Olongapo City, Philippines – My Chosen Retirement Home

Ulo Ng Apo - Olongapo City 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 City our home. We could have picked 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 City 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 Station governed Olongapo City until the lobbying efforts of James Gordon (half American, half Filipino) resulted in Olongapo City 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 City 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 City 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.

My Neighborhood

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 City in the 1980s, the real population of the city was estimated at over 100,000 people. As of the 2010 census, there are more than 220,000 living in Olongapo City. It seems like it’s grown much more but I’m sure it’s just because of the increase in private vehicles.

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.

Originally published on August 10, 2013 – Certain information has been updated.

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15 Responses

  1. Marilyn says:

    Well, I enjoy reading about your City,,, I have nephew there. married to a filipino.
    I am tring to find out about his health. I’m wondering how to go about this, being i’m in Fl. I had one report that he is in Hosp. BUT,, his wife denies the report.
    Maybe Memorial Hospital could help me out,,, You Think?

    • RT Cunningham says:

      Hi Marilyn. I don’t know how to help you. There’s more than one hospital there and I don’t have any contact information for any of them.

  2. Dirk says:

    Hi
    Just read your blog. I am from Australia amd will be moving to Olongapo later this year. My fiancee is currently running our sari sari store in the area. We are meeting in Bali for a weeks holiday on the 18th and returning to Olongapo on the 25th. We are now looking for a house to purchase in the area. Really liked to hear that you are happy in your new chosen retirement location. Keep in touch and maybe we can catch up over a coffee while I am there.

    Thanks

    Dirk

  3. murphy says:

    lived there on the early 70s at cubi point. am retired now, had a stroke lost my left side. need to know about medical care, va and civilian also living on the old subic base. i am single and straight but do not need a girl friend. i am a butterfly

    • RT Cunningham says:

      The only VA is in Manila and the only VA outpatient clinic is for service-connected disabilities. Medical services on the local economy are fairly cheap though. I’ve had relatives pay less per visit than most people pay for monthly premiums. Living on the old Subic base requires you to lease a place for X number of years, or to rent from someone who has already done so. Living on the local economy is fairly cheap as well. You can rent almost anywhere less than $150 per month (and those are houses). I know people who rent apartments for about $25 USD (around 1000 pesos).

      • cortez says:

        I will be joining RAO in subic. I will be needing just a studio apartment with shower possibly. Can I find somewhere on the internet?

        • RT Cunningham says:

          I don’t think so. The best you can do is look around. There’s a lot of places for rent and if you pay more than $100 (or about 4300 pesos), you’re paying too much.

  4. Howard says:

    Hello love your blog. I am retired U.S. Air Force. I visited Clark Air Base and Subic Bay several times during the 1980s. Recently I met a wonderful filipina through a reputable dating service eHarmony. She is 48 years old, single, no children, living at home with her parents. She is an administrative assistant for a large construction company at Subic Bay. We have been emailing each other back and forth for 10 days now. I believe we are very compatible. I plan to visit her in Olongopo in June to see if we are good for each other and maybe live in Olongopo. Do you have any recommendations on marrying this filipina? Thank you Howard

  5. Howard says:

    Hello again RT. Passport and Visa information to PI. I don’t how long my visit to PI will be. Do I have to buy round trip airline tickets? Should I get a 30 day tourist visa or a six month visa? What are your recommendations? Thanks Howard, MSgt, USAF, Retired

    • RT Cunningham says:

      You can stay up to 21 days on your passport alone, which you can extend for 59 days when you get there. You can get a longer visa at any of the Philippine consulates in the United States and that’s what I recommend, just to avoid any kind of hassle. You wouldn’t have to worry about renewing it until visa is nearly expired.

      Depending on the airline, they could require you to have a round-trip ticket if you don’t have anymore more than a passport. A round-trip ticket isn’t quite double the price of a one-way ticket.

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