Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Olongapo City History


Olongapo a New City

James L. Gordon worked hard for self determination of Olongapo residents and he got it first through the relinquishment of Olongapo by the US government to the Philippine government then by his efforts for city status for Olongapo. His political battles earned for him many enemies who were after self aggrandizement. He fought to retain the power utility and the telephone system which some local politicians wanted to sell to private entities at a bargain. He reiterated his Filipino Citizenship which his political rivals questioned. He was entitled to claim American citizenship being the son of a retired US soldier. Yet he opted to remain Filipino.

In February 20, 1967, he was assassinated at City Hall, only eight and a half months after Olongapo became a city.

Gordons widow Amelia was elected Mayor in the next election. Like her husband, Mayor Amelia worked hard at social amelioration. She invited a Battalion Combat Team from Pampanga to carve out a residential area in the hilly Gordon Heights for homeless families. The BCT came with their bulldozers and pay loaders and the area was soon subdivided for distribution.
Richard J. Gordon was elected Mayor in 1980. He worked for recognition of Olongapo as Highly Urbanized City, a separate entity from the province of Zambales. This recognition was won by Olongapo on December 07, 1983.

During the 1987 election Kate H. Gordon was elected Representative of the First District of Zambales. This made a formidable partnership that worked for the advancement of the interests of Olongapo residents.

The presence of the US Navy in Olongapo for 91 years brought gainful employment for residents. One serious social disadvantage, however, was the proliferation of the sex trade as US Navy on rest and recreation made Olongapo a stopover area. In the efforts to neutralize this, particularly the salacious name of Sin City that the city had been getting, many measures were taken. Rules of hygiene, sanitation, propriety and grooming were strictly implemented. Efforts were made to turn the city into a Festival City, a Scene City, a Mardi Gras City, with wholesome fun encouraged. Olongapo music was at its best.

The even tenor of life in the city was disrupted by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo on June 15, 1991. With the entire city covered in volcanic ash from 18 to 24 inches, life became a daily struggle. No water, no electricity, rare transportation, demolished structures, food shortage were only some of the trials experienced by Olongapo residents for some weeks. Native resiliency in the face of disaster came to the fore however, and the city was back to normal in less than a month.
In the national scene, however, legislators were working to free the country from any foreign military presence. On September 16, 1991 the Philippine Senate voted to reject the Treaty of 

Friendship, Cooperation and Security, thus effectively terminating the stay of US military bases in the Philippines and prohibiting the establishment of any other foreign military presence in the country.

The vision of a new Olongapo became even more defined with the ingenious design of Mayor Richard Gordon to put up thought provoking and highly-motivating slogans all around the city. Phrases like What Post OptionsThis Country Needs is Not a Change of Men but a Change in Men, Shared Vision, Shared Struggles, Shared Triumphs, Olongapo A City with Integrity, Character, Dignity and Pride, among other inspiring credos spelled the difference on how the city was painstakingly transformed into a highly-unified and forward-looking metropolis. These deeply ingrained values helped create a very disciplined and committed breed of achievers so characteristically Olongapo.