The Place Where I Live in the Philippines
Tagged with american, hotels, olongapo city, philippines, restaurants, subic bay freeport zone on December 3, 2023
I live in Olongapo City, Philippines, and I’ve lived here since 2006. I became a permanent resident within the first month of arrival. Olongapo is next to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ), which is part of the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone and formerly U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay.
It became the freeport zone sometime after the last of the American military left in 1992. It’s separated from Olongapo on the north side by a drainage channel and on the west side by the Santa Rita River. The entire economic zone includes the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, and parts of the Zambales and Bataan provinces.
I reside in the Santa Rita barangay (administrative subdivision). My house is the largest of four houses in a compound covering two pieces of land. It’s on a hill in an area that never floods.
There are more hotels than I can remember the names of, so I won’t even bother. There are a lot of older hotels, mostly in the Barretto barangay of Olongapo. Most of those are resorts next to the beaches. The hotels in other parts of Olongapo, not near beaches and not fancy at all, are a lot less expensive. Of course, you still need to check the amenities. That hotel I stayed at in 1986, with my wife, didn’t have a properly flushing toilet. That hotel no longer exists.
There are newer hotels at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. I went to one to attend the wedding of a friend in 2016, but I don’t remember the name of the hotel.
I haven’t frequented as many of the restaurants in this area as most people. Some of the restaurants that were located in Olongapo moved into one of the three malls (two in Olongapo and one at the freeport zone) or closed altogether. I can’t remember seeing a Kenny Rogers Roasters after it closed in downtown Olongapo. TripAdvisor has a list of the top restaurants, and I haven’t even been close to visiting all of them. These are my favorites, so far:
- S&R Pizza (SBFZ)
- Shakey’s Pizza (SBFZ)
- Sit-n-Bull (Barretto barangay)
- Texas Joe’s House of Ribs (SBFZ)
- Xtremely Xpresso Cafe (SBFZ and SM City Olongapo Central Mall)
Transportation at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and in Olongapo
The two most common forms of transportation in Olongapo are the jeepneys and the tricycles. A jeepney costs the least, I can’t tell you how much it costs today, but it’s still less than the equivalent of one U.S. dollar. A tricycle costs more, but it’s still very affordable. Public jeepneys are not allowed at the freeport zone unless they’re carrying no passengers and refueling at one of the service stations. Private jeepneys and private tricycles are allowed.
A taxi service is based at the freeport zone and an Uber-like service called “Grab” is active there as well as in Olongapo, but I don’t know where it’s based. A sister-in-law’s husband (bilas in Tagalog) drives a taxi, and he doesn’t make the money he made before Grab started invading his territory. There’s one more taxi service, based in Olongapo, but I don’t know the name of it.
A branch of the Victory Liner bus service is based in Olongapo, and I’ve seen other buses from other services traveling through the city. I don’t know where they’re based, and it doesn’t really matter. Although there’s an airport at the freeport zone, it isn’t available for passenger transportation. It was, however, used to repatriate overseas Filipino workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Home in Olongapo
After getting stuck in the United States for nearly four years due to the pandemic, Josie and I returned to Olongapo in March 2022. We left again a year later, and we returned once again in October 2023. I didn’t get out much during that one year. I went to the Harbor Point Mall twice, SM City Olongapo Central twice and the Sit-n-Bull restaurant once. I went to the Manila Bureau of Immigration to renew my ACR I-Card before leaving again.
Instead of eating outside the home, we have delivery services bring our food to us (when we want that kind of food). The only time we’ll intentionally eat outside the home is when we’re already on the road for something else. I’ve had food from S&R Pizza, Jollibee and McDonald’s delivered so far. I have no idea if I’ll ever order anything else for delivery.
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