Last updated on September 30, 2019
Unlike the rest of the Philippines which gained independence from the United States after World War II in 1946, Olongapo was governed as a part of the United States naval reservation. The Subic Bay Naval Base commanding officer was chairman of the Olongapo town council, school board, and hospital board. Olongapo’s 60,000 Filipino residents paid taxes to the United States Navy and those accused of crimes involving American servicemen were tried in US Navy courts. In July 1955, Manila mayor Arsenio Lacson announced that US service personnel accused of crimes in Manila would be tried in Philippine courts because of US Navy abuses of Filipinos in Olongapo. On October 23, 1959, Olongapo was placed under martial law when Robert Grant, the American owner of an Olongapo auto parts store was killed and the US Navy declined to identify or try the Naval Supply Depot sentry who shot him.
Olongapo City was the last piece of Philippine territory surrendered by the US to the country in the 1950s. On December 7, 1959, 56,000 acres of land with electrical, telephone and water utilities was relinquished to Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Felixberto Serrano. The first mayor appointed was civic leader Ruben Geronimo and he was later succeeded by business entrepreneur Ildefonso Arriola.
Six years later under Mayor James Leonard T. Gordon, Olongapo was reconverted to a chartered city on June 1, 1966. The adjacent U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay headed by Manuel Ardonia was the largest United States Navy installation in the Pacific at the time, and employed 15,000 Filipino civilians. The base was visited by 215 ships per month as Vietnam War activity peaked in 1967. The nightclubs along Ramon Magsaysay Drive between the naval base main gate and Rizal Avenue were notoriously popular among the 4,225,000 servicemen visiting the base that year. Sailors of the war remember talented Filipino musicians and singers, inexpensive San Miguel beer, attractive teen-age prostitutes, erotic floor shows, Jeepney rides back to the naval base and children diving for coins tossed from the bridge over the estuarine drainage channel in front of the naval base main gate. Olongapo was then upgraded as a highly urbanized city on December 7, 1983.