Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Mother of Olongapo

Mayor's wife

Public service is nothing new to Amelia. Her father was then mayor of the municipality of Subic, Zambales. In 1965, her husband Jimmy was elected mayor of the mucipality of Olongapo. In 1966, Olongapo became a city-as Jimmy had envisioned it to be. The year after, though, he was felled by an assassin's bullet right in the lobby of city hall. During his term, Jimmy started a massive campaign against illegal logging, fighting well-entrenched syndicates which made Olongapo the center of their business activities. He inevitably antagonized the corrupt rich and powerful who lobbied to protect their vested business interests. His war against crime and corruption cost him his life.

Countless people openly wept over the violent murder of their founding father. Stricken with grief, Amelia had to be strong for her sons and daughters. "It was so painful, so sad," she recalls, "and so many came to pay their respects."


And long before Ninoy Aquino was slain at the tarmac of the international airport, and his widow Cory catapulted to candidacy for the highest office in the land, there already was a clamor for another widow to take over the reins of city hall. "Bring Gordon back to City Hall!" became the battlecry of the people of Olongapo.

The threats on her life notwitstanding, Amelia became the first elected mayor of Olongapo City. She built her campaign on her late husband's platform of good government.

As mayor, Amelia completed the first Master Plan for the city through the Olongapo Land Development and Urban Planning Autority-an interdisciplinary planning group of resident professionals and government officials. This she did 20 years before the end of the Mutual Bases Agreeement. After her term ended in 1971, she served as assemblywoman in the Batasang Pambansa in 1972.

A congressional act Amelia spearheaded enabled the proceeds from the sales of titled land within the city to be retained in the city treasury as the community's development fund. She built new settlements and extended the city's public service to the residents of formerly unserved communities.

"When we're young, we make inner vows not to be like our mothers, but we end up being exactly like them," Bai says. When Bai was young, she told herself, "I will never be like my mom. I will never be in the restaurant business." But Bai now has a flower shop and a restaurant-businesses her mother had while they were growing up.

Bai's advice for Mother's Day? "Honor your parents, that all may be right with you."

As for Amelia, when asked how she was, she replied, "Eto, buhay pa rin. Maraming anak." (Here, still alive. And with lots of kids.)

‘Forbidden Island’ opens to Filipinos

SUBIC BAY FREE­PORT—What used to be called Forbidden Island, when Subic was a US military installation, has transformed itself into a sprawling P80-million island resort.

After an ecosystem-based concept, the island was formally opened to the public Tuesday afternoon with Chairman Felicito Payumo of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Robert Dean Barbers, the Philippine Tourism Authority general manager, cutting the ceremonial ribbon.

Payumo commended the timely opening of the resort, saying that the new resort’s opening marks the official start of summer in Subic, which will surely accompany an increase in tourism arrivals in the Freeport.

“This will definitely boost tourism industry here in the Subic Freeport because the island is perfect. It’s very beautiful and relaxing. It’s like a tropical island resort. And this will surely draw foreign and local tourists alike,” Payumo said.

He said Grande Island used to be called Forbidden Island, because the Americans barred Filipinos from going to the island although it was open to US servicemen and their families.

The efforts to make it into a world-class island resort was a commendable move to make the island now welcome to people from all walks of life, Payumo added.

“Grande Island used to be off-limits to Filipinos, but now it is open to all who wish to see and experience the captivating beauty that it posesses. The developers have truly made a good job in transforming this place short of paradise,” he said.

Barbers commended Payumo and the developers, Robin Tan and Benito Ong, for their wonderful work in transforming Grande Island.

“The country needs more people like Chairman Payumo, Mr. Tan and Mr. Ong, who have strong visions of making islands, like Grande, a tropical paradise,” he said.

Barbers further noted that the country, which is made up of more than 7,100 islands, can be further boosted in the tourism scene despite labels made by some countries that the Philippines is a terrorist laden country.

“We know what kind of beauty the Philippines can attract on tourists and we should join in on the effort of helping promote the country as a top tourist destination,” he added.

According to Francis Elum, Grande Island Resort’s chief operating officer, only 14.2 hectares of Grande Island was transformed into a resort out of the total 44 hectares. The rest of the area will be maintained for its historical value.

He added that this would complement SBMA’s efforts in making Subic Freeport a world-class tourist destination.

Elum added that the island promises a worthwhile trip benefiting any tourist. The new resort will offer various activities, which would range from adventure and historic trails, camping, water sports, fishing and the like. It will also play host to social functions and business conventions.

He further explained that historians need not worry about Grande’s value as an historical icon, because all the war battery sections of the island will remain untouched and will instead be cleaned up and maintained for people to visit and see.

Grande Island houses more than 150 cottages to be located on the island’s beach area.

One of the main attractions of the new project is the construction of a man-made waterfall lagoon, which will be set right in the heart of the island and will be the central section where most of the planned events will take place.

“We are glad to help develop Grande. This is our way of helping make Subic a world-class stop for tourists. When this project is finished, it’s like having an island paradise right in the heart of the country’s economic growth areas,” he added.

A camping site for overnight campers has been set up. An area, which can accommodate more than 150 campers, complete with amenities like toilets and washrooms, has already been set in the plan.

A main restaurant and bar has also been built along a boardwalk fronting the beach. Guests can come in and dine al fresco and enjoy the Subic Bay scenery.

A convention hall will take the place of the old hotel section of the island, giving way for conventioneers to enjoy business and pleasure at the same time