Subic Bay, The Best Place For Marines & Sailors To Retire? Eight Reasons to Consider!
Updated: Mar 12
Our Tour of Subic and Olongapo begins here at Harley's Pub located between Barretto and Baloy beaches. This is a fabulous place for vets and their honeyko, but probably not a place for a western girlfriend unaccustomed to foreign travel.
As an aside, This trip marked the 40th anniversary of my leaving the Philippines as a young sailor in March 1983.
Note that I don’t carry a camera around video taping as most bloggers. For those who don’t know me, I was a surveillance operator for 14 years predominantly in the Bayou region of Louisiana, been burned many times and have experienced every type of reaction imaginable. I most often prefer to be more respectful of others and chose my photo and video shots accordingly. Besides, behaviors change when people know they are being recorded and it's not truly representative.
My eight reasons are in no particular order as priorities likely differ among those considering a move to the Philippines.
1) Affordability as a vacation destination and place to call home.
As a weekend getaway:
Even if you reside in another part of Luzon, I’d recommend visiting for a weekend or longer as it’s a fabulous place to play that won’t break the bank. The total cost for my two day and one night adventure to Subic from manila was only 88.00!
Fuel: $20.28 (1119 pesos)
Tolls: 19.93 (1100 pesos)
I’m not sure what it would costs to do the public transport thing, probably less, but I place a premium on my ability to leave or change plans at will. Also, the tolls are optional as there is a lot more to see if your not in a hurry and stay off the toll roads.
The hotel room at Harley’s:
$26.27 (1450 Pesos) booked through AGODA. I chose Harley’s intentionally as it appeared to be, and is indeed a throwback in time to my days as a sailor.
KFC $5.80 US. (320 Pesos)
Harley’s Fish and Chips $6.34 US. (350 Pesos)
San Miquel $1.54 US. (85 Pesos)
Take a look at the fish & chips on the table with a coke. Definitely a lot for the money!
Calling Subic / Olongapo Home:
I found many rentals (during a quick Internet search) under 25,000 Pesos ($453.00 US.) per month and many below 20,000. I would recommend booking a few days someplace and take the time to look and ask around for a place you can make your home for a longer period of time. Prices vary depending on your length of stay.
I also recommend you look at the YouTube channels of Dan (Vagabond Awake) and Qiang Hui (Hobo Ventures). I won’t rehash their work here so you need to look for yourself. Dan and Qiang have compiled the largest library of information on retiring abroad of anyone I’ve seen. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
History of Subic Bay / Olongapo.
Subic Bay was the Pacific home of the United States Navy (USN) during their occupation of Subic Bay between 1899 and 1992. During these years, Subic Bay was an integral port of the seventh fleet supporting US Navy battle groups during their WESTPAC (Western Pacific) deployments. Subic Bay was also the favorite liberty port of virtually every sailor and marine in the battle group because of the scenic area, abundant available outdoor activities, friendly people, and of course, the beautiful Filipina.
Once a notorious spot for Spanish galleons and US naval ships, Subic Bay has since transformed into something of an oasis. Located on the western coast of the Philippines, Subic Bay’s current claim to fame is its beautiful beaches and thriving marine life.
2) The Filipinas! Arguably the most beautiful women in the world.
If you’re not familiar with the the beauty of the Filipina and think I’m exaggerating, consider this. From the Miss Universe and Miss World stage, Filipinas have been making history from the first Filipina who was crowned as Miss Universe in 1969.
The Filipina is a not only a powerhouse of looks, but also possesses the wit and charm necessary for success on the international stage having won in all four major pageants!
How many countries can boast of placing at the top of the BIG FOUR international pageants 100 times with 15 victories that include:
Four – Miss Universe crowns (1969 • 1973 • 2015 • 2018)
One – Miss World crown (2013)
Six Miss International crowns (1964 • 1970 • 1979 • 2005 • 2013 • 2016)
Four – Miss Earth crowns (2008 • 2014 • 2015 • 2017)
It’s quite obvious that I’m not exaggerating.
3) Existing contacts in the Subic Region.
Not only are Navy and Marine veterans likely to be familiar with the region, you will likely have friends or at least friends of friends from the military who can help get you settled.
Within the first few weeks I reconnected with two military buddies and was given contact information for several others. This is a huge benefit that should not be ignored.
There are also plenty of WESTPAC type bars (if you're in a nostalgic mood) that will feel like you are at home.
4) Traffic Control and Transportation: Traffic is insane in the Philippines and unfortunately many westerners buy a motorcycle or scooter and find themselves in trouble due to the crazy driving here. Even if we’re not at fault, a drunk scooter driver or worse can spell disaster. Fortunately, traffic rules are enforced here like in the USA making it far less hazardous to drive.
5) Infrastructure is top notch.
The Subic Bay Base is now the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ), which is known simply as Subic Bay. It is the Philippines' first successful case of a military base converted through volunteerism into a tax & duty-free zone similar to Hong Kong and Singapore. The Subic Freeport Zone is operated and managed by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority or SBMA and it covers the fenced area of the former U.S. Naval Base. This means the roads and other infrastructure are first class and everything is very well maintained.
6) Family friendly
Whether you're a foodie, a beach bum, or an adventure junkie - Olongapo and Subic have something that's sure to pique your interest! From the haggling alleyways to the modern malls, there's something for everyone - no matter your budget. The locals here are truly passionate and laid-back, giving visitors an unforgettable experience. Even if you’re just popping in for a few days, you can feel the vibrancy of this populous city! From the colorful street markets to the laid-back local beaches, there's always something interesting to discover in Olongapo. Plus, its location makes it an ideal jumping-off point for exploring the rest of Luzon - especially Zambales province. So if you’re looking for a truly unique experience in the Philippines, head on down to Olongapo and see what the fuss is all about! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
7) Locals respect Mature US veterans.
The fact that an American service member believes that life in the Philippines is better than life in the US and chooses to return to their country is a huge compliment. Something I’d not considered until after being asked by several locals if I served in the Navy. The joy of having a veteran return was palpable with everyone I met.
8) Proximity to Manila and Clark.
Top-notch health care is but 1.5 hours away via expressways. Nough said.
Expatriates living in Subic Bay and Olongapo have the best of both worlds. On one hand, they are able to experience the vibrant culture of the Philippines while also having access to all the modern amenities that come with a developed city. From great restaurants and entertainment venues to medical facilities and shopping malls, everything you need is right at your fingertips.