The Lords of Olongapo

Olongapo City HallWhen the City of Olongapo is mentioned, the first things that would come to mind are two: the entertainment bars lining its streets and the name Gordon.

While the roots of existence of the former are well-traced, the existence and the reason why the latter became a household name is not much talked about.

Who really are the Gordons? How did they come into power? And how for several decades, did a single family dominate the entire political landscape of the city?

The Early Gordon

Though nobody from the local opposition could prove their claim that Olongapo strongman Richard Gordon, the considered head of Olongapo’s first family, is not a Filipino citizen, nobody could dispute that Dick is of an American descent.

The first Gordon to land on Philippine soil was Dick’s grandfather, John Jacob Gordon. John arrived as early as 1898 as part of Admiral George Dewey’s fleet during the Spanish-American War. It was reported that John had Russian Jewish parents, which probably explains his grandson Dick’s behavioral tendencies.

When the war ended, then US President Theodore Roosevelt declared Subic as an American military reservation.

John stayed behind, acquired vast farmlands in Subic, and opened his first bar and restaurant in the area. Outliving his first Filipina wife, he remarried another Filipina by the name of Veronica Tagle, a daughter of a revolutionary known to have served under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

From this second marriage he sired a son with a name similar to the famous Batman cartoon character, James Gordon.

The Rise of a Dynasty

While John Gordon’s other children from his first marriage decided to live comfortably in the states, son James had his stakes, both economically and politically, set on Subic.

He expanded his father’s businesses, and within a short span of time, was able to acquire a hotel, a movie theater, a radio station, a bakeshop, and more restaurants. He married Amelia Juico with whom he had five children, namely Richard (Dick), James Jr. (Bong), Veronica, Cecil and Barbara.

With Filipino blood in his veins, James joined the guerrilla and fought side by side with native Filipinos during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

When the war ended, he tried his luck in politics and won as councilor of Subic town. At that time, Olongapo was still a barrio of Subic.

In 1959, through constant lobbying and agitation among its citizens, the US government returned some of the reservation areas back to the Philippines and Olongapo became a separate municipality from Subic with James Gordon as its first mayor. Unfortunately, James died even before his term ended. He was assassinated by a lone gunman.

The eldest son Dick was then still too young to take over his father’s place. So to keep their name on politics while waiting for the heir apparent to come of age, his widow Amelia Gordon ran, won, and took the mayoral post.

Dick started his political journey to retake what was “his” in 1971, when he won a seat in the Constitutional Convention. At 26, and still in law school, he was the youngest member of the ConCon.

In 1980, he reclaimed his political inheritance when he won as Olongapo mayor. He then started an all-out campaign to form community organizations. Until now, his efforts continue to prove fruitful for his political interests. Almost all sectors, even the balut vendors down to the dyaryo-bote buyers, all had their share in their sectoral organizations.

After the EDSA revolt, the Aquino administration created a provisionary government and Dick was thrown out of office. That was just temporary however, because he quickly regained his post after winning the succeeding local election.

By then, the political empire of Gordons started to overshadow the entire city. He was then Olongapo mayor, his wife was a member of the House of Representative for Olongapo, and Dick’s younger brother James Jr., was a city councilor.

When the Philippines rejected the extension of the RP-US Bases Treaty, Dick Gordon was appointed chairman of the SBMA while serving as Olongapo mayor. But when pressure from the national government started to mount due to his dual position, he gave up the mayoral post.

In time, his congresswoman wife Kate became City Mayor, his brother James Jr. became the congressman, and nephew JC Delos Reyes (JC is the one running for president under the Kapatiran Party, however, he publicly reiterated his opposition to political dynasties and in fact filed graft cases with the Ombudsman against his own uncle James Jr. who’s now the current Olongapo mayor) became city councilor, and he was SBMA Chairman.

Command and Control

The strategic economic value of the former military base served as a tool to establish political power and subsequently, dominate the surrounding localities, most importantly, the city of Olongapo.

And whoever is in command of the now bustling Freeport practically has the control over the majority of voters who are either a Freeport worker or aspiring to be one. It was one of the reasons why Richard Gordon and the rest of his family lobbied for the establishment and leadership of the SBMA. It’s as simple an analogy as one plus one, to put the entire population within its radius under their command and control.

In fact, during his term at the SBMA, employment opportunities were confined to loyal political wards and supporters. Anybody who wished to oppose or even were contrary to their will simply could not have access to this God-given natural and employment resource.

A simple indicator of this eco-political blackmail during his term was the presentation of a job applicant his voter’s ID complete with precinct number as officially part of the requirements for employment.

When Estrada came to power he appointed Bataan Congressman Felicito Payumo to the SBMA post. The succeeding events that took place during the SBMA leadership conflict made the public realize the “turfdom” that was going on in Subic. (They had a minor glimpse during the APEC Summit, when we were almost killed by an organized mob)

Only then had the residents been given the chance to expose this dominance of the Gordon clan over the entire city. With it went the real situation inside and outside the Freeport, and the true political situation in Olongapo.

Not the First Time

The historic but nevertheless bloody incident that took place in the infamous hostile takeover on Building 229 shocked the entire country, but surprisingly, not the local residents.

According to residents, a similar situation happened right after the first EDSA. Dick Gordon, who was still serving as mayor of Olongapo, refused to step down and give way to the Aquino-appointed Ted Macapagal.

As a result, and pretty much what happened in SBMA, Gordon and his political supporters held vigils within the city hall premises. They stayed there for several days until violence erupted.

After the newly appointed officials successfully took over city government premises, they were surprised to see government properties destroyed. For example, the official vehicle intended for the mayor was filled with human feces much to the dismay of the new staff.

Conclusion

Nepotism had become a common practice. The Gordons have even set-up its own landmarks for all to see. Karilagan Street was renamed Gordon Avenue, Pag-Asa Public Market was renamed James L. Gordon Public Market, Olongapo General Hospital was renamed James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, a barangay was named Gordon Heights, a bridge was named James L. Gordon Memorial Bridge and a lot more.

These landmarks serve as a stern reminder of who runs and owns the place. A reminder to all, both supporters and otherwise, that non-conformity can lead to an unimaginable risk.

Famous for their numerous slogans, Gordon has a not-so famous one: “Kung ayaw nyo sa patakaran ko, lumayas kayo ng Olongapo!” One can easily surmise who owns what and how much. The idea of Dock Gordon being President certainly makes me shiver.

With all the landmarks renamed, one wouldn’t be surprised if the city council next decides to rename the city after its own centennial rulers. Just as the place bowed in subservience to its ancient Spanish and American conquerors, it is practically destined to bow to the lords of the city.

And with the absence of genuine alternative candidates in the coming election, the dynasty can be sure to survive yet another century.

A Day in the Life... Not Again?
A Day in a Life in Gapo Part 3
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22 Comments

  1. hehehe… ayan ka nanaman eh, nang aano ka nanaman.

  2. Hi, thanks for this astounding information. Now, I know who Dick Gordon is and we should all read what you have written. Will make a blog post about this and will link to your article. Thanks again.
    .-= Carmen Araneta´s last blog ..Know Your Presidentiables: Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. =-.

  3. BURAOT (Author)

    @tone, hehehe. meron na naman ngang na-aano, eh. hahahah!

    @carmen: thanks Carmen. honestly, he’s a good leader, but when it comes to civil rights? sorry.

  4. Roy

    honestly, back then (when I was much younger), I admired Gordon for what he did to Olongapo. I was really hoping that Angeles City leaders would have even half of his political will.

    but in 2000 to 2002, I had the chance to stay and work in Olongapo… and learned of the sentiments of the people there…
    .-= Roy´s last blog ..Trees =-.

  5. john

    I think the dynasty is wobbly, thus insecure. The members of the Gordon dynasty forgot that they are still accountable to the people.

  6. Ruben

    maybe the next time we woke up in the morning,,, we’re already living in a place called Gordon Memorial City…lol

  7. BURAOT (Author)

    hi Roy, it’s nice to see another fellow who came from outside, and then when they get in, they realize the very same thing. nice but also not. dahil these things should not happen. our country needs to grow up and mature politically. otherwise, magagamit lang tayo palagi ng mga trapos. musta naman dyan sa inyo sa Angeles?

  8. BURAOT (Author)

    @john: right on bro. they lost congress, JC turned his back on them (which is the right thing to do), and now, they are more shaky than ever..

    @ruben: wahahah. posible talaga.

  9. Baka naman sa black propaganda mo dito, imbis na maturn off ang tao ay baka lalong mapamahal kay dick gordon..

    Ikaw na rin ang may sabing may rules and regulations na ipinapatupad.. Isipin mo kung wala, ano mangyayari? meron bang magandang mangyayari?

    Kaya nga maunlad at disiplinado ang singapore dahil sa rules and regulations nila, malakas ang kapangyarihan ng batas nila dito na siyang dapat sanang manyari sa pinas na matitigas ang mga ulo.

    Ang simpleng magtataho kamo, kailangang nakarehistro? tingnan mo sa manila, malayang magbenta ang gustong magbenta ng pagkain, kaya walang gaanong proteksyon ang customer kung malinis ba at ligtas ang kanilang binibiling pagkain, ganoong kasimple lang, tingnan mo nalang ang output sa public service ni dick gordon na sinisiraan mo kumpara sa may pakana ng site na ito na sa tingin ko lalampasuhin sa accomplishments ni gordon..

  10. Output Oriented pinoys hindi mo mapapaniwala sa black propaganda mo..

    Ikumpara mo nalang ang mga napumunuan ni dick gordon sa ibang mga bayan at lungsod..

    Kung matino ka lang sana ay mas pagagandahin mo ang pangalan ng site mo.. Sa pangalan mo pa lang, utak kumunoy nalang ang maniniwala sa iyo..

    Ngayon, kung gusto mo ako paniwalain sa mga pinagsasasabi mo, email mo sa akin ang mga ebidensiyang magpapatunay na pangit tumira sa olongapo ng mayor doon si dick gordon.. Na pangit ang epekto ng pamumuno ni gordon sa sbma.. Ang gusto ko ay hindi sabi, kundi ebidensiya, dokumento kung meron ka para may sense ang usapan..

    Masasabi ko lang sa mga presidentiables, si gordon lang ang makakapagpabago sa matitigas na ulo ng mga pinoy.. Siya lang ang makakapag-organize ng siste ng bansa.. At siya lang ang may kayang magpaunlad ng pilipinas kumpara sa kandidato mo..

  11. BURAOT (Author)

    volunteer,

    volunter ka nga ba? when i looked at your profile you looked like a PR unit usually menat to counter negative issues.

    anyhoo, don’t want to commend me for making your candidate the buzz of the internet world? you should thank me then?

    you might want to read the article again? like i said there’s nothing wrong in making everyone registered and be part of an organizations. but using them for political gains is not. that’s trapo don’t you think?

    accomplishments of this site versus accomplishments of dick gordon? wahahah! you’re kidding right? for one, i am not a politician. and two and thankfully, i am not trapo.

    black propaganda? sure. only because it does not say good about your candidate. sure.

    and why would i email you? sino ka? you have your own brain to use, digest, digress and find out for yourself, ikaw ang boboto kay gordon not me.

  12. fz

    At siya lang ang may kayang magpaunlad ng pilipinas kumpara sa kandidato mo..
    ……..
    im just wondering… for what price?

  13. BURAOT (Author)

    my same question fz, at what prize?

  14. masama ba ang maging disiplinado?

    Pansin ko lang sa mga residente sa Gapo, karamihan ng mga Galit sa Gordon ay yung mga Hindi Disiplinado, Tambay, Tamad, ADik at puro ASA.

    Pansin ko lang sa mga Supporter ng mga Magsaysay AY puro hindi disiplinado, Tambay, Tamad, adIK at puro ASA.

    Sa tagal ng panahon na nanungkulang ang mga Magsaysay sa Zambales, umunlad na ba ito? maiihambing mo ba ito sa kaunlaran ng Gapo.

    Ang Ganda ng mga Kalsada sa Zambales, yung GOVIC hiway na pinagyayabang ng mga magsaysay. Pero bakit kapag namamasyal ako sa Tiyo ko sa Masinloc, ang hi-way na dinadaanan ng sasakyan namin ay ginagawang Bilaran ng Palay ng mga abang magsasaka. wala bang proyekto para sa bilaran ng Palay ng mga magsasaka, at walang option ang mga ito kundi makipagsapalaran at makipagpatintero sa mga Sasakyan sa Gitna ng Kalsada.

    Bakit kaya kapag gabi ay 2 beses na kaming nabato ang aming sasakyan sa bandang Cabangan? Wala kasing ilaw..

    Bakit kaya yung kapitbahay naming pusher ay malimit magpunta sa San Narciso,? dun kaya ang Bagsakan ng Shabu? o dadalaw lang kay Junjun M.

    Bakit kaya twing eleksyon ay daming pera ng mga suporter ni Mitos? nagpapamudmod kasi ng Drug Money..
    TIME FOR CHANGE ang sabi ng Magsaysay…
    WALANG SAYSAY ANG DROGA ang sabi ng Gordon…

    san ka papatungo? BURAOT!!

  15. Mistah

    hello po to buraot:

    reason out naman. it seems though, your just putting a blame on people you hits you in the head and contradicts your opinion! you dont look at the facts. i think napamahal na tuloy ako kay Gordon! your blogs and comments is self-centered e… feeling ko kaw binayran e or if not u just have a personal grudge with these people.. ive been to olangapo never worked there pero the people there are really friendly and cooperative! sana lahat tanang pinoy!

  16. smitten_dale

    ako i don’t care about Political dynasty. As long as they have results and abilty. Landmarks renamed? Who cares? Eh kung inimprove naman nya tlga ung landmarks na un or binenta sa kanila, why wouldn’t you? Kung ikaw nagpagawa ng bridge, you can name it whatever you want. Kung pangalan ng kapamilya mo why not? Dahil maraming pangalan sila sa mga establishment, ibig sabihin maraming nagawa para doon.Bakit di ka nagrereklamo sa mga pangalan ng kalye? Taft? Macapagal Ave? Magsaysay Ave? Quirino Ave? At ibang mga projects? Tulad ng Mapua Institute of Technology, binili ng Yuchenco, may right silang i-rename. Malayan University. Right nila un eh, bahala na lang sila kung anu ipangalan. My sister owns a company, derived from her name din. Ultimo maliit na tindahan nga ng kung sinong Aling Taling, galing din sa kani -kanilang pangalan reklamo ka?

    You said “like i said there’s nothing wrong in making everyone registered and be part of an organizations. but using them for political gains is not. ” how can you be sure they used it for political gains? Evidence please? Eh kung natuwa tlga sila sa output kaya support tlga nila si Gordon?

    About the freeport. You know why there was a revolt? Because the project will be stopped whoever was on the next seat. He doesnt care about the seat. He wants the project to continue because pinaghirapan iplano para maging ala-Hong Kong Free Port. It’s for the community. More jobs. More investors. More money for the community. Kung lahat ng tao naman nabibigay sa kanila ang karapat dapat na sa knila at mas higit pa, hindi ka matutuwa? Kung sna natuloy un mas lalu pa sanang naging maunlad ang city na yon.

    Talagang aalma ka kung ikaw ang dinidisiplina kse matigas ang ulo mo eh. Natural reaction. Why can we be more proactive? Singapore sobrang daming bawal, bawal magyosi almost everywhere, even inside bars. Prostitutes kelangan registered and have to have updated medical certs, nirerenew every whatsoever months. Bawal loud music sa bahay after 10pm. And napakamahal ng mga Fines. Lahat ng kotse dun registered through RFID. Kung hit and run ka, huli ka kse registered ka. Kung di ka registered, natakbuhan ka na, panu kung ikaw ang biktima? Magagalit ka dba?

    Evidence please of everything you put against Gordon. That way your accusations will be more realistic.

  17. Batang Gapo

    smitten,

    your sister owns the company so she has the right to do whatever she wants with it, even naming it for herself. Gordon and in that case, all our public officials do not own these structures hence the term “public property”. why not name it on heroes? people were not born yesterdays, these tactics are for name recognition at the very least. it’s product marketing similar to Willie of Wowowee singing his lousy songs over and over on primetime, khit pangit dahil everyday mo naririnig gumaganda.

    at kahit tindahan pinapangalanan, like I said, kanila yun. property nila hindi ng publiko at hindi rin ginamitan ng kaban ng bayan. take note, NG BAYAN.

    Freeport revolt? continuity? c’mon. kaya walang continuity it is primarily because leaders like Gordon wanted to make visions and programs that can only be run by themselves. they wanted p[eople to think that way para habang buhay silang nasa pwesto, disregarding the fact na may term limits. our leaders needed to take it to heart na their term can expire and so their programs needed to be continued SURELY by succeeding governments or official.

    like Buraot here who seems to get a lot of flak for posting these seemingly negative articles against Gordon, and like most of you who disagree with him, I am in favor that we Filipinos needed discipline. and this discipline needs to come from within ourselves. wag na tayo umasa sa mga leaders dahil wala naman tayong maaasahan, kahit pa yang si Gordon mo wag kang pakasiguro dahil bukod sa mga sinabi ni Buraot, marami pang nakatago yan sa kanyang closet.

    if you are looking for evidence, i would ask you one thing. tingin mo ba si Gloria Arroyo ay corrupt? kung ang sagot mo ay hindi, then hindi rin diktador si Gordon.

  18. yacqs

    I appreciate your little backgrounder on the Gordons. It’s really informative.

    However, I think your understanding of their history is shallow. You failed to look at the 5 Ws and the ‘How’. You also have a problem with leadership – that is, you can’t stand being dictated upon. Gordon’s statement: “Kung ayaw nyo sa patakaran ko, lumayas kayo ng Olongapo!” is actually a very inspiring one. It should not be merely read as is, but be understood as something more positive than you think. He’s merely saying that people [of Gapo] should know how to obey rules and regulations… and so are the rest of the Filipino people. Because it is through this DISCIPLINE, which Gordon wants everyone to have, can this country rise up and be able to progress TOGETHER, to once again regain our integrity as a nation.

    And… why did you right about the Gordons again during the election period if this isn’t black propaganda?

  19. BURAOT (Author)

    pasensya na kayong mga Gordon fanatics ha? galing kasi ako bakasyon kaya di ko na kayo na-entertain.

    @android: una, hindi ako Magsaysay. pangalawa walang kinalaman ang artikulo na ito kay Magsaysay. pangatlo, ang Zambales ay probinsya, hindi city katulad ng Gapo. at kahit saang city ka maghanap, walang magbibilad ng palay sa daan. at sas ganitong banda, kahit saang probinsya ka magpunta, lagi kang may makikita na nagbibilad ng palay sa daan. kung kaya para ihambing iang pagbibilad ng palay para ipakita ang kaunlaran ng Gapo kontra Zambales ay para mo na ring inihambing ang sisiw sa pugo.

    at kung me impormasyon ka tungkol sa droga, ilapit mo sa pulis.

  20. BURAOT (Author)

    Mistah: ang blog ay personal. kung kaya kung assuming totoo ang sinasabi mo, maging self-centered man ito, eh natural lang. personal nga eh.

    totoo namang friendly kaming mga taga-olongapo, wala naman po akong sinabi na hindi. pls don’t take the issues raised out of context. the issues I raised here is the becoming of a dynasty.
    .-= BURAOT´s last blog ..Homeless in Venice II =-.

  21. BURAOT (Author)

    @smitten: i think batang gapo here just answered your questions. thank you batang gapo!

  22. BURAOT (Author)

    yacqs: it maybe shallow to you, but not for a lot of people. and for your information i never had a problem with leadership. being dictated upon? yes. malaki ang problema ko doon. kung sa yo wala, i pity you kasi people like you who are the reasons why dynasties thrive and corruption exists. imagine you liking the slogan “kung ayaw nyo sa patakaran ko, umalis kayo ng olongapo”?

    so if you don’t like existing policies because it affects you, hahayaan nyo lang, and that’s pathetic. so if he becomes president and say “kung ayawa nyo ng patakaran ko, umalis kayo ng pilipinas,” aalis ka na rin lang.

    like i alwasy said, I agree with Gordon and a lot of you that we need DISCIPLINE. but we needed to think kung totoo this discipline is being instilled on us because we need it or because it only serves one family?

    fyi: matagal na itong article na ito, way waaay before election, it was even printed on a national broadsheet. i was just trying to remind voters about it.

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