Olongapo Reservation

Posted 11 months ago

In 1908, the Station Intelligence Officer of the U. S. Marine Corps was charged with the administrative control of Olongapo.  In this capacity, he acted as mayor, judge, and police officer.

To defray the costs of running the municipal government, and to pay salaries of the civilian clerks who worked under him, he initiated a charge, ten centavos, for the identification card which residents of Olongapo were required to have.

With the growth of Olongapo, the naval authorities established a well-planned town site which provided for all the attendant conveniences of a modern town; paved streets, sidewalks, concrete gutters, fire department, schools, hospitals and other municipal projects.

The charge of the identification cards was subsequently increased to meet municipal expenses. Every able bodied male citizen who was granted a land occupancy permit was also required to donate four days free labor to Olongapo or to pay a “waiver fee” in the amount of 3.20 pesos. This would be later increased to four pesos.  (This donation of free labor was established during the Spanish regime when the government exacted some amount of work from all the residents in a community to maintain its construction projects.)

In 1925, the provincial government in Zambales constructed a hard-surface road cutting across the mountains that surrounds Olongapo, which made road travel between Olongapo and the rest of the province possible.  This highway was named Manila Avenue because it was the road going to the capital city. Soon after, Olongapo became a business center. New employment vacancies were opened to Filipinos at the Navy Yard that saw the influx of more people to Olongapo. Business establishments sprang up to meet the demands of the growing local population.

Subic Bay seawall 1928
Before the outbreak of World War II, Olongapo had  5,000, with a great majority of the male residents employed by the U.S. Navy.

Olongapo was a compact, clean and cheerful town.  The people were comparatively prosperous. They considered living in Olongapo a great advantage and an honor as well.  Olongapo during this time enjoyed all the comforts of a modern community:  it has a fire protection system; electric plant, and drainage system. Its civic improvements included a spacious market, public elementary and high schools, and a hospital adequate enough to serve the needs of the town.

No domestic animals roamed the streets before the war.  All families who wanted to raise pigs were required to bring them to Wawa, a place by the foot of Kalaklan Bridge where the town maintained a sort of pig farm.  All dogs in Olongapo wore muzzles then and all carabaos were confined in the farm districts of Bajac-Bajac and Tapinac.

The Marines, detailed as police officers and sanitary inspectors, used to go around early in the morning, knocking at people’s doors to remind them that their house surroundings should be cleaned. When the fleet was in, there was usually a curfew hour for Olongapo women and by six o’clock in the evening, no decent, self-respecting girl dared to venture out in the streets.

Pre-war Olongapo also impressed its visitors as being one of the finest communities in the country.  People passing though the town never failed to comment on its cleanliness and orderliness.

The rest of the old community of Olongapo was annexed by the town of Subic, Zambales based on order of Governor General William Cameron Forbes that took effect on April 1, 1912.

In the 1940s, war with Japan became imminent and the American military took measures to prevent the Japanese from securing the strategic facilities at Subic. To prepare for eventual war, the Dewey Drydock, was towed to Mariveles Harbor, on the tip of the Bataan Peninsula and scuttled there on April 8, 1941.

On the 11th of December of that year, Japanese zero bombers attacked Subic, strafing and destroying seven Catalina naval patrol aircrafts in the harbor. There were evidence of Japanese intelligence gathering in the area and reports were being received about the approach of the Japanese fleet. An invasion was predicted.

By 24 December 1941, the situation at Subic was considered strategically untenable and orders were given to destroy the station and withdraw. The US military burned down the base, while local Filipino residents torched the town of Olongapo. As a final measure, the armored cruiser USS New York, deemed antiquated and consigned as a floating store ship-was towed into a deep part of the bay and scuttled to deny the Japanese her four 8” guns. The US Marines withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula and were eventually evacuated under fire to Corregidor Island where they made their last stand before surrendering.

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