SCUTTLEBUTT: Olongapo is 62 years old as a Philippine independent community

A bit of history about Olongapo, which majority of the present day residents I believe are not aware as most of them are migrants or offspring’s of former entertainment workers that decided to stay put in the city after the Americans left in 1997.

I will be doing research work on the growth and development of the former US Navy liberty town to equip my readers on how the town became the first highly urbanized city of Central Luzon, much ahead of Angeles City in Pampanga which also hosted a US military base in Clark.

Last piece of PH territory

Yes, Olongapo was the last piece of Philippine territory surrendered by the United States to the Philippine government. Formal turnover of the reservation community was made on December 7, 1959. By next month, the city will be observing its 62 years liberation from US rule.

I am not aware if the local government unit headed by Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. or his city staff are preparing an event to celebrate this milestone date on Dec.7. Moreover, little activities is heard from the Olongapo Historical Society.

I was glad that the city government celebrated the cityhood last June 1, 2021 with tree planting activities at the Kalaklan Ridge. The cityhood was the legislative work of the Magsaysay clan, with Ramon Magsaysay Jr., sponsoring the measure at the lower house and in the senate is Uncle Genaro Magsaysay.

It was smooth sailing in the lower house but in the Senate, the measure met opposition from Camilio Osias of La Union who threatened to filibuster if the electric power distribution franchise was not awarded to Ruben Valero, who was granted a franchise by the lower house.

When the threat was conveyed to then Olongapo Mayor James L. Gordon, Sr., as the senate session was in recess and the bill was on the agenda, Jimmy Gordon curtly rejected to surrender the power distribution and declared that “I would rather not be city mayor, if the only facility inherited from the US Navy is made as a concession for the cityhood approval.”

As a compromise, by recollection, a franchise to establish an Ice Plant venture was awarded to Valero, whom we found out later was a wedding godson of the Ilocano Senator and operator of the La Union power distribution.

Olongapo according to the 2020 census has 260,317 population but there are more uncensored temporary residents that comes from all parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
There 17 Barangays and most of the houses are unfenced because the main communities along the major streets of Magsaysay , Rizal and interior roads are shades of the naval reservation where the administrator the US Navy base commander.

Appointed as the first political mayor in 1959 was Ruben Geronimo and was succeeded by Ching Arriola. But during the first election in 1963, James Gordon emerge victorious. Under the battle cry of political bossism from the governor of Zambales, Gordon fought interference from Iba and after six years, from Dec. 7, Olongapo gained independence from the capitol by succeeding in the enactment of the City charter.

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