some stories to friends when home on leave or when I got out. They really didn’t know what to think. It was really one of those “You had to be there” places to get it. I have some stories I can still tell and I have some stories I will never tell.

    • Keith, you hit the nail on the head. “You had to be there!” No-body outside of a vet that’s been there, done that can possibly understand a place like this. “Some stories you can NEVER tell,” LOL.

      • Clevenger; Iwas in 115 ON THE MIDDLEWAY;WestPac 71-73.
        Spent 1 Chirtsmas and new years in Olonapo. Lots of great memories. were you in 115? Dan “whimpy” Kirkendall A01 USN RET.

  21. Chuck Graham says:

    Dennis, in one of your comments, or blog’s you spoke about the ship trying to manuver to stay on station and that the ship would steer a triaungler course or something simular. Question, was it common to steer towards the shore while making this manuver ? Does any topside sailors have this info ?? This is coming from a snipe who didn’t get out of the fire room much !!! Thanks, Chuck

    • Chuck, I don’t recall anything about any triangular courses. You may be referring to when we were close inshore traveling parallel to the beach maybe firing at a target or not. From what I’ve heard, we were drawing fire from shore batteries so that they would be trained on us and that would allow a cruiser like the USS Oklahoma City to fire with their big guns and not have to maneuver as much, being the larger vessel.

      Up in CIC whichever of us was manning a radar scope, also had the deck lookouts on our SP phones. The port lookout would be calling out splashes that were coming in towards us. With each report as shells would come closer his voice would go up another octave. We would recommend to the bridge “Hard right rudder, all ahead flank.” They would ALWAYS continue on a northerly course for a few more minutes before getting out of there.

      I always wondered how the snipes would know what was going on or not really hear about until after the fact. I don’t think those of us in the Combat Information Center really always had the whole picture as the command up on the bridge was running the show.

  22. Michelle Miller (Dialino) says:

    Nice blog spot! I was born in Olongapo back in 1983 to one of those bar girls. Scary! I currently and have been living in the United States since 1986, I do remember some things there. And the funny thing is that I am a legacy of military members. I guess which explains my interest in joining. I was turned down from the Army because of a medical issue “hernia” I was born with. Blah thats shitty. But I my brother is in the Marines. Both my father and bio-father served the Navy. And my grandfather from the philippines was part of the MPA and got out of it and hid from them. To my legacy my great grand father faught in Pearl Harbor and many more cusins but too long of a list. One of these days I hope to find my bio-father. If anyone can point me to ideas that I probably have not tried I AM ALL EARS!! :)

    • John says:

      Michelle, contact Andrew Delgado Monti…retired cop and private investigator, Send him what you got in the way of information and he may be able to help. Shouldn’t cost you too much for a basic name/address search. If your bio-father is in the US, he should be able to find him. Good luck.

      • Michelle Miller (Dialino) says:

        Thank you sooo much. I don’t think without a ss# that my mother threw away is going to be much helpful. I know that he was on the USS Coral in 1982. There is just too many missing peices. Because I have checked out this cruise book and cannot locate the name she gave me (William Johnathan or William Jonathan). I think she gave me or he gave her a false name. But then again my mother told him her name was Melanie (Mel) due to the fact it was probably common for a filippina bar girl and that her dad was an ex affiliation to the MPA(Muslim Philippine Army) and was in hiding. I know that he had blonde hair and blue eyes, which makes sense where my 10year old son has the blonde hair and blue eyes. Someday I will find him and I will probably know the history of my fathers side of the family and my brothers before me. Appearently theres two before my birth and almost close in age (29). Thank you though. I will look into this…

    • AL Wellman says:

      Michelle –
      My memories of Olongapo include observing probable children of US servicemen on the sidewalks of Magsaysay Boulevard; and a few women of my age who appeared to be daughters of the Japanese occupation. I wonder if you would share with us your perception of life in the Philippines for children of military romances in comparison to children of more traditional unions?

      • Michelle Miller (Dialino) says:

        Al Wellman,
        Lets see I was born there in August 1983 and moved to the United States in 1986. The little time I was there was intoxicating enough to make me miss my other side of culture. As a child you don’t normally think of the mistakes or adolescent decisions your parents made prior to your creation. I rememeber my grandfathers house tucked away furhter into the jungle of Olongapo, tortoises from the sea, the crazy rain, early headstart, the candy store and many more at the USN Base. I have no idea what the name of the base was, but I do remember my step dad’s comments about a so called speed bump that ended up being a snake and the monkeys that histerically swung from tree to tree. The greatest part about that insane comute to base was the view. I remember this one time when the sun began to set, which I might add in any location high above see level is always beautiful, was the bats that came out of hiding and man there were allot….But to target your question more, for me its more afffecting as an adult. I’m turly excepting what had happend in the past and even more thankful of the father I have grown to know. Taking a chance for true love with a filippina with a baby must have been odd, but it all worked out. The saddest part of all this as I pointed out only affecting me once the truth came out. I was only 10. I never felt more empty when my dad told me this. And even worse when my mother told me 8 years later that my biological father came back and did meet me at 5 months old then she dropped the bomb when she stated that he gave her his social secruity number for my future curiosity. To sum up my feeling about this, lost completely, my heart truly is missing a piece of who I am. Growing up, my heart never changed about how I felt to serve this country as my father did. I am truly greatful for those who serve and attent American Military University. I am daddy’s girl!! HooRAH!! But to be honest I think ppl take their family for granted and if I had what they had (knowing) life would have been completly different. I do have one thing that keeps me somewhat attached from that memory, a picture he had taken of me and my mother when he met me for the first time. My heart aches to know that he was the one that took that picture.

      • Matt says:

        Hi Michelle, I came across your post and I know of someone who can help you find your father. I assume that you know basic info about him like name, SSN, etc. I have a friend who find fathers/parents of adoptees and Amerasians.

        You can join this facebook group so you could post your inquiry

      • Michelle Miller says:

        Thank you Matt.. The only down fall is that at one time there was a ss# that my father had given my mother, but selfishly my mother got rid of it. So all I have is a name and basic information of his title and the name of the vessel he was in. I am about at that point where it seems hopeless. I thought it would have been nice to meet him, especially since he gave his ss# to my mother just incase I wanted to ever find him and know who he was. My fear is that I am 29 year old and I do not want him to assume I care not to ever know who he was….. This information was hidden from me up until 19years ago.

  23. Tom "Butch" Callen - BT3 - USS America CVA66 says:

    I probably should have repied here instead of the
    “My four years in the Navy” In future I’ll reply here
    Tom “Butch” Callen

  24. Larry Weiler says:

    After serving thirteen months on Midway Island, I was assigned to the USS Wichita (AOR1) out of Long Beach, California. My first tour with the Seventh Fleet started in June of 1971. The veterans of the Wichita’s first cruise to Subic Bay routinely joked about the conditions and experiences in Po City as we sailed out of Long Beach. Many of those that were making their first Westpac Cruise did not attempt to take their first liberty in Olongapo City. They felt safer spending their time at the EM Club on base. I personally started my night at the EM Club, but ventured across the River to check out action. It certainly was an eye opener for this Midwestern Boy. I quickly became to enjoy all the bars, restaurants and met some very wonderful women to share conversation and other exciting activities. I quickly learned that “Checking” out other women in other bars was a “No No” and if you got involved with other females and the ones you had gotten involved with earlier would label you a “Butterfly”.

    There were several of us from our division that would routinely stay overnight. Because of the Marshall Law that was proclaimed by President Marcos, everyone had to head back to the Naval Base or find a Hotel or the girls house to stay at. No one was allowed on the street after midnight. We would normally get up early in the morning and walk down the street and occasionally stop in one or two of our favorite bars. (I rather enjoyed the D’Wave Bar.) The one morning we stopped at the D’wave and found one of the talented musical groups practicing their music. They would listen to a record then practice playing the music on that record. This particular band could easily pass for the bands “Chicago” or “Boston”.

    I had very many enjoyable and exciting experiences during my two Westpac Cruises. I have to admit that it was much more exciting duty then I had while I was stationed on Midway Island. I still occasionally will grab a six pac of San Maguiel Beer which always seems to bring back some really great memories.

    Thank everyone for the great stories !!!!!!!!!

  25. Gregory Spain says:

    There in ’66 with 1/26 BLT. I found out that I had a girlfriend and I belonged to her and only her.She produced a butterfly knife from thin air and placed it at my neck because another girl spoke to me. Gotta love that place. It was big fun!! =]

    • Dave D says:

      Never visited the butterfly knife (although I don’t know why) but she cracked me enough times with a san Miguel bottle….Geeze, I think I’m still wearing the dents…. Ilovedthatplace….. 1976 Westpac cruise on USS Ranger… Comm Dept…

  26. Stubby says:

    Do you remember the T shirts that were sold on Magsaysay? I remember “Radarmen do it better in the dark” and “I may not go down in history but I would go down on your ……..”.
    Another song that was played in the clubs was “Shame and Scandal in the Family”. It’s been recorded several times. The Peter Tosh or later versions are the best.

    • The only t-shirts that I can remember today are the “Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club” shirts. I don’t remember the “radarmen” one at all. I’m familiar with Peter Tosh but don’t recall that song by him or anyone else. Ahhhh, old age! They say the memory is the second thing to go. I can’t remember the first. ;-)


      • AL Wellman says:

        I remember the T-shirts with Charlie Brown and Lucy in poses unlicensed by Charles Schulz

  27. Jim Val says:

    While on TAD to San Miguel May-June 1971 I remember there being a midnight curfew at the cross roads – everything shutdown at midnight and officially we had to be back on the COMSTA or unofficially off the streets. I helped out with the rent for a little place that set back across the road from the UAC.

    I was discussing the curfew with an Airman that was stationed at Clark and he told me there was no curfew in Angeles City during that time period.

    Was there a midnight curfew at Subic/Olongapo? It seems to me there was, but I only made a few trips down from San Miguel during my short stay.

    My memory is fading, I bought this Memory Foam Pillow and the darn thing doesn’t work, my memory hasn’t improved a bit.

    • Jim says:

      There was a curfew in the crossroads and in Olongapo..They really tried to enforce the one in Onongapo because you were also not supposed to get 6 feet off the main two roads.

      In the crossroads, they really didn’t care where you went, you just had to get off the streets and out of the bars. I lived off base as did many and you just went home to to someone elses home and that was it. Angeles and Manila had no curfew. There were only two things that usually got you off the street, either a sweet thing on your arm or an empty wallet.

      • AL Wellman says:

        When I was on the Olongapo shore patrol, we would clear sailors from Magsaysay Drive as we moved back to the main gate after curfew and then inspect one “randomly selected” club each night to be certain no sailors remained inside.

  28. Art Belenzo says:

    I was born and raised in the Philippines,was fortunate enough to pass the rigid exam for the US Navy in 1968. I finally enlisted in the US Navy in June 1969 in Sanley Point. Went to Boot Camp in RTC San Diego. Upon completion of the Basic Training, I attended Steward A School and eventually assigned at the Pentagon CNO/SECNAV FLAG MESS. In 1970, the first year of the Zumwalt’s new navy, I changed rate to Engineering striking to become Machinist Mate. I was sent to Great Lakes BP&E school then to MM A School and after graduating first in the class I was promoted to third class PO and was sent to AC & R Class C school in San Diego.. after that I went to General Dynamic’s Shipobuilding in Quincy, Mass to be part of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding and Conversion of a brand new ship.. USS Wabash AOR-5. In June1972 after being promoted to Second class PO, I re enlisted so I can be stationed in the Philippines. I was stationed in Ship Repair Facility (Docking Division), Subic Bay from June 72 – early 1974. So reading some of the stories being posted here, I can say some of them are fairly accurate while some not too accurate. I was in the Philippines when Pres. Marcos declared Marshall Law in September 1972. The road were paved in 72,but due to 38 days of continued rain in July and August, most of the roads were destroyed.

    There were three different section of bars that most service members go to.. for the Pilipino locals and US service members they tend to go to the bars like El Bodegon, Jade East, Cherry Club, Bonanza Club and the likes, for the Caucasians they like the clubs along Magsaysay while the Blacks like the Jungle area. Sierra club is one club that Pilipino service member and the Caucasian mingled but nobody dared to stray to the Jungle.

    There was no curfew before Marshall Law was declared because I used to drive late from Manila to see my girlfriend. during Marshall Law, the curfew was from midnight to 0600 hours.

    I was also in Subic Bay when there was a riot that was started by the crew members of the Connie and Ranger, who gathered behind the Marine barracks, demolished Sampaguita Club, marched thru Main gate to Magsaysay and wrecked Sierra Club. when asked to stop by the Philippine Constabulary, one of the rioters charged the Police and gun fire erupted killing few rioters..

    The stories about the monkey meat/dog meat is really not so true. Vendors say monkey meat to US service members to dare them to buy and eat the barbecued meat but in reality they are either beef, buffalo meat or pork.. In my 20 months of stay in Olongapo as a single US service member I bought, eat those so called monkey meat/dog meat barbecue and later learned first hand when I meet and befriended the head of the Local Health and food Inspector of Olongapo City. As far as buying raw balot and consuming it. I have not meet any vendor selling raw balot. They sell hot and steaming balot ready for consumption.

    As for the the Pilipino Guards in the gate with their M16, yes they will shoot you if you were told to stop and continue to run esp during Marshall Law. Plus the local Police will apprehend you if you evaded the guards.. All the vendors, jeepney drivers and street cleaners in Olongapo were the eyes and ears of the local government.

    I was fortunate enough to be stationed at the US Naval Base Subic the second time from 1987 to 1992 as Head of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Shop, Subic Section in PWC. I was one of the last US Civilian to cross the bridge in November 1992 when the base was formally transferred to the Philippine Government.

    During my 2 tours of duty in the Philippines, I have seen some of the bad side of the US in general towards the Pilipino locals which I really don’t want to discuss here. However, If someone is interested to know, please send me an email or a number where I can call him in the US and I’ll be glad to give him the info he/she wanted to know.

    • Chuck Graham says:

      Hello Art, welcome aboard !! I personally think you have a beautiful country and great people.. Had many great times there, and would love to return one day..

  29. […] bungalows, sat square on the beach of the eastern shore of the bay, about five miles out of Olongapo City. He was one of those American GIs who regularly fall in love with the East and stay around when […]

  30. Looking for Dalia Santiago who worked sampiguiti club.My father Mark southern stationed at Subic Bay Naval Base in 1973.It is believed in 1974 that Delia gave birth to possibly my sibling.Im trying to locate them. Any info email me

  31. rick ferguson says:

    I was stationed their in 1985 n 1986 b company marines I loved it their. and ive been back I went by myself in 2007 n 2010 its very safe pretty much the same but more things too do. don’t be afraid too go back their. I had an amazing time again. and theirs not hardly any americans their exept manila so your even more popular you don’t even need the bar girls. the sm malls are better than usa malls. its super cheap still.

  32. rick ferguson says:

    the dmz bar in angelos city is still their too. all the old bars got destroyed from the volcano in 1999 but they’ve built it back up nice. Magsaysay ave is pretty quite compared too when we were stationed their but angelos city rocks its still the same. and if you have it wear your old navy or marine shirts they still love us and remember us.just get a cab or jeep mee or tric. or ride on the victory liner buses its still the same.and theirs no drugs their on my plane ticket it said death too all drug trafficers. that was cool.they still have red horse n san migel beer but no mojo or bullfrog. I quess they forgot how too make it. 12 too 1400 round trip 20 hours air time but its worth it guys. go too youtube and punch in the dollhouse angelos city. but honestly when you get their you wont need the bars girls. plenty of nurses and college girls I was 42 in 2007 it didn’t matter too them and I dated rich girls too serious.i cant wait too go back I stayed 2 months in 2007 then 1 month in 2010.

  33. rick ferguson says:

    I mean the old bars on Magsaysay ave got destroyed by volcanic ash in did most of everthing else.

  34. Bill Penrod says:

    Wow, great blog. Brings some great memories, my story started in November 1969. Ten days straight liberty, yep ten days. I had so much pussy an beer or was so much beer and pussy anyway it was eight days of that, then it happened I meet a gal and we had two great days together. I gave her my address as we departed back to the line for 90 days. My honey wrote weekly (never asking for money). After two more liberties (Feb-April 1970). I returned for my R & R in May 1970 and we were married. After 43 years we are still married. I see so many blogs of former service members looking for their lost loves from their times in the Philippines it is heart breaking. At their time they didn’t want to take a chance with love I did and it was great!!!!

    • Jim says:

      Bill, Good for you and congratulations on the longevity of your marriage!! I met my wife while stationed in Taiwan 1971-72. We’ve been married 42 years. I saw some heartbreaks during my tour and decided I wasn’t leaving without her. Probably had as much to do with her cooking as anything else. I did a 2 month TAD to San Miguel, PI – not Olongapo, but it was fun.

  35. Pete parpan says:

    Anyone remember the employees of the em club at San Miguel?
    I was there in 1967 thru 1969. Looking for pix of that era

  36. Tom Prothro says:

    I was in and out of Olongapo on ships between 1961 and 9164. Had a hellof a time there. Especially the club Oro..I spent two years stationed at com/sta/phil San Miguel 1964 to 1966. I spent most of my time at the crossroads or Pops sari-sari in Angeles. I made to to Olongapo several times but stayed mostly at the crossroads at the pink elephant or the playboy or remys jungal place. I married a girl from the Philippines and were happlily married for 50 years until her passing earlier this year. I loved the P.I and some of my fondest memories are of the time I spent there. I am in My 70;s now, to old to go back, but not to old to dream.

  37. Tom Prothro says:

    I was never TAD from San Miguel except to Tarlac sta for a year in 65. I was a navy corpsman

  38. A.c. Engel says:

    An amazing blog for memories. I was on CarDivOne staff on Midway ’71 & ’72. We always looked forward to going to the EM Club for a steak dinner before going out to Po Town. It helped with the amount of liquor intake. Does anyone remember Jollo’s? Nastiest bar on the strip. An interesting “show” was always worth a look. So many memories … so little space to discuss them.

  39. J. R. says:

    I was there 68-72 there was a resturant down the road Papagayos fantastic food, the a casino down magasaysay on the right and second floor, I went back I have lived in the PI for 15 years now. love it

  40. JA WIMBISH says:


  41. Jose Garza says:

    I was stationed aboard the USS BRULE AKL-28 for about a year and half. I arrived at subic bay around October of 1965 straight out of boot camp. I was still 17 years of age. Many fond memories going on liberty in Olongopo.I remember an upstairs club called the Supes Club. I still have a picture of the 5 young band members and their names. let see Leonardo Santos, Ponciano Ruis, Pio Toledo, and Gregorio Flores I didn’t get the last ones name. Any how it was fun when your young and full of testosterone.. I had a girl friend named Luz. She had one glass eye but a good body. Spent many a night with her and her room mate. Now I’m pushing 66. I don’t think I’ll go back though. Getting back to my ship. It was flat bottom and about 150 feet long. The same style of the USS Publo that the North Koreans captured.Our ship would take supplies back and fourth to Viet Nam to Saigon and in the Makong Delta or coastal ports in Nam. Our sister ship was the USS MARK. We got caught on one trip to Nam by a typhoon. It felt like we were surfing down those giant waves. Ah those were the day’s.

  42. I have sit here and read all the comments that you guys have posted about Olongopo City and man does it bring back so many memories. I was a ABH-2 on the USS New Orleans LPH-11 in 1969-70 when we were on a Wes Pac deployment and spent a lot of time in Subic Bay. After having spent my first yrs on the East Coast it was a real treat to go the Far East. I could tell so many stories but it would take up to much space so I’ll only tell my last days there. We were in our last port and leaving there heading home and I was late getting back to the ship so the Air Boss was a little up set with me and he said that I would have to stay on board when we got to Hawaii which didn’t upset me. What he didn’t know was we would make a stop in Subic. I was “out of my mind” knowing i would miss this stop. The last day I went to his office and begged to go on liberty. He sit there with a very stern face and listened to every thing I said and then cracked a little smile and said, I was waiting for you to come and ask me for liberty. Go and enjoy yourself. We had a Heck of a party that night and one that I will always remember. If anyone knows anyone who was on the New Orleans LPH-11 in the V-1 Div. give them my email address.

  43. I was a Navy Brat son of a Senior Chief and at Subic from 66-68 then 70-72 then again in 77-79 lastly 81-86 as an 01-04. I saw many changes over the years. I saw the old Shit River and I was a kid when I was first there and I felt sorry for the kids that swan in that filthy water. I saw things there by the time I was 16 most adults never see in a lifetime in the clubs. I got my degree and then joined the Navy and was fortunate enough to spend nearly 5 years there. I have many fond memories of the P.I. as a kid, teen and finally as an adult. That place in a sense was my home. I took advantage of my time there. I made many friends and stayed in contact with them over the years. I have become fluent in tagalog and have always admired the generosity and hospitality of the Filipino people. I have been all over the place and have stayed in homes with dirt floors and in some very beautiful western style homes with marble floors and it is always the same very hospitable people that are quick to smile. Sure there were the folks there on Olongapo and in Angeles City that were well a bit shady and yes we have then here in the states too.

    Many ask did you marry a Filipina my answer is no. My wife is a blonde haired blue eyed American girl that I had met there in the first grade. We both travel there every other year. I was just there this past December 2013. It is hard to walk around the base now as in many ways it is a ghost of its former self. Yet there have been many changes and many new jobs. The main gate that is mainly for pedestrians still has the small quonset hut and as I called them cattle guides still in use as it was until the base closed in 92. Shit river still smells but no more kids in banca boats asking for coins. Magsaysay Ave is very different. The clubs are gone. there is the odd massage parlor and a couple of clubs but mainly just businesses have came into place.

    The Victory Liner bus station is there and still the same as it was back when you rode that wild zig-zag road to get to the road that led to Angeles or Manila. I walked the streets and closed my eyes and could remember the old days. Gone forever. Great times and great fun. I always enjoy when I run into a former Marine or Sailor and Olongapo comes up. The adult Disneyland many say. That city was in the Guiness Book of Records for having more bars per square block than anywhere in the world. Spanish Gate is no longer a Cafeteria but now a white table cloth restaurant. Much of the base is intact with many of the old buildings re-purposed or left to rot. Low Mau Camp is almost all gone. Vehicles imported from Japan are staged and sold there. Upper Mau Camp is there as is the JEST Camp. The world famous Aviators O Club was dismantled and rebuilt in Florida part of a Naval Museum there. Cubi Point is intact though most of the building look pretty weather beaten. Fed Ex was there for years until the Phil. Gov’t. wanted too much money to operate there so they pulled out. The old Naval Magazine is now restaurants and other purposed buildings.

    I could go on and on. There is now a Expressway from Subic to Clark and it takes only about 40 minutes to get from one to the other. In the old days you took the wild ride through the Zig zag road and usually stopped at Sandy’s Drive in for an ice cold San Magoo or two. That is now gone. I was lucky to have spent so much time there. I will say this the old days ( Prior to 92) were the best days of my life. I had some wild times and some that I will never forget. many can not fathom what went on there. It is beyond the comprehension of most. For those that served, lived, and experienced life there you know what I am talking about. Anyway I have rambled on enough good times and great memories that I will cherish all my days. I go back now in memories and in my extensive photo collection from those carefree times in my life.

    • Jim says:

      That was a great post…..though I really got a chuckle when you referred to 92 as the good old days. I was at Clark in 92 as a civilian working in Crow Valley Bombing Range….I left in Sept. 93, well after Mt. Pinatubo blew its top. The chuckle is for me 92 sort of sucked compared to the good old days of 65-75…where I did three active duty tours between San Miguel Comm Sta and ComCen Sangley Pt. I sort of understand what you mean being there as a kid, as I was still 17 when I arrived there as my first duty station….The only reason it wasn’t as shocking to me as it was to most is I spent a lot of time in border towns in TX and also TJ when in SDiego. So it was just a hyper town on steroids compared to those in Mexico, although those were pretty wild too. I mean where else could you see the lady and the donkey show??? That they didn’t have in Olongapo…Have planned to go back 3 or 4 times but things keep coming up, mostly medical now to always makes me postpone the trip….Maybe someday I’ll make it back.

      • Jim,
        I hear you. I spent time in Angeles on Fields and have been to the Nipa Hut or the Fire Empire as it was later called. I recall the Banana Cutter as she was called. The P.I. had its share of for the lack of better words amazingly entertaining venues.
        T.J. had its wild times as well. I recall reading in the paper many years ago that while remodeling a bar just south of the border a couple of skeletons in Cracker Jacks were found plastered up in the wall of a club and estimated had been there since the early 60’s.
        As far as a trip to the P.I. goes all I can say is GO! Time as I am feeling as I advance in years is flying by and it is still cheap. I recommend Philippine Airlines as the have direct non stop flights now from Los Angeles to Manila. About 14 hours. That is a lot better than the MAC Flight I took on my first trip there on a Navy 4 engine propr that Island hopped across the Pacific and when you got to Cubi your ears were ringing from the noise. The exchange rate is around P42.00 to$1.00. Travel from Manila to Olongapo is faster with the expressway and even faster for Clark. There are many nice hotels to Choose from. The former Chambers Hall the BOQ on Clark has been transformed into a Holiday Inn and it is nice. Subic has many as well.
        San Miguel the old Comm. Station that was a out of the way sleepy little place and you passed through Subic City as it was called a little wild strip of bars between Olongapo and San Miguel. Man the things we forget and then ah yes remember. Sangley Point was turned over to Philippine Gov’t. in I think 1970. That base is a shambles now. As shared those were great times the bases were very nice and life was simpler. I guess it was because we were young and carefree on many levels. Anyway anyone contemplating a trip back all I can say is Go! In my view you will be glad you did. It put such a smile on my face to see and revisit all of the places of my youth. Sure it has changed and yet so have I. The renewed appreciation for my time there well PRICELESS!

  44. Mike Slocum says:

    Great posts gang!! Tony thanks for bringiing us to date. Also a shout out to Art and Michele for a more local prspective. Jim, thanks for the memory about “Smoke on the water” being the anthem when I was there in 73 on the Hancock(VA-164) I’m sure you remember you could walk out of one bar hearing that song and into your next favorite place hearing the same thing without missing a beat. In 1975 I was there same squadron and ship but a different national anthem by then. I’m still hearing “Free Bird in my memory banks all these years later. Speaking of rock and roll, I was doing some research recently about one of my favorite rock bands(Journey) and come to find out that Arnel Pineda the current lead singer for them was in a band playing there in 1989 (I was then in VA-196 on board the “Connie”) at the California Club but don’t exactly remember where the Caifornia club was in town between wearing my self out on Shore Patrol and my drunken bar hoping my memory is really fuzzy. Another “old guy memory issue” I’m sure a lot of you remember the Frictions at the Sierra Club in the 70’s and 80’s but I also remember another band that could rival them at a place about half way up on the right of Magsaysay between the main gate and Rizal Blvd called the Madison Club also in 1975. I was told by one of the bar girls that I knew there that years later that they wound up going to a big club in Manila? I could share some New Jolo Club memories here but I want our good friend Dennis to keep this going without having to worry about decency/censorship laws so I’ll keep quiet and leave warm memories and smiles on all of our faces!!

    • Thanks for the post, Mike! Years ago I heard an Arnel Pineda demo covering a Journey song on KINK radio in Portland, OR and it was really spooky how much he sounded like Steve Perry. I think this was just before he was officially named lead singer.

      Uhhh… New Jolo Club? Memories of that fine establishment should probably be posted elsewhere, hehe.

      • PJ Gonzalvo says:

        Hi Sir Dennis, I’m Pauline from GMA News, one of the media networks in the Philippines. Do you know of any Subic naval base veteran who currently lives in Subic or Olongapo area? We’re looking for someone to interview for one of our news segments with regards to his experiences during his tour/stay in Subic. Pls. email me @ if you know anyone. Thank you!

    • Pete parpan says:

      Big band in 68 – 69 era was the electrodes. They did The Beach Boys better than the BB’s. Did many more too but Good Vibrations was killer. Still love the old sounds and memories as well. San Miguel duty station as well as San Miguel beer fond memories.

  45. I am not sure if you guys and gals have seen this. That would be amazing if we got Subic or parts of it and Cubi Point back. It would be something to see our Navy back in PO City.

    Philippines to Let U.S. Build Military Facilities on Bases
    By Joel Guinto and Norman P. Aquino Mar 14, 2014 1:26 AM PT
    The Philippines will let the U.S. build facilities inside the Southeast Asian nation’s military bases, under a pact that would boost the American troop presence there at a time of rising tensions with China.
    Philippine concern about access to U.S. facilities on its bases was “sufficiently addressed” and the two countries will hold further talks later this month as they seek to wrap up an agreement, Philippine Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said at a briefing in Manila today. “It’s safe to say there is already consensus” on the access issue.
    The negotiations come as a territorial dispute escalates between the Philippines and China over resource-rich shoals in the South China Sea. The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, lacks the military power to deter China from contested waters rich in oil, gas and fish and has asked the United Nations to rule on disputes, a process China has rejected.
    Chinese ships used water canons in January to drive Filipino fishermen away from the Scarborough Shoal, the Philippine military said on Feb. 24. China warned off two Philippine boats near the Second Thomas Shoal this week, its Foreign Ministry said on March 10.
    The Philippine foreign affairs department summoned China’s envoy in Manila to object to China’s latest action and asked it to “desist from any further interference” at the shoal, the agency said on March 11. Last month it also summoned the envoy over the water canon incident, calling it an act of harassment.
    Strong Signal
    China has the right to drive Philippine ships away from the Second Thomas Shoal, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday in a statement on its website, citing spokesman Qin Gang. The Philippines sent ships carrying materials to the shoal to build facilities there, a move that infringes China’s rights and is a provocation, Qin said.
    “The defense pact would be a strong political signal to China that the U.S. is on our side,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, said by phone. “The deal may allow American access to more Philippine military bases, which also benefits the U.S. in its Asian pivot strategy.”
    China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said today that the agreement “is an issue between the Philippines and the U.S.”
    Facilities to be built by the U.S. inside Philippine bases will be for joint use, Batino said. “Negotiations just like this one are very fluid and we cannot have a definitive time line when we will finish this.”
    Subic Bay
    Securing U.S. facilities in the Philippines was one of the remaining issues that the parties needed to address, J. Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine negotiating panel and the Philippine ambassador to Malaysia, said at the same briefing.
    The U.S. ended its permanent military presence in the Philippines with the closing of the Subic Bay base after the lease ended in 1991. The U.S. rotates 500 troops into the southern Philippines each year to aid in counter-terrorism operations, while 6,500 come annually for exercises, according to the Philippine military.
    The Philippines is very close to finishing the pact with the U.S., President Benigno Aquino said in an interview on Feb. 19. Negotiators may seek to wrap up a deal before U.S. President Barack Obama visits the Philippines in April as part of a trip to the region that also takes in Japan.

    • SGT C USMC says:

      WESTPAC serving in the USMC…When you said you were “Going Home”….it meant you were going stateside or to the PI…. !

      USS DUBUQUE LPD 8 1979 -1980 .

      boom boom!

  46. John Law says:

    USS Rainier AE 5 1967-70

  47. george hogue says:

    i got to spend some time in olongapo on a 81/82 westpac USS Truxtun……I keep seein references to the monkey meat on the stick that was sold along magsaysay and everywhere else and it cracks me up that there would be anyone that would think its actually monkey meat…. a shipmate of mine was kidding me about the very same thing when i was there….he said “c’mon now what is the most common animal in the phillipines?” i was guessing dog or chicken and he told me you are leaving out THE most common…i said give me a hint and right then i spotted a big ole rat running along the wall and around the corner down the alley….i died laughing when i looked and saw him touch the tip of his nose to confirm what i had just figured out lmao

  48. marilyn labrador morales says:

    hi sir im marilynlabrador ,i was born in olongapo January 23 1975 i am still hoping to find my father ,,if ever he happens to read this my mom name is Gina thats what the name that the people who adapted me gave of my mothers name ,,thanks GOD speed ,,hoping for your kind and consideration

  49. F4 AQ says:

    I was on the Ranger for 3 cruises, 68-71 (Vietnam). Olongapo was where we usually went for liberty, Japan a few times, Hong Kong once per cruise. What and adventure that place was! Crummy, dirty, dangerous, outrageous (the floor show at the New Jollo Club), the baby bird eating alligator, the pick pockets, the shoe shine scammers, the jeepnies, the old lady selling “monkey meat” (meat of some kind twisted around a stick and roasted over a charcoal fire in a tin can), the bar girls hanging around outside trying to get you to come in and buy them a drink (“I love you, no shit! Buy me a drink, sailor”). I learned to not wear my glasses on liberty. One of the bar girls’ best tricks for getting you into the bar was to snatch your glasses off your face and run inside. Getting your glasses back without buying her a drink wasn’t worth the time it took. Just buy her a drink and move on, or not. Short time, overnight, you buttahfly!, you numba 10 (real bad), you numba 1 (the best). A whole vocabulary to learn. I had some really good times in Olongapo, but I was always watching over my shoulder.

    A friend of mine spent part of a cruise at Cubi Point, keeping our extra planes ready to fly out to the ship if they were needed. He met a local Filipino guy who made his living writing love letters for bar girls. Sailors and Marines would send love letters to the girls, sometimes even money so they wouldn’t have to work in the bars, and then be true to the guy. Ha! They kept right on working and making money. Anyway a girl would get a letter from some guy out on a ship or in Vietnam. She would bring it to this guy and he would read it, and then compose a response, all sweet and lovey, and being so faithful, and thanks for the money, and I just can’t wait til you’re here again… Then the girl would put her signature and a big kiss on the letter, he would sprinkle some perfume on it, seal it up, and then she would pay him and leave. He had lots of clients. Business was very good. The guy tooled around on a yellow Honda 90 and wore nice clothes. He had other rackets, too, but the love letter business was nice, clean work and very easy money.

    • AL Wellman says:

      One of my shipmates warned me when changing duty stations to always give your next duty station as a forwarding address rather than your home address. It seems some of the Olongapo bar girls would remember which ship their good customers were on when business was slow (or the guy on the Yellow Honda 90 had especially attractive rates) and send letters to his ship detailing how enthusiastically she intended to celebrate his next port visit. This guy said he had a hell of a time explaining the letter to his wife when it was forwarded to his home after he had transferred to another command. (He claimed one of his shipmates had used his name during a port visit, but then his wife called his shipmate’s wife and he was in hot water with the shipmate.)

  50. Shawna Hull says:

    oh the memories of subic bay…I was stationed there from 1982-1984…United States Navy Dockmaster… first female docmaster. i always wanted to go back to see what onlongapo looks like now, and if shit river still remains. i love lumpia to this day and make it often. american women were not liked by the working girls in olongapo, they thought we were a threat to their potential income from the service man…. they called us “brown eyes”…. hee hee…. i got slashed with a butterfly knife a couple times…. nothing a lil’ mojo or red bull couldn’t cure tho! any one remember filmore east?? that place was the shit! eat you a couple monkey meats before you go in and suck up the redbull once you were in there….it was close to the main gate so mp’s were close by to help you back on base. oh the good ole days.

  51. michael watkins says:

    glad i had some experience before i started visiting olongapo.
    we had a fat young ladys man yeoman who most likely never had a girl friend.
    the second day. he was in a big hurry to get married before the ship got underway and i believe the navy was more than happy to expedite the paperwork for him.
    i knew in future i would want to account for my conduct and was respectful to the people and fraternized with a filipino woman who had two caucasion children who it seemed did not speak english.
    if you never got past first base with a us girl i imagine you would be all gaga about human trafficking in foreign countries

  52. Sandy teter says:

    I was in a p3 squadron that deployed to cubi pt from Hawaii. Was there in 85 and 89. Reading through all of the posts bought back a lot of memories. I loved the chicken adobo, but always thought the meat didn’t look like chicken sometimes. Thought it was dog, but the mention of rats makes me wonder just what I was eating. Sometimes it took so long for them to bring your food, we would joke that they had to kill the chicken. maybe they were catching the rats. ewwwww. Remember eating rice with your fingers, chicken on a stick that was sometimes spoiled if you were’t careful, pansit and the sho pow. American women were called round eyes when I was there. When the ships would come in, we would go to barrio Barrettia because the town became so crowded. Anyone remember abracadabra? Another bar there was a bar in the front and a pigpen in the back under the same roof with no wall in between. You could buy mangos on the street for a few pesos and the best bread from an oven on the street. I remember paying five pecos for a mango thinking i had gotten a good deal, and one of the local girls said i should have gotten three for that much. go figure. it would have been a dollar on base. Remember snorkeling on grande island where the water was so clear and seeing bright blue starfish way down on the bottom. When the ships came in, it was almost impossible to get a taxi from the hangar, so a few of us walked to the barracks in the dark, and a bunch of wild pigs ran across the road in front of us one night. For some reason there was a snake pit in the back of our barracks. Never understood why it was there. Was Fillmore east the one American women couldn’t go in unless they were escorted? The name sounds familiar. California Jam and the US Festival were my favorite places. I remember something waking me up banging around in our room one night-my roommate had bought a baby monkey out in town and bought it back to the barracks. Spent a christmas at an orphanage and also got to go to a refugee center-both eye opening experiences. Was there when marcos was voted out as president and the demonstrations closed the gates to the base for several days. Sad to think the main drag outside the gate has changed so much. It was definitely a colorful place. Many, many fond memories.

  53. BM3 Rocky Patterson says:

    Wow, what a blast from the past. You guys have brought back so many great memories. I flew into Clark in Nov. 74 straight out of boot, 17 and full of piss and vinegar. Then I found The Po !!!! I caught the Camden AOE2 and made another WestPac in 75-76. Does anyone remember the EM1 who chugged the glass full of lugees to beat some Marine in a gross out contest at the Wagon Wheel ? One of those snot wads was mine.
    I passed out one nite in a ditch 3 blocks back off the main drag. Had an empty bottle of White Castle next to me the next morning and barley remember hearing the the PI Regulars driving around all nite enforcing the curfew during marshall law.
    You are right, had to be there…….. A bunch of us missed ships movement in Hong Kong and went TAD
    In Subic for 2 weeks and ended up playing football in a flooded shit river field, and got some extra shots courtesy of Uncle Sam. And I degress, thanks guys for a great visit to those days.

  54. shirley says:

    hello..i hope you wont mind if i ask you about the woman who sell lumpia and barbeque..pls if you remember her name please let me know..thanks in advance..more power and more
    blessings..that things happened 1975 -1976 1977…

  55. Kadjo says:

    Great blog – I’m a 20 year Retarded (or Retired) Enlisted USAF Airman (1980-2000) originally hailing from cold-ass New England (CT), and my first base out of Basic & Tech School I get sent to Clark AB RP. It spoiled (or ruined) me forever! I was stationed with the 1961st Communications (“Baby-Makers”) Squadron. I lost track how many times I visited NAS Subic/Cubi Point, and Grande Island partying, snorkeling & scuba diving on my weekends. My buddies and I would take our girlfriends alternating between NAS Subic, Po-town and Wallace AS, San Fernando, La Union for our scuba diving trips. I arrived 18 and single, but left 21 and married with three children!!! I departed Clark on August 17, 1983 (remember it like it was yesterday) and I try to live by Gen. McArthur’s saying “I Shall Return.” I was one of the lucky guys to find a keeper wife and still be married to the same honey-ko (legally) for 31 years!!! Although I’m an expatriate working in Qatar, this site brought me down memory lane again!! And, NOW all I can think about is I am in a 20 day count-down for returning to Baloy Beach, Barreto Barangay, Olongapo City, Zambales, Philippines. The base is still there, but it is not like we remember it! I feel a little sad when I see some of the buildings just wasting away empty and not being used. Subic is now a Free Port with the Koreans and Chinese buying up all the Lease rights. AS for food and drinks, they still have all the local famous drinks – San Magoos (Miguels), Red Horse was a new beer introduced in 1981, White Castle, and ESQ Tanduay Rum, and all the great foods, some of the retirees are still there and some of the clubs still exist but are renamed! Also, there is still monkey meat on a stick (really beef or pork)!!! I try to go back at least every other year. With all my children, grandchildren and home located in California; my heart, memories, and vacation plans still call the Philippines HOME. I too think our great government US of A did a dis-service to many Filipinos, but at the time of our departure, with no help from Mt. Pinatubo, I think Cora Acquino was upset with USA thinking we were protecting Marcos, and wanted us out of the country. Filipinos are still very found of Americans. And, most places are still just as safe as (most places) in America. Now Ninoy Acquino is seeing how the Chinese are just claiming any coral reef they can grab for mineral rights in the Philippine Sea! Low and behold, we are being asked to help out again. But, all for the next chapter of US-RP relations to come… who knows maybe we will be back in Subic again. There are a lot of wishful thinking Filipinos and Americans!!! Take care great site again!

  56. mick ross says:

    july 7th 1973 the uss hancock just pulled into port and i boarded it for my 1st day of hancock brother was already aboared but i couldnt find him so i just roamed the ship just checking it out. wow! i couldnt believe how big it was.well the next morning this guy who was a radioman with my brother reconized me in the mess hall and asked me if i was daves brother.they were expecting me to arrive. i said yep,and he took me to him.that night me,dave,and a couple of his friends went out to olongapo city to party. i was 17yrs 4months old.joined the day i turned 17,went strait to boot camp, then strait to the hancock.we crossed shit river,(where we got our clothes washed by the filipino women by the way)went into about the 3rd or 4th club on the right, the oceans 11 club and this beautiful filipino girl walks right up to me,(not the other 3 of us)me and says hey cherrie boy,i love you no shit,you buy me drink?i was in love!my brother and 2 friends says ah come on lets go theres hundreds of these clubs here,lets just keep walking.well anyway we went in and spent most of the night right there.her name was minda(i still have pictures of her)mind you i was 17yrs and 4 months old only,never even had any make a long long story short, for 5 american dollars,i got drunk,screwed, and the hotel room for the was the best night of my life.and probally still is.every time we pulled into subic i’d go see minda.didnt need the dollar for the hotel room any more either,we always stayed at her friends back home i know didnt believe my many many stories about this place.i sure they thought i was greatly exaggerating. it was liking smoking some hash,then walking right into a story book,(a fairy tale book) like some cartoon carectures would was surreal!especially for a 17 year old.the greatest city i’ve ever been to,to this someone else said,”you would have had to have been there to believe it..soooooooooo true. . mick

    • Hey Mick, great story! Yep, just like smoking some hash and stepping into another world. Good description, totally surreal! I was sitting around a late campfire a couple of months ago and a member of our RV group (coincidentally a USS Hancock vet) and I started exchanging Subic Bay and Opo liberty stories. Another guy who was there got up and left in disbelief that there could be anywhere on earth like this. “You guys gotta be kidding me.” LOL

  57. Tony aka Boomer says:

    On my many trips back to Po City and Angeles I just close my eyes and it takes me back. Those were the golden years. Life was slower and well FUN! No internet, no cell phones just dusty streets, San Magoo and warm women.

    It has changed and it will never be the way it was. i am thankful to have experienced it as it was then. I share stories with others and people look at me like Yeah Right! Matters not from time to time I run into a vet that has served and lived at either of those former U.S. bases and when we get to talking I always see the same twinkle in the eyes of the one I am speaking with and for a little while it is like time travel.

    The P.I. in those days was the best, simple and just the best days and nights of my life. I look at old pictures and smile yeah good times.

  58. Randall says:

    I came to Subic bay from vietnam for six weeks to do repair work on Uss Hunterdun county 838. I experienced many of the same things and was in the Swanky bar several times – quite a place. Met a sweet lady named Mila. I was there January ’70 .

  59. Tim lindsey says:

    Am going to visit for 17 days in jan 15. Taking my 2 youngest sons, both are college students who like to dive. My first visit since 88. My first visits as in 69. Had some good friends during those years, that I hope to find and in good Heath. Anyone know how to locate people in olongapo before I get there?
    . Will visit grande island for sure. That’s where I learned to dive while in the navy. Also going to palawan by ferry. Never got very far away from olongapo when stationed there, the navy was pretty stingy on Liberty passes. 24 hours ok 72 hours well that happened only 2 times. Went to manila , bagio, and paghasan falls (sp). The train ride to bagio was a trip, animals, vendors, good pork rines, houses built within a few feet sometimes looked like inches, from the tracks,tried to take a nap, that didn’t work!, My first victory liner trip to manila I was in dress whites, civilian cloths were no allowed. I step off the bus and was mobbed by 50 kids from 6 to 12 or so years old! It’s like they new I was coming, funny how news travels so fast in the phillippines. Just ask a local and you can find out what there serving on base tomorrow for lunch ! Or when you’ll be back! Anyway a phillippino cop yelled something they all hit the ground . I stood there wondering what I was supposed to do as he was armed with an automatic rifle. He motioned to me to go! I got in a cab and left! I immediate bought some cloths and changed! Shortly after that zuwald changed policy in the navy to allow civilian cloths.
    I used to refer to the PO as the black hole, I once gave a girl 100$ to buy groceries for dinner at the market for us and her family, she did and returned. I ask if there was any change, she politely said no. I Never ask again! Change just vanishes! At the market! she and all her friends couldn’t carry 100$ worth of groceries. Had a vip flight one time the captain ask to have sushi for dinner. I went to the market bought 10$ worth of groceries and fish, feed 11 people.

    • Stephen White says:

      Make sure that all your passports have more than 6 months remaining on them before you go. I went to PI to get married in 2012 and was prevented from boarding the plane from Honolulu to Manila by Hawaiian Airlines. The reason was I had only 2 1/2 months left on my passport. It cost me $1000 to stay in Honolulu while I got a new passport issued. When I got to the PI I talked to a supervisor in immigration and they told me that it would not have been a problem. As you can tell, I fell in love with the people and the country while I was stationed there 1970-72.

    • Tony AKA Boomer says:

      If you have a chance research Manguayguay Island that is a cool place and there are many wrecks to dive from WWII. Boracay is another great place. Grande Island is still there and open but under the Philippine Gov’t. now. Prices are still reasonable. Dungareee beach is still there and when you see Cubi it is like a ghost town now. A neat place on base is Ocean Adventure. Down by the main gate there is a mall now. It has changed a lot but many of the old structures are still there and repurposed some better than others.

      As of late I seem to be running into more veterans that were in the P.I. and they all seem to suffer like me from nostalgia and that gleam or twinkle when speaking of Po City and Angeles and yes Subic City if one dared. Great times and now that we are all advancing in years the better memories out weigh some of the not so good I think.

      In time sheesh it has been 22 years since we pulled out of Subic all will be in some obscure page in a history book. For those that were there during its heyday we all remember and no matter if you had your heyday in the 50′,-90’s they were all similar on many levels. I doubt there are more than a handful that are still on active duty that actually were stationed in the P.I. when the bases were in operation.

      Have a good time and trust that when you walk around Subic and see the changes a tear will come to your eye. Same with when you walk down Magsaysay Ave. The gate looks the same a bit run down but the old Quonset hit remains as does the stench from shit river. yet when I was there last year I walked from the gate all of the way to the Victory Liner bus station and it is more subdued but the memoried flood and it is almost like a time warp. Hard to explain but you will see what I mean when you are there.

      Oh no more “Hey Joe!” it is “Bawsz” and women still called “madam”

      • Tim Lindsey says:

        thanks will check out the wreck diving. And yes im used to Bawsz. They use that term at my local store owned by an Asian Indian family. Guess it means customer!

      • Dave D says:

        do us all a favor and take some pictures to post back on here, like Magsaysay Ave, White Rock, the gate, islands… that would be awsome…. and stand in front of the old Pearl Club and yell… MARLINE…. I miss that girl….

      • John Hodges says:

        Took over 40 years but I found my Honeyko from the Tom Tom club………In PHOENIX of all places. She’s been there for almost 30 years. Go figure….

      • Tim lindsey says:

        Go figure. She was probably looking for you too. War brings people together then tears them apart! But people never give up!. You started your search in PI and ended up in Phoenix . Amazing! Yes I’ll take some pics. That’s my first dive location for about 5 days . There are a few wrecks in subic bay. Should be a good starting point. Some spanish some ww2.

      • Gary Smith says:

        no what you mean when you say nothing like the heydey my wife and i go every year for two months and eventually retire there if i don’t die first lol. we stay at the blue rock at baloy beach when not in her province Bicol. and usually a week in tarlac visiting friends. and few days in pampanga. last two years spent several days in Boracay which i don’t like that much to many tourists.

      • Tim Lindsey says:

        Yes that’s probably right. Was the blues not whites. Probably thinking of Sasebo Japan.

      • Tim Lindsey says:

        Just got back from subic. Got my 2 sons qualifies in diving . Tried to hunt up some old friends . Not to successful there but going back next month without sons to give it another try without distractions. Geographical have changed, all the bars in olongapo have been replaced with a thriving community of families all working on the old base , nice malls . Just a couple bars mostly Korean. But subic as we new in in the old days is the new barrio district a lot of the clubs in olongapopo have moved out there. Pricesce and people about the same. The bands have been replaced by videos but , kind of miss that. Go further out being subic you get some bars like the old subic some bands a lot cheaper not so much hustle. . Be little more careful as it with those kind of places . Treat people with respect and friendly. And be cautious go with somebody or keep cool there are always valtures no security. .

  60. For those missing the old Angeles City bar scene, I have hundreds of photos posted on my Facebook Group, Classic AC Photos. Everyone is welcome to join:

  61. Gary Smith says:

    spent many liberties in olongapo in the 60’s while stationed on the USS Woodpecker out of Sasebo, Japan. used to love going to moms and getting tacos with special hot sauce. Would burn your mouth but chased it with ice cold san mig. Was there forget what year we took an old coast gaurd whec through overhaul before giving it to Viet nam. Also was stationed on USS Sterett when was home ported out of Subic that was CG-31. Met my wife in the west fargo club and have been married for 40 years. Definatey remember the old days there dirt streets had to wear whites on liberty in the early days and if monsoon season get the mud on them might as well throw them away. awww the good old days

    • Tim lindsey says:

      Yes most of the times the whites were ruined on 1 night of Liberty. But had several made there faily cheap taylored perfectly. Just part of the cost of Liberty. Sharkskin material . Was legal uniform from the navy’s viewpoint. Was not actually sharkskin but had a lot of silk and looked shiny. Embroideries cuffs when rolled up on Liberty.

      • Tim Lindsey says:

        Actually my purpose was to find an old flame. Janet Santos. Did not have that much success but am going back to try again new her for 10 years just to stupid not to marry her . But you know how the Navy was. Well they said the wouldnot approve bla bla. Had to have there approval ect ct. So I figured it was impossible just a stupid military attitude that I bought into. But I’m going back and am going to try to work the barangay captain to locate . Got any suggestions.

  62. Gary Smith says:

    think you are talking about sharkskin blues not the whites which we wore in olongapo.

    • Jim says:

      All the custom tailored whites I ever saw was the ones that were made from this relatively NEW material called Polyester Knit. They made custom Bell bottom whites, that never had to be starched and ironed. Some commands there would allow them for everyday, but were NOT allowed for any personal inspections.

      • Glen Bradshaw says:

        Was young 21yr old Marine stationed at Cubi Point near the carrier pier. We were Marine Air Support Squadron-2….with radar control we flew Navy & Marine small aircraft up the coast to a small island target North of Subic Bay …..dropped bombs on the island for the day’s operations. The evening operations were in Olongapo City. We worked hard & we played hard! My girl’s name was Ester, now she was a wild thing. After all these years just thinking of her puts a smile on my face. Lots memories…..a couple of us took a long weekend trip up the road with a bunch of curves to Bagio…then in Olongapo the San Miguel beer, the entertainment was fantastic, the monkey meat, poncit dish, a few times some guys & I went a little further into town to see the “Cock Fights”…now a single cock fight does not last but a few minutes. I think this is where most of that chicken-on-a-stick comes from, the losers. There was at least one loser…sometimes both cocks die. I loved PI. It was the best place that I was stationed!! Yes, I had a buddy get a pistol stuck in his face & was robbed while in a jeep-nee. I saw a young girl pull a butterfly knife out of her hair up on her head & go after a guy. And a couple fights( young men, drinking & good looking women) well we did some damage to the bar….but no one was seriously injured. Had lots of fun…..once my outfit rented the Swanky Club for the whole day & evening. They cooked us a big pig on a bamboo pole out back over a fire, also had some kind of cooked goat head on a stove & some type of spicy meat rolled up in a crust and fried. Food & beer was great. Somewhere I still have a picture of all of us….officers, enlisted, the members of the band & the girls all together in a group.. we were pretty much looking wasted! GOOD MEMORIES—GOOD TIMES!!! I have talked about life in the city of Olongapo to a few guys over the years….I guess some of them figured it was BS. You just had to be there & live it… was a long time ago, BUT I REMEMBER ALL OF IT! Semper Fi.

      • Glen Bradshaw says:

        I got carried way telling my adventures the year was 1963-1964 in Olongapo, Philippines.
        My same outfit Marine Air Support Squadron -2 after the experience of the practice operations from Cubic Point, Subic Bay, PI. ….they ended up in the real live operations from Khe San, Vietnam & from I Corps, Vietnam. Semper Fi.

  63. Larry Paulino Galinato says:

    Dennis…I enjoyed reading your blog, especially the part where you describe a crocodile pond in front of a club on the right side of Magsaysay Drive. You may recall the name of the club was Pauline’s. I lived at inside the club because my mother managed the club for my grandfather who was the proprietor. I attended George Dewey High School on base from ’68 and graduated in ’73. Pauline’s burned down due to an electrical in the summer of ’74. I still have family there. My cousin, the honorable Rolen Paulino is the current mayor of Olongapo.

    Larry Paulino Galinato
    Las Vegas, NV

  64. skywalker says:

    Writing a novel that includes Cubi, Subic and ‘Po City in the 1981-83 time period. Anyone remember which side of the street the Chuckwagon bar was on? I think that was the name.

    Also, there was a great t-shirt that began with “I’ve smoked dope, chewed rope…” and ended with “…but I ain’t never seen shit like this.” Anyone remember it and have the actual words?

    • Skywalker,
      You can find a list of bars at , but unfortunately the Chuckwagon is not listed. I don’t recall seeing it in ’72 or ’73, but then the memory cells are needing some tweaks. I wish I had the t-shirt you describe. ;-)


      • John Hodges says:

        I spent a LOT of time on Magsaysay during the early 70’s through the early 80’s. Don’t remember a joint called The Chuckwagon. I remember the Cockeyed Cowboy, The Wagon Wheel. The Old West #1 & #2 there were a Lot of Country themed bars on Magsaysay and Rizal like the Oak Barrell and the Joy Club #1 & Joy Club #2.

  65. skywalker says:

    Thanks Dennis. I saw that t-shirt every visit during my time in a squadron on Midway and never bought it. I kick myself often.

  66. Juan says:

    Dennis thanks you for the memories. MarineBarricks station for about 15 months I loved the legends club and the Sierra Club and I would go to the Playboy club. I worked in the supply hut I was a e-3 I think about my friends that I made during that time and I missed them I was stationed at Subic Bay from 1973 to 1975. Every day was a party.

  67. Dennis Rutowski says:

    Dennis thanks for the great web page. I was stationed at Sub Group 7 rep at SRF fm 85-86. Can’t believe I ate the “mystery meat” on a stick. Some of my favorite places were Straw Hat Pizza, Cork Room and Tepanyaki Steak House. I always found my way to D-rock no matter what shape I was in. Always wanted to find people from PSD or NAVPTO that I worked with.

  68. John Arnold says:

    You must have taken notes in Olongapo, you tell your story like I was walking next to you. Your credibility went over the top when you described “shit river” I went off the beaten path a couple of times. Both could have been disastrous. I almost got robbed and my throat slit the first time (got free somehow) and ran 4 sec 40 gettin outta there. Like most of us I could go on forever about Olongapo and Subic City. People stateside couldn’t believe some of my tales and was sure I was full of it. Thanks for the good memories
    . “Fast” Johnny Arnold DD852 Leonard F. Mason OS2

  69. marty martin says:

    74 to76, uss worden just missed ali frazier fight in manila. loved to gt shave and haircut and drink a cold one after getting into port.

  70. princess anne says:

    Is there any program in Olongapo City that can help those fil-am children who wants to find their father?

  71. Ron Murray says:

    Dennis, Brought back a lot of memories. I was on the Piedmont AD-17 during that time so you probably tied up to us somewhere. We spent about 6 months of the 8 month cruise in Subic tending ships. We had a routine. Hit the bowling alley early, eat and have a few beers to get the evening started then hit the bars. We would start at I think the Astro Club or whichever one was the first or second bar on the left as you started down Magsaysay, Mike’s, the Florida Club and for some reason after enough San Miguel we would end up at Jolo’s and then continue our “fun”. By the way where are you from. My wife’s maiden name is Clevenger.

  72. Ron Murray says:

    One of my most interesting memories actually happened in Long Beach. We were in another apartment drinking and some guy from another ship came in with his wife and the girl and I had a hard time keeping a straight face since we had “met before”. Glad they did not live in or close to our apartment building. Prevented a sticky (no pun intended) situation.

  73. Ron Murray says:

    Just made sure the bars were not too close to together.

  74. Brad Simpson says:

    Nicely described! I heard the stories while stationed @ camp Hansen. When our ship lka116 st Louis pulled in I saw many ships and thought “there can’t be that many girls in this small town” After crossing shit river I found out the stories were true! This was 77.I had a wife and home for my two weeks. Cost me one drink per night! I found a side bar about half way up the main drag and one block over to the left. Got mama san to make me mojo! Was yellow not red like Okinawa. Ended up sleeping on the floor.

  75. joe says:

    I met my second ship (the uss lasalle) there in 74.I had just turned 18 and stayed almost six weeks.Oh the wonderful memories!The only establishment names i remember were the cave,playboy room,and that one special place on the right hand side just out of subic called heaven.Does anyone remember that? Olongapo was nice experience,but after six weeks got real tired.If subic were still active now though i would be on the next plane there.

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