It was not all a Dream
Hello all....reading all these posts about Subic and Olongapo made me realize that my time there was NOT all a dream, that there really was a New Florida, and a drink called Mojo. I was an American high school student living in Manila with my businessman father and mother. I had friends whose families were with JUSMAG near Manila, and those friends had friends at Subic. One Thanksgiving holiday (1976) those friends invited me to go to Subic and hang out. (I still can't imagine how my parents allowed me to do this!) With visions in my head of American cheeseburgers and candy bars and bowling alleys, we set out on a Victory Liner early one morning. We arrived at Subic at midday, and I was the consummate tourist, mouth hanging open at all the beautiful American guys in uniform. We were staying with a friend whose father was stationed at Cubi NAS...we had Snickers bars and went bowling and had chocolate ice cream. We hung out with friends from George Dewey H.S. Then the sun went down.
We crossed over the "river" bridge, and saw the bancas lined up in the water, asking if we were interested in "my sister -- she only thirteen". We saw starched white MP's walking rigidly down the street. Flashing lights, people, the smell of old beer on pavement...We hit several bars, no drinking age, of course! The one that stands out is the New Florida, where my girlfriend taught me how to dance, "Move your shoulders, Liz!" We wandered to other bars, and at one point I whacked my head on a low-hanging air conditioner. OUCH. Back to New Florida. We had a pitcher of Mojo...and like the legend goes, it knocked my feet from under me!! I'm sure we were a rarity in those parts, American girls. I remember this guy sitting down next to me, asking me to dance. I said "No, I can't I'm too drunk!" and he said he was happy just to sit with me and talk. Eventually I was able to get up and dance, and a relationship was born. He sang "Love the One You're With" by Crosby, Stills & Nash to me. His name was Alan Garner (or was it Allen?) He was on the USS Okinawa. At some point, the group of us decided to go out for pizza. We sat at a big table, still high on that darn mojo. At one point, poor Allen looked at his watch and realized he has missed his curfew to be back on ship. So he ended up staying with me at our friend's house. (Did I mention that there wasn't a parent in sight the whole weekend? Need I say more?) Early the next morning he and I stood in the humidity and said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would ever see each other again. I think his ship pulled out the next day.
The weekend went on, with more cheeseburgers, and bowling. We visited the Officers' Club the next night, and danced with some guys. For some reason when I hear the song "Afternoon Delight" I am transported back to these days. That and "Blinded by the Light". We returned back to Manila late Sunday night on another Victory Liner.
The letters from Allen started to arrive at my house. He wrote me poems, sent me pictures. It was one of the first love "affairs" that I had....and I was so young, but felt so old! He told me of his days at sea, of going to Japan, and Taiwan, and missing me.
A few months later, my high school soccer team was traveling to George Dewey High School for a game. My friend and I decided to go on the bus with the team as spectators. We left Manila in the pre-dawn hours and got to Subic fairly early in the day. Of course we had no intention of watching any dang soccer game!! We surreptitiously walked away from the game, and we were off!! We took met some friends from our last trip, and ended up on the launch to Grande Island. I was a bit of a goody two-shoes, and was worried that we would get in trouble, and I was bitching the whole way. My friend finally told me to SHUT UP and have fun. She was cooking up this story about how we "got lost" on base and couldn't find our way back to the school, etc., and we would take a Victory Liner back to Manila later that night. We walked around the beach on Grande Island, just meandering. Suddenly, I almost trip over a guy sitting on the beach....unbelievably, it was Allen. He was with a Filipino girl....so much for my girlish crush. He was also tripped out on something called "Xerox"? (Like I said, I was a "good" girl!!) He jumped up when he saw me. We hugged each other. We set off alone to a dock that overlooked the water, where we renewed our love for each other. It was such a fantasy, what were the odds that I would trip over him on the beach??? We spent hours together, as the sun went down. Ultimately he had to get back to his ship, and my friend and I set off to get back to Manila. A phone call home with the "made up" story about being lost...and they bought it!!! We got on the bus and got back to Manila after midnight.
The next day in school we were in MAJOR trouble. The soccer coach had sent out a search party for us, and the bus waited for us for THREE hours. We had to go in to the coach's office for a dressing down, apologies all around. I was humiliated. I don't think my parents were ever called though. When I told my mom about this years later, she was shocked!!
Back to Allen. More letters came, sometimes several in one day. Then, they stopped. About 6 months later, I got a letter from him that he had been discharged from the Navy. I never heard from him again. He had told me his life story, about how he had been born in Alabama, but ended up in California, so I have no idea where he ended up. California, I think. I have always wondered what happened to him, and wonder if he remembers me. I know I will always remember him, and how I loved him.
I graduated from high school in Manila, and ended up in college in Texas. I'm now a million miles away from that life, but still ache for those days, when everything was so simple and it was so easy to fall in love with a sailor.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane.... Liz