Unlike the rest of the Philippines which gained independence from the United States after World War II in 1946, Olongapo in Zambales province was the only area governed as a part of the United States naval reservation. It was only in December 1959 that Olongapo was returned to the Philippine government and converted into a municipality.
But even after relinquishing Olongapo, the presence of one of the world’s biggest US naval bases in Olongapo has turned the city into a symbol of US military might, making Olongapo synonymous to US colonial domination. With the presence of the US military bases a thriving entertainment industry grew in Olongapo in the 1960s and 70s (and even up to the late 1980s), which in turned spawned social ills such as smuggling, chronic conflicts with erring US GIs and rampant prostitution that there was a time when “Olongapo girls” even connote “prostitutes” in Filipino slang.
The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 badly damaged the naval complex and scuttled plans of the US military to aggressively push for the extension of the US-Philippine military treaty. The US naval facilities in Olongapo was finally converted into a freeport after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension of a treaty with the US government in 1992. Today, the city has led in innovative urban management solutions and is often seen as a model to neighbouring municipalities.
Mabuhay ang Olongapo!