RT Cunningham


Mayor James Leonard Gordon - Honoring the Father of Olongapo City

James Leonard Gordon His full name was James Leonard Tagle Gordon. He was the first mayor of Olongapo City, serving from December 30, 1963 to February 20, 1967 (his death).

Mayor Gordon was half-Filipino, half-American. He and his brothers were born in the Philippines. His father was a United States Marine. His brothers chose to live in the United States while Gordon chose to live in the Philippines.

Mayor Gordon was born on January 17, 1917. Today would have been his 100th birthday. The Senate of the Philippines issued a press release yesterday, commemorating the occasion. For the residents of Olongapo City, today is a one-time public holiday.

Gordon, the Incorruptible Mayor

If you read his history, you’ll understand what I mean by corruption. The history of the Philippines and Olongapo itself is filled with stories of corruption. Gordon was pretty much on his own when he was fighting off the political elite of the Zambales province.

When I talk to local residents, I’m usually surprised at how little they know about the city they live in. Not as much as I was 10 years ago, but still a little surprised. I’m not talking about the people who moved here from somewhere else but those who were actually born here. It’s a sad state of affairs when a foreigner, like me, knows more about the local history than the natives.

Olongapo Village

I often talk to visitors about the Olongapo village, as it was before it was relocated from what is now the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. I point out that Dewey Avenue, which runs from the Kalaklan Lighthouse Bridge to the Spanish Gate ruins, used to be the main road through the village.

The San Roque Chapel is all that remains of the original Olongapo village. The village was destroyed twice during World War II but that building survived.

Mayor Gordon’s reign of fire took place after World War II, years after Philippine independence was granted by the United States. Ferdinand Marcos was the President of the Philippines for part of those years.

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By RT Cunningham
January 17, 2017