Gray Matter


Landmarks of Olongapo and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone

RT Cunningham | August 10, 2020 (UTC) | Locations

As far as I know, there are no natural landmarks in either Olongapo or at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the Philippines. There are plenty of artificial landmarks, although I probably can’t mention them all. I’m not an expert on everything that can be considered a landmark.

At the freeport zone, there are three landmarks I’m aware of: The Harbor Point mall, the San Roque Chapel and the Spanish Gate. When you pass the Kalaklan gate, you’re likely to pass the Kalaklan Point Lighthouse, sometimes called the Olongapo Lighthouse.

In Olongapo, there are several landmarks I’m aware of, other than the lighthouse: The SM City mall, the Unity rotunda, the Ulo ng Apo rotunda, the SM City Olongapo Central mall, the Olongapo welcome sign and the Kalapati Monument.

Harbor Point Mall

Harbor Point mallThe Harbor Point mall opened in 2012. It spans the area between Manila Avenue and Aguinaldo Street, immediately south of the Rizal Avenue Extension and Magsaysay Drive gates.

There are four floors in this mall. The fourth floor houses a four-screen cinema. The last time I parked there, the parking fee was 20 pesos per day (which usually translates as 40 to 50 cents in United States dollars).

San Roque Chapel

San Roque ChapelOlongapo was only a village when it was located on the west side of what is now the freeport zone. The village was destroyed in 1945, near the end of World War II. The only structures that survived were the Olongapo Parish Church, which is the San Roque Chapel today, and the Spanish Gate.

After the end of the war, the US Navy base was extended to the Kalaklan River and Olongapo was relocated to the north side of the drainage channel.

Spanish Gate

Spanish GateThe Spanish Gate marked the eastern entrance to the Olongapo Arsenal when it was controlled by the Spanish Navy.

My wife, Josie, and I ate at the restaurant next to the Spanish Gate way back in the crazy eighties. I don’t remember its name back then but it served American food. Today, it’s the Thai Fusion restaurant.

SM City Olongapo Mall

SM City Olongapo mallIf you exit the Magsaysay Drive gate and cross the bridge, the SM City Olongapo is the first building on the right. Like the Harbor Point mall, it opened in 2012.

There’s a cinema but I don’t know where it is in the mall and I don’t know how many screens it has. I’ve never watched a movie there. The last time I parked in the parking garage, the parking fee was 20 pesos per day (which usually translates as 40 to 50 cents in United States dollars).

Unity Rotunda

Unity rotundaWhether you exit the Magsaysay Drive gate and travel to the end of the road or exit the Rizal Avenue Extension gate and travel north/northwest, you’ll encounter the Unity rotunda.

Like the Kalaklan river, this monument may not have an official name. It’s been called the Magsaysay rotunda, the Friendship rotunda, the Fountain of Unity and the Unity rotunda. Like the Ulo ng Apo rotunda, it’s not a real rotunda. It’s a roundabout.

SM City Olongapo Central Mall

SM City Olongapo Central mallIf you continue north/northwest on Rizal Avenue Extension, you completely miss the SM City Olongapo Central mall unless you turn right on 16th Street or Hospital Road.

I can’t tell you anything at all about this mall. It was built after I left the Philippines in 2019. Because of COVID-19, I may not be able to see it for myself until sometime in 2021 or 2022.

Ulo ng Apo Rotunda

Ulo Ng Apo rotundaIf you continue northwest on Rizal Avenue Extension, you’ll encounter the Ulo ng Apo rotunda. This roundabout is much larger than the Unity rotunda. Like the Unity rotunda, it looks real nice when it’s painted with multiple colors.

If you enter the roundabout, you can exit at Rizal Avenue (not the extension) and continue northwest.

Olongapo Welcome Sign

Olongapo welcome signIf you’re traveling northwest, heading to the Bataan province on Rizal Avenue, you’ll probably miss the Olongapo welcome sign. It’s only noticeable if you’re traveling in the opposite direction.

It says “Olongapo Proper” on it and it features the Ulo ng Apo head as well as an airplane. The airplane probably represents the airfield at Cubi Point at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Kalapati Monument

Kalapati MonumentThis monument is at the junction of National Highway and the road into the New Cabalan barangay. A dove is mounted at the top. The monument honors the people who died at the battle of Zig Zag Pass during World War II.

I’m pretty sure it’s east of the Olongapo welcome sign and it’s the first barangay you’ll see on that side of the city.

Missing Landmarks?

I guess it depends on what you consider a landmark. To me, a landmark is something you can easily see to get your bearings. If you have something you want me to add, please leave a comment.

Photo Attributions:
Harbor Point: Ramon FVelasquez / CC BY-SA
Kalapati Monument: Judgefloro / Public domain
Olongapo Proper Welcome Sign: RT Cunningham
San Roque Chapel: Elmer B. Domingo / CC BY-SA
SM City Olongapo: Judgefloro / CC0
SM City Olongapo Central: Subic Bay News
Spanish Gate: Cristina Montes / CC BY-SA
Ulo ng Apo Rotunda Ramon FVelasquez / CC BY-SA
Unity Rotunda: TAGA GAPO KA BA? Encyclopedia Olongapo
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in August 2013

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