In 2005, my wife and I made a conscious, mutual decision to move to the Philippines permanently. It wasn’t until after we arrived in April of 2006 that we chose to make Olongapo our home. We could have chosen any place in the country.
When you decide to make any place your home, you need to learn as much about that place as possible to prevent a costly mistake. This is especially true when you’re moving to another country. Because I’d already visited Olongapo a few times, I already knew a lot of things about it. Still, I did some research before discussing it with my wife.
The Rebirth of the Philippines and then Olongapo City
After the end of World War II, the United States granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946. The Philippines, however, recognizes and celebrates their original Independence Day of June 12, 1898.
The Subic Bay naval base governed Olongapo until the lobbying efforts of James Gordon (half American, half Filipino) resulted in Olongapo being turned over to the Philippines and converted into a municipality in 1959. Mayor James Gordon succeeded in having it reconverted to a chartered city in 1966. Although Olongapo resides within the borders of the Zambales province, it administers itself autonomously.
The year 1992 was another rebirth of sorts. After the lease for the Subic Bay Naval Station expired, the son of the previous mayor, Mayor Richard Gordon, succeeded in getting the land turned into the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Most of the places in Olongapo that catered to service members closed down, causing a severe impact on the local economy. It wasn’t as severe as the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, which left 14 inches of wet ash on the city, but the city recovered much more quickly from the eruption than the loss of jobs the base was providing before it closed.
Since that time, new businesses both in Olongapo City and at the freeport zone have sprung up and the economy is better now than it was before, at least in my opinion.
Olongapo City is broken down into 17 administrative subdivisions called barangays, the smallest of the subdivisions in the country. Formerly known as barrios (from the Spanish history, and some areas are still called that), it’s the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward.
I live in the barangay of Santa Rita. When I was in Olongapo in the 1980s, the real population of the city was estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 people. As of the 2010 census, there are more than 300,000 living in the Olongapo/Subic area.
My wife and I bought the lot next to the lot we live on now back in 1988. My parents-in-law and her siblings moved there. In 2005, we bought this lot. Our original intention was just to own it to prevent anyone else from building between the creek and their houses. In 2006, we built our house on this lot.