Where To Live! Subic or Angeles?

Part 1:

There are so many fellows from different walks of life, and many levels of financial security (or insecurity) around here, who, honestly, have one common bond when they find their way to this village ¬¬– that’s the lure of the Filipina (they’ll sometimes develop other reasons as time goes by, but this, with damned few exceptions, is at the root of the attraction). This place is surely as great a testament to the lure of an available, attractive woman as there is in existence. Without them, I probably wouldn’t even know how to spell the name of the country, or even know where it is!

Of the years I have lived here, nearly all of them have been spent living in Angeles City, with the exception of a year and eight months I lived in The Barrio Barretto area of Olongapo City, in the Subic Bay Area.

The Subic Bay Area, at one time a larger bar scene than Angeles City (in the days of the American occupation of the Subic Naval base) is now a substantially smaller scene than Angeles (as of this writing in 2011). Through the years, in my “tourist” days (as well as while I’ve been planted in A.C.), Subic has always been a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting for a three-day visit. I always wanted to live there, and I finally did, from October 2008 to May 2010.

The secondary lure (everything’s always secondary to the ladies for me!) of The Subic Area was the beaches and being close to the water. I grew up on the West Coast of America, so I take to being around the beach. Leaving the women out of the equation for now, I’ll share what I liked about living in Subic, and what I didn’t.

I enjoy spending the afternoons on the various floating bars. There were three when I was last there, and they all are just fine with me. The “Arizona”, The “Blue Rock”, and “Treasure Island” are all hotels that have floating bars tethered to their beaches. The GROs working on them vary, but mostly they’re good company while hanging out on those floaters. Nothing like this in Angeles City. The most popular beach area for expats is in “The Baloy Beach Area”, though the “Arizona” is quite nice, on the main highway; it does seem a bit windy there, at times, though.

As far as restaurants, there are more of them in Angeles City (as there is more of just about everything) than Barretto, but a very good meal can usually be had at The “Arizona” or “Blue Rock”. There is a lower-budget place just up the street from the corner where Club One is situated, right across the street from the former “Marmont Hotel”; it’s called “Sit & Bull”. This location was the “VFW” in my tourist days, and is known in the area for good solid meals at a reasonable price – it’s where the locals eat. There’s a pretty good English-style fish & chips joint on the main highway called “The Underground”. The “Dryden” restaurant, which once was my favorite place to eat anywhere, unfortunately didn’t survive the transition of Tom Dryden leaving it, but is now a pretty good fast-food-style spot next to The Wet Spot bar, serving a variety of sandwiches, pizza and snack foods. Right across the street from “The Arizona” is a little Filipino spot called “The Coffee Shop”, which makes a very popular taco and taco salad. It’s not the same as if you were eating in Mexico, but it’s a pretty darned decent bite to eat. People’s tastes in what-satisfies-them- in-a-meal vary so greatly that it’s almost pointless to spend much time recommending anyplace. If you ever decide to go/move to Subic you’ll come up with your own preferences, as we all do.

I’ve often been asked about the difference between Angeles and Subic as far as renting a house or apartment. I came away with the impression is that it’s not a lot different. There are more new complexes in the Angeles area. You can pay too much, and good deals can be found in both places. One thing they both have in common is that you’re best off hitting the pavement and looking for places with a sign and phone number out front. Realties and want ads aren’t as dependable as they are in the West for finding something you’d like for a price you’d be willing to pay. Subic landlords are quite fond of having you pay your lease money up front, and will sometimes offer substantial discounts for your ability to pay them a lump sum in advance. I’ve rented in seven different locations in Angeles and one in Subic. I found all of them by word of mouth or just having a look around.

There are quite a few expats leasing in the “Baloy Beach” area, in the neighborhood of the “Blue Rock”, “Wild Orchid”, and “Treasure Island” resorts. They, naturally enough, like to be part of the expat community gathered there, and enjoy its proximity to the better beaches in the area. I, personally, wouldn’t want to live on Baloy Beach because I found it to be a poor value-for-money – you are, in good part, paying for the beach that the rental is close to, which causes the leases to be pretty high for what you’re getting, in a great many cases. I know plenty of guys who are quite happy with what they’ve found on the Baloy Road, so just keep in mind that you can likely get a nicer place for your money if you venture away from this popular area. If you’re willing to pay the price that is, of course, your personal choice. One other thing I dislike about this particular area is the horrible road leading into it. With all of these popular resort hotels in there and the large expat community, I feel it’s downright stupid to not do whatever it takes to get this road paved properly. In the rainy season it often becomes almost un-drivable! The potholes and flooded areas are formidable.

During the rainy season The Subic area is far more flood-prone than Angeles. Where I lived in the “Santa Monica” complex (in close proximity to the “Dreamland Resort” area), the whole complex got flooded for three days once (it hadn’t happened to this degree in over ten years, but once is all it takes)! The water was waist-deep outside of the house I was leasing, and I had 21” of water in my bedroom/toilet/den area on the lower floor. A couple of more inches and the whole living room and kitchen area would’ve been flooded, also. If I ever live in Subic again (which I might) I’ll definitely look for higher ground!

When I continue this subject, I’ll go over other differences in the two areas, from my perspective. I’ll discuss what it is like to shop for basic goods, where things are located/convenience of location, the differences in the bar scenes, and what one area features that the other doesn’t.

Part 2:

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); shopping, and where you need to go to do it, 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 the 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, or some other place. 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. 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 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 I found surprisingly entertaining, along with a sea lion show. There is also the “Zoobic Safari” zoo, but I 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 Subic, 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 has 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 mayor 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, 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!

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