The Philippines

 

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Mag Beer Muna Tayo!  O anong Sarap, Ng San Miguel Beer!  Perhaps responsible for more hooks and badges than any other beer in the world.

 

Good old San Mig! Once the only beer available in the Philippines and has spun many a sailor out! Prices for this varied considerably depending on where one chose to drink. In the usual sailors bars in Subic and Manila the price was one Peso, with the exchange rate of 7¾ pesos to one dollar Australian it wasn't hard to work out why this place was so popular. I have drunk it for as low as 25 Centavos a bottle in the back streets of Manila prior to marshall law being introduced in 1972. The Yanks would also make some strange concoctions with it such as the infamous MOJO consisting of a mixture of local spirits, pineapple juice and topped up with San Mig. Believe me it blasted you off the planet! or the time Steve Wisdom and myself got legless with a group of yanks who liked to mix 50/50 San Mig and Rose Wine from portugal. The biggest problem in the Philippines, like many other Sth East Aisan countries at the time, was you didn't have to move far from the city areas before you couldn't get a cold beer. It was usually poured into a jug full of ice or you had ice cubes thrown in your glass and the tepid beer poured over it. Yecccchhhh! 

 

There were three major destinations in the Philippines for visiting Australian Warships. Manila, Subic Bay and Cebu. Other lesser ports included Iloilo and Tacloban. These visits were most looked forward to, however they could be dangerous. Prior to Marcos introducing Martial Law throughout the country in September 1972 there was a murder taking place in Manila every 20 minutes. And no-one was sacred, including our own shore patrols. Leigh Dwyer, Tony Newlands and myself were lucky to escape with our lives after being drugged, coming to, and exiting a night club on Roxas Boulevard one evening in April 1970.

The Manager who decided he would like to relieve us of some 900 pesos set his over zealous body guards upon us who were very quick to shove us head first into a wall, pistol whip us and push the muzzles of their .45 Autos hard into our heads just behind our ears. There was much shouting and screaming, Tony and I both knew the sadistic heavies wanted to shoot us and we desperately tried to figure a way out. Meanwhile level headed Leigh managed to convince the manager we were broke and that killing us would not solve his problem. He finally settled for 300 pesos and let us go, much to the disappointment of the hired guns who seemed very eager to add a 'white man' to their no doubt long list of victims. Such was the Philippines in these crazy times.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Above: Amongst the first original Bars in what was to become the infamous Ermita District - Spider's Web, Eagles Nest and China Coast located in notorious M.H Del Pilar Street. Prior to the tourist boom of the mid to late 70's, Manila was in turmoil. Rioting and insurrection was commonplace and the major part of city was boarded up. The Sailors would be ferried ashore in USN LCHs, dropped at the USO Landing and then make their way to Pasay City (Peso City, as we called it) and up to the High Noon or Charlie's Bar. All bars and night clubs had a 'check in' room and large signs told us to check in all firearms and lethal weapons at the door. This wasn't some John Wayne 'Yippee' movie, this was for real. Marcos finally lifted Martial Law by Christmas 1977 after much of the rebellious population had been subjugated by the heavy hand of the military and Marcos thugs. Good for the tourists but not real flash for the ordinary Philippino. During Marshall Law a curfew was in place throughout the country which meant all bars stopped service at 23:30 and everyone had to be off the streets by midnight. Heavily armed military units patrolled the streets and to be caught out after midnight meant the risk of being gunned down, arrested or at the very least parting with a sizeable sum of money to be 'escorted' back to your hotel or place of accomodation.
 
 

 

Kings Cross Club - One of the 'foreign' owned bars of the late 70's. Although it was impossible to own property outright as a foreigner in the Philippines most Non-Philippino owners had local 'partners'. Above is one that specialised in partnering Aussies, Danny Gonzalo who took more Australians to the cleaners than you can poke a stick at. There was a mug got off the plane from Oz every minute and Danny was there to meet them. Danny started life in the early 70's as a young boy pimping and touting for New Norma's Inn, a ' Hospitality Bar' in Ermita. He is probably living in a mansion in the US today.

 

Subic Bay - Olongapo City, Philippines

 

Whisky A Go Go Bar Subic Bay

 

The infamous Subic Bay, Philippines. Formerly the site of one of the largest military installations in the world especially so if you incorporate what was once Clarke Airforce Base in Angeles City, a lttle further north.

 

During the Vietnam era this particular port was perhaps the busiest I have ever seen. And, perhaps the most fun! Subic Bay - My first impressions were those of a 16 year old boy, my first port in Sth East Asia, a war still raging just north of here, yet this place was mad, a mixture of the serious and of the absurd.

 

Jet aircraft, fighters and bombers of all makes and models screaming low overhead taking off and landing at the Naval Air Station across the bay at Cubi Point, never ceasing 24 hours. Helicopters, like busy bees, picking up and setting down. Platoons of bare chested Marines, mostly black, doubling in squads, chanting cadences, around this enormous city within a city, the clang of metal on metal, the hiss of steam, the sounds of numerous ships at various stages of repair, this huge busy shipyard and naval base, the dust, the noise - Subic Bay in a hot, dry March 1970.

 

First liberty boat ashore sees us with Yank greenbacks in hand heading for the San Paquita Club, the enlisted men's boozer. For Petty Officers the China Seas Club is open too. The old hands know the way and I tag behind gaping in wonder at the extent of this place. We enter the EM's (Enlisted Men's) Club; it's huge, like a 'up market' Sydney Leagues Club. Packed with yank servicemen in all manner of uniforms. The sign boards announce visiting artists, international Hollywood and Las Vegas celebrities. This is just for the enlisted blokes? We get a table and the Filippina waitresses hover, smiling, flirting with us I remember thinking how stunningly attractive and friendly they were. Many of the Yanks had what was obviously their own local steady girlfriends with them.

 

The base was extensive incorporating golf courses, picture theatres, bowling alley, go-kart track, archery range, commissary, taxis, Naval Exchange or PX, skeet and trap range, MARS Station, Clubs and Boozers, horse riding, trail riding, scuba diving, sports fields and numerous other facilties. There was alot to do here and over at Cubi Point, the US Naval Air Station across the bay. However after getting a taste for San Miguel and wanting to see more of the local population and some action we take the long walk to the main gate. There are base taxis (Gueverro Taxi Company) run by locals but they are hard to hail on such a busy and well populated base.The main gate is like the MCG on Grand Final Day, there are thousands of servicemen and civilians entering and leaving, the stony faced 'Jarheads' ,Marines, stand stiffly, passing people through with a curt military flip of the hand, and clicking his counter in the other. He is amused when he looks at our ID Cards for they are still written by hand on a piece of cardboard and not plasticised or laminated like other navies. He passes us through anyway, shaking his head.

 

Outside the gate the first thing you come upon is the bridge spanning the prutrid, crawling, stagnant, Olongapo River where scores of children tread water whilst they wait for the GIs to throw pesos or centavos for them to dive for. The stench assaults the nostrils, you can nearly taste the foul odour. How the kids could survive for very long diving in this filth is beyond me. The Old Hands tell me to keep my hands on my money and any other valuables as we head over the bridge into what can only be described as the 'Wild West'. Everyone has a gun - Automatics, sawn-offs, M16s, .45s, you name it and someone has it, and everyone is screaming, load speakers blaring out money change rates, music blaring from 'jeepney' radios. The main road from the main gate, Magsaysay Drive, is gravel and the red dust kicked up by the jeeps in the scorching heat is choking. The main road is one endless line of bars on both sides.

 

We head for Paulines Bar. Paulines was a famous institution in Olongapo City, along with the New Jollo Bar. You name it, it was there for the asking. Live shows, exhibitionism, movies, gambling, sex, fights and rock and roll. Paulines was also the home of the infamous crocadile which was kept in a small pen outside the front of the bar on the track designated the footpath. Small children would wander up and down trying to sell ducklings for a peso each to feed to the crocadile. He was the fattest and laziest reptile I have ever seen and must have been really bored with duck on the menu constantly. Now and again a drunken sailor would occasionly get angry enough with the croc's lack of appetite so as to jump the fence and give him a belting. 'Hypo' Birmingham a burly AB Stoker tried it once and was lucky to get out with all of his body parts intact.

 

Olongapo, Angles City and Subic City was home to at least 500,000 working 'hospitality' girls, who came from all over the country to escape the poverty and privation of the provinces. The midnight - 5:00 am curfew applied to all servicemen and locals at all times in and around Olongapo City regardless of Martial Law. This could be a bonus when the Carrier Task Group was out at sea and if one was alone and wanted to meet and escort a nice young lady home. For all one had to do was to leave the bar at 11:30 pm like everyone else when it closed and walk up the main street (Magsaysay Drive) in the opposite direction to the base - one of the hundreds of thousands of dateless girls, would, after scaring off the opposition, take charge and lead you off to her humble abode down by the festering river or out in the bush towards Santa Rita. - Any port in a storm - as seen by both parties. At this bewitching hour it was not uncommon to have as many as half a dozen girls literally fighting each other whilst trying to drag you into the back of a jeepney. What the hell, let the best girl win I say.

 

Documentary Of a working girl, Rose, in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

Shots of Subic Bay - Philippines

 

The 'Zanzibar Club' Olongapo City, HMAS Stuart 1974. The blokes at the back are yanks and the ones at the front, with the hats, from the left of screen are - ABQMG 'Mo' Dunlop, ABUC Steve Wisdom, ABRP 'Cossy' Cosgrove and me. During every deployment some form of 'stepping ashore' head gear was always worn.

From Left of screen - LSQMG 'Gus' Ridley, LSQMG Dave Knox, ABQMG Rod Ross, Me, ABWM Tony Newlands at the Sierra Super Club, Olongapo City. This place used to have some great acts and entertainment. Bands and artists came from all over the Philippines to perform in Olongpao and the Filppinos were masters of imitation. One group did an Alice Cooper 'Welcome To My Nightmare' act that was totally awesome.

A short jeepney ride from Olongapo City and one could get away from the hustle of this 4th largest city in the country and relax a bit more. Shore patrols were less frequent in Subic City and the pace less hectic. If you didn't make it down early enough in the day though you would be stopped by road block and forced to pay a fine for entering the town. This was to keep the numbers down I suspect and keep all the sailors in town, in Olongapo, where they could obviously be watched. Subic City was a pleasnt depature from Olongapo and it was a pity more sailors weren't game enough to take the hair raising jeepney ride down.

The front of Marilyn's Inn, Subic City with Cossy Cosgrove and Tony Newlands. Marilyns was a very famous institution and those who never visited certainly have heard of it. The girls here were extremely friendly