Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, November 21, 2000


Olongapo City, Philippines - As the countdown for the Opening Ceremony marking the International Year of the Volunteers (IYV) 2001 commences in the presence of UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 28 November 2000 followed by the Global Launch of IYV on International Volunteer Day (IVD), 5 December 2000, when countries around the world launch parallel IYV events, this coming Friday – 24 November 2000, the people in Olongapo City, Philippines will be celebrating Volunteers Day to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the turn-over by the United States government of the Subic Bay facilities to the Philippine government that led to it’s conversion from a colonial power’s naval base into an independent country’s premiere freeport.

Rarely is an entire community given a historic opportunity to prove its character with the entire world watching. The Filipinos of Olongapo City were given such an opportunity eight years ago in November 24, 1992. That day, America ended over 94 years of military presence in the Philippines when its navy pulled-out of its largest base in Subic Bay, Olongapo City just months after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The citizens guided by the vision of their mayor at that time, Richard J. Gordon, took a leap of faith to save the deserted and devastated land.

The community’s response to that challenge is now a part of history, and the memory of their honor and discipline at the moment of truth is something that each of the thousands of volunteers can cherish for all the years of their lives. An entire community was put to a bitter test of its mettle, and they rose up as one and were equal to the challenge.

Left with the responsibility to watch-over an US$8 billion facility, the over 8,000 volunteers bound together by faith, undertook the hard work protecting and preserving the $8 billion facility covering over 18,000 hectares left behind by the Americans from looting and destruction. In their honor, a statue was cast on 24 November 1996, coinciding with the 4th APEC Leaders Summit held at Subic Bay and the freeport’s 4th anniversary. The statue of a family represented the more than 8,000 of the volunteers.

Gordon who eventually became Chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority that led the conversion of the freeport explains, “They (volunteers) have removed their blindfolds - a the symbol of indifference on the yet to be liberated Filipino. In this defining moment in the molding of character of the New Filipino, it is the father who almost violently removes his blindfold as though to shout "Never again!" The mother is the independent Filipina who can stand on her own even as she bears the burden of her child, who sits in her arm contented, assured of a safe future. The young man is the volunteer who has returned from the cities of the world to take up the torch that father passed, with dignity and resolve, because there is still much to be done.”

In addition, as a testament to the heroism and sacrifice of the volunteers, a memorial was inaugurated on June 12, 1998 coinciding with the Philippines Centennial celebration. The memorial listed the names in granite walls of all the volunteers both living and dead who all without material expectations followed a vision and preserved their honesty and integrity in the face of apathy and indifference.

“Their spirit is the spirit of a New Philippines. It is a spirit of strong-willed optimism. It is a spirit of shared dreams, shared struggle, and ultimately shared triumph. Most of all it is the deeply held belief that every day of disciplined effort brings the promise of the future one step closer to reality,” Gordon added.

Louis Pawid III
Volunteers for a New Philippines


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This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

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