22 November 2011

SBMA, Olongapo City to honor Subic Freeport volunteers

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the city government of Olongapo will be observing the 19th annual celebration of Volunteers Day on Thursday, November 24.

The date marks the day when thousands of residents from Olongapo City and nearby communities in the provinces of Bataan and Zambales joined then Olongapo City mayor Richard Gordon to voluntarily guard, maintain and manage all properties left inside the former Subic Naval Base after the U.S. Navy withdrew in 1992.

Subic was the biggest US military installation outside the mainland United States until November 24, 1992, when the last American warship, the USS Belleau Wood, sailed off Subic’s port, carrying the last U.S. Navy personnel and families to leave Subic during the withdrawal.

Subic Bay’s experience became the country’s first successful story of converting a military base into a free port zone, thanks to the volunteers who worked as regular SBMA employees without compensation.

“This year’s celebration will be simple, but remains as important as the years before,” said event organizer Jimmy Mendoza, president of Bagumbayan, a local organization in Olongapo City.

Mendoza said that unlike the past years’ whole-day programs that included parades and other field activities, the 2011 celebration will only consist of an offering of thanksgiving prayer and the laying of wreaths at the Volunteers’ Shrine inside the free port.

Sen. Richard Gordon, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, Mayor James Gordon Jr., and some selected volunteers will also give inspirational messages.

Garcia said that the sacrifices and heroism of the Subic volunteers to protect and preserve the former military base against vandals and thieves in the early days of the SBMA still live in the hearts of every SBMA employee and worker in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

“The volunteers started what the Subic Bay Freeport flourishes on today — as Asia’s logistics and maritime hub and ideal tourist destination. We owe them all of these and what we shall leave behind for future generations,” Garcia said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)