Farewell to Olongapo, 1966


As previously noted, Olongapo was an opportunistic little town, where most of the industry by 1966 centered around providing whatever entertainment would coax a few more dollars our of the sailors’ pockets.  It was pretty lucrative, since there were a lot of sailors,  most of whom were on station 30 to 40 days at a time, and in town only 4 or 5 days in between.  Usually on a 6 month deployment 7th Fleet would schedule each ship into Hong Kong one time for rest and recreation.  Subic Bay Naval Station was the port where we came in to refuel and join up for the trip to Japan, Hong Kong, the mainland, or back to Tonkin Gulf.  So it was a pretty busy little crossroads.  The adjoining Naval Air Base was similarly busy, and everyone knows that pilots and airmen have an urge to spend all their money immediately, so the industry in Olongapo grew exponentially with time.


At the end of our deployment in late ‘65, we stopped in one last time to refuel and relax a bit before heading home.  We were going to go through the straits south of Luzon the next day, then meet up with a carrier group for the trip back to Long Beach via the waters off San Francisco, the carrier’s home port.  This was our last opportunity to get a meal with a beer, so all the officers not on watch decided we would go to Papagallo’s, the only Mexican restaurant in town, for our end of deployment party.  We had a great party. The food was as good as any we had had for some time –we usually got back to salad and fresh vegetables about every forty days while on deployment, so if the lettuce was crisp, the meal was delicious as far as we could tell.  At any rate, we got back to the ship sometime around midnight, in readiness for getting underway the following morning at 0700.


At 0630, we set the Sea and Anchor detail, then got underway, heading south along the coast of Luzon.  As we got about two hours out of port, all of the officers who had gone to Papagallo’s were trying not to pay much attention to the queasy stomachs, but it finally became apparent that we were going to have a major outbreak of Tagalog revenge.  We set up a relay of officers relieving the watch every thirty to forty-five minutes, and the corpsman was handing out Pepto-Bismol or whatever he had to help the raging diarrhea.  This trip would have been bad enough since we were planning to make the tricky afternoon passage between Luzon and Mindanao, which is a narrow strait with lots of islands and odd currents.  With the additional burden of having to deal with the discomfort and make the five hour passage before entering open water, it was a very good thing that we would not have the opportunity to visit Papagallo’s restaurant again for a long time.  It didn’t help that the Captain and all the white hats were enjoying our embarrassment hugely.