In part one, I outlined my perception on the living situation in Subic (primarily the Barrio Barretto area, because that’s where I spent most of my time – that’s where the bars are, mostly). Where one needs to go to shop for essentials is outlined here, as well as what it is like to barhop here compared to Angeles City.
One of the reasons I decided to move back to Angeles, after nearly two years in the Subic area, was the availability of goods that I wanted, and how spread-out things are compared to Angeles. In A.C., I drive my old car about once every two weeks, and then only to go somewhere out of walking distance, like Marquee Mall, The duty-free stores on Clark Airbase, Perimeter bars, or to the immigration office. In Subic, I depended on my car nearly every day (it’s an old car, I’m not rich, and I hate to have to depend on it). I lived in the Santa Monica complex, Subic (close to Dreamland Resort), and I was driving to the bars and hotels in The Dryden group almost daily; I also needed to drive to downtown Olongapo or onto Subic Base to the duty-free stores to do much in the way of worthwhile shopping. I also found I needed to drive to Angeles a couple of times a month to shop at SM Mall, Marquee Mall, etc… I’ll give you an example of what I’m getting at: once I went on a quest to buy some local honey, which is readily available in Johnny’s Market, JJ’s Market, SM Mall, and several other places I know in Angeles. I drove all over downtown Olongapo, the Subic Base, and Subic City, and never found any at all! I did locate some imported “Sue Bee” stuff in a small jar, but it wasn’t what I needed, and the price was horribly inflated. I drove to Angeles City on my day off and picked a couple of liters up at Johnny’s.
I have other examples of things the Subic shopping area lacks, but the above one stood out in my memory. Another thing that really annoyed me was when, on two separate occasions, I needed some duplicate keys and good quality photocopies; there was no place in The Barrio Barretto area to get either, even with all the expats jammed into that area. The only place I could get keys made (that I could find) was on the streets of downtown Olongapo, in little street nooks. For photocopies, I had to continue on to the duty-free stores on SBMA, where I found a machine at the National Book Store (unfortunately for me, their machine wasn’t very good, but it was the “only game in town; I ended up re-doing the project the next time I went to Angeles).
This situation is due to improve! Our friend “Pok Pok Boy” has informed us that there is an SM Mall being built in downtown Olongapo, and an Ayala Mall (The Corporation behind Marquee Mall in Angeles) on Subic base, right by the entrance to downtown Olongapo. Even though it’s still a bit far from where most of the expats are living, it at least means that shopping will be easier and better than before. This is bound to draw more expats to the area, which will, in turn, draw more girls. I saw these two construction sites in late November of 2011, and they’re moving right along. I was told the SM mall will be in operation in about six months, and the Ayala mall in less than a year. If you have kids or girls that you’d like to entertain during the daytime hours, there is “Ocean Adventure Marine Park”, with a dolphin/whale show on the base that we found surprisingly entertaining, along with a sea lion show. There is also the “Zoobic Safari” zoo, but we didn’t get to see this, as our group arrived too late in the day to go in. I’m not the best person to ask about such activities available in the Subic area, but it’s clear the area is growing again!
As far as the bars, what expats/tourists are looking for in a barhopping experience can vary quite a bit. The fact is there are less bars, and less customers. As the area has grown, so have the number of expats, and the number of girls hoping to meet them. More action = more girls, and vice versa. You should see it when ships come in! The volume of girls seems to double, coming out of the woodwork. If you’re one of the fellows who like to “drown” themselves in a “sea of girls” (putting it politely), this is far more likely to happen for you in Angeles, at this point, than it will in Barrio Barretto. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen plenty of happy fellows achieve “major party time” in Barretto! There are plenty of fellows who prefer this scene to Angeles.
Back before Pinatubo erupted, it was pretty much the opposite for these two areas. After the Americans left the two bases, Angeles grew out of the ashes to become the punter’s prime destination, while the bars of Olongapo were replaced by a virtual ghost town of empty buildings. The real “death-knell” came when this was compounded by the then-mayor, Kate Gordon, deciding to shut down all dancing bars in Barrio Barretto. This caused what little scene was left to locate in the Calapandayan area of Subic City. Obviously, this is changing.
While Angeles City is still a far more active scene, I believe we will see this becoming less the case as time goes on, particularly with the much-improved access provided by the expressway, and the large malls coming in.
I’m aware that there are punters who are on a constant “feeding frenzy” for new faces in greater volume which, clearly, the Subic area is far less likely to provide at this moment in time (for a precious few, even Angeles City can’t keep up with their “thirst”), but I can say, for myself, that some of the best girls I’ve ever met were right there in Barrio Barretto, and I’ve got plenty of company in guys that agree with me. There were plenty of beauties I never managed to get to. As a good friend of mine said to me, “Sure, there are less girls here than Angeles, but how many do you need at any one time?” … and, too, as the scene grows, so will the volume of girls, just like it did in Angeles.
One perception that I have regarding the Subic scene that makes it preferable to the Angeles scene: the Gordon family seems to have the respect of the departments who routinely attack the Angeles bar scene in search of favorable headlines and big payoffs, under the guise of enforcing morality. I’m not personally aware of how far back it goes that a Gordon family member wasn’t the political leader of the Olongapo/Subic area, but they go back quite a way, and really appear to be respected enough to run the area without federal agency interference; the different agencies don’t come in over the local government’s heads like they do in Angeles City. In Angeles it sometimes seems like nobody’s really in charge, opening the door to seemingly rogue operations aimed only at foreigners, while turning a blind eye to the many native-run establishments who are far more guilty of the charges they throw at the “visiting teams”.
I’ve always enjoyed The Subic Bay Area, and I will continue to enjoy it. I can say that I hope to live there again. Even though Angeles is more convenient for me in a lot of ways at this point in time, I look back on my stay in Subic with fondness, and would certainly go back if the opportunity presented itself. I miss those peaceful days and nights at the beach! … and, not just a few of the beautiful girls I met!