Remembering the Father of Olongapo: James L. Gordon Sr.
On March 4, Olongapo City will commemorate the 43rd Death Anniversary of James L. Gordon Sr., the acknowledged father of Olongapo.
James L. Gordon Sr., whose father was an American, opted to choose the citizenship of his Filipino mother and went on to fight for Olongapo's freedom. On December 7, 1959, after 61 years under the U.S. Government, the then Community of Olongapo was finally turned over to the Philippine Government. On the same day, then President Carlos P. Garcia signed Executive Order no. 366 which created the Municipality of Olongapo in the Province of Zambales.
In 1964, Gordon Sr. was elected mayor in the first ever local elections in the young municipality. His resolve to turn the municipality into a city was finally realized two years later, in 1966, when Republic Act 4645, the City charter was signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos. On September 3, 1966, then Vice President Fernando Lopez swore in James L. Gordon as Olongapo’s first city mayor at a formal inauguration ceremonies.
Known for his dictum, “ang paggogobyerno ay bigay-buhay, hindi hanap-buhay,” Gordon Sr. battled crime and corruptions and narrowly escaped three attempts on his life until finally a hired convict, released from prison for the purpose, shot Gordon Sr. in the head at close range while talking to a woman seeking assistance at the city hall lobby. Gordon Sr. was rushed to USS Repose, a US Navy Hospital ship where doctors tried but failed to save his life.
The news of James Gordon's death shocked the nation. Nationalist and then Senator Jose W. Diokno, in paying his last respects to Gordon Sr. said that the mayor was "born an American and died a Filipino." James L. Gordon’s remains were placed in a caisson reserved for Philippine presidents while his funeral procession was attended by high-ranking Philippine and American officials, recognizing his enormous contribution to the genesis of Olongapo City, now a bustling metropolis due to the legacy of good governance that James Gordon Sr. had started.
"Because of my father’s legacy, I will always strive to become a good leader. Serving the people and delivering justice as speedily as I could when I became mayor, especially for the poor, was like delivering justice to the death of my father,” said former mayor of Olongapo, first chairman and administrator of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and past Tourism Secretary, Senator Richard Gordon who is also the Bagumbayan Party Standard Bearer for the presidential race.
“ I will always look up to my father’s achievements and noble contributions to the freedom and development of the then Community of Olongapo. He loved Olongapo so much that he died fighting the depraved elements of society. We owe it to him to see that Olongapo City continue to be progressive and model city for competitiveness and good governance,” said Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr.