Thereby Grows a Sea Story
By: Garland Davis
A popular country song begins with the following stanza. It pretty much describes every liberty I pulled in Subic Bay. You remember, back in the day
“I’ve woke up in places I couldn’t remember
Who’s lying next to me
Or how the hell I got there
It’s hard to believe that’s the way I used to roll”
It was Friday, your ship was tied up to Alava Pier at the Naval Station Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. If you were lucky, the XO was happy, your Department Head and Division Officers had an early tee time, the Chief was thirsty, and the planets were in the right houses, they put down liberty at 1300.
For a non-rated North American Bluejacket, there was only one way to see the lovely ladies of Olongapo in the bright light of day. That was through the contents of numerous brown bottles labeled San Miguel Pale Pilsner. It was never more true any other place in the world, the girls did get prettier as the day and night wore on. By curfew, at midnight, they were downright beautiful.
There was a short walk to the gate and the bridge to a paradise that one finds only once in a lifetime. But, lo and behold, there was a watering hole on the way known as the Sampaguita, where one could slake the thirst of the journey. A stop to prime the pump with a few and then on to the gate.
One had to get past the hurdle of the Marine sentry. Square your white hat, show that you weren’t going to corrupt the local economy with American cigarettes and you were past that hurdle. Next came an assault on your olfactory organs, in other words, the delicate aroma of Shit River.
Somewhere between 1300 and sunset on Friday half the vessels of the Seventh Fleet dumped their liberty sections on the beach. I would bet that an aerial view of Magsaysay Street and all the white hats moving up and down the street would resemble maggots crawling around a rotting carcass. As a matter of fact, the carcass would have smelled better than some areas of the town.
By the time you hit the first three shit kicking or rock bars, you had probably been in love at least twice and had already started negotiating short time fees.
By 2000 you were desperately searching for one of the guys from the ship who ran a slush fund. You had enough money for two more beers and then you would have to go back to the ship. All you needed to do was borrow enough for another short time and a few more beers.
Finally, about 2200 you drag your sorry ass back through the gate and stop by the Sampaguita in hopes of cadging a couple of beers from a shipmate. A few beers there and you and your new friend stagger back to the ship.
The next morning, you and your shipmates tell each other what a great liberty it had been. The story grows with each retelling. You spent the evening with the most beautiful girl on the street. She bought you many beers and you were such a great lover that she didn’t even charge you for all night and paid your jeepney fare to the gate the next morning.
By the last retelling fifty years later, she and her twin sister had become your steady girls and liberty in Subic never cost you a thing after that night.
Thereby grows a Sea Story.