SBMA at 25: Celebrating the Past, Forging the Nation’s Future

So I was invited to an event in SBMA last November 24th. And if you know me, I have not been going to events these past couple of months, because I have been swamped with so many things, here and there. But SBMA has a special place in my heart, and wow, 25 years, how can I not go?

I was invited with fellow bloggers (now, new friends) from other parts of the country (hotel review soon) and it was nice to share with them the joy that you get from seeing people just straight out “celebrating”.

I’ve been around Subic for a while. After getting my degree in 2011, I moved to Subic with a broken heart and had to find a job that would “fix” me. And I did find one, it’s just that it stopped being “happy”. You know us millenials, we need “happy”. So I quit my job and decided to write instead. Like… Just write. So after around three years of always being around the SBMA and Olongapo area, I had to go to other places to find inspiration.

But a chunk of my heart will always be with Subic. And I will always appreciate all the hard work of Senator Richard Gordon and the things he did for the SBMA. When I was sharing stuff on my personal Facebook account, I was loud and proud with SBMA turning 25. But most of my friends, the ones from other places, would ask: What is SBMA?

A brief history and description from our Wikipedia friends (for those who are asking the same question): The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority is governmental agency of the Philippine government. Sometimes abbreviated as SBMA, the agency has played a significant part in the development of the Subic Bay Freeport and the Special Economic Zone into a self-sustainable area that promotes the industrial, commercial, investment, and financial areas of trade in the zone as well as in the country of the Philippines itself.

On March 13, 1992, the Philippine Congress passed Republic Act 7227, known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, in anticipation of the pullout of the US military bases in the country. Section 13 of RA 7227 created the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to develop and manage the Freeport which provides tax and duty-free privileges and incentives to business locators in the special economic zone.

Richard Gordon, then the mayor of the City of Olongapo, became the first SBMA chairman.

Mayor Gordon with 8,000 volunteers took over the facility to preserve and protect US$8 billion worth of property and facilities when the last U.S. Navy helicopter carrier USS Belleau Wood sailed out of Subic Bay on November 24, 1992 and started the conversion of the military base into a free port like Hong Kong and Singapore.

On its fourth anniversary on November 24, 1996, Subic Bay hosted the leaders of 18 economies during the Fourth Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit. By that time, this emerging investment haven had already successfully attracted companies like Federal Express, Enron, Coastal Petroleum now El Paso Corporation, Taiwan computer giant Acer and France telecoms company Thomson SA to establish operations in the Freeport.

And really, that many people volunteered. Amazing.

There were a number of activities lined up to celebrate SBMA’s silver anniversary. We were able to attend the awarding ceremony for pioneer investors, as well as the giving out of pins to the employees. There were also other activities such as the band drill, which was cool. But we were all very excited for the aircraft streamer/ confetti drop, the air formation, and water cannon.

Some volunteers attended the event, and it was great seeing these faces there, proud that twenty five years ago, they did something spectacular. Oh, and the new chairman of SBMA is Atty. Wilma Eisma.

Later that day, we went to the opening of the photo exhibit and memorabilia display museum at the Harbor Point Mall. Senator Dick Gordon gave a speech, and people were laughing and crying with him, nodding their heads and listening attentively to what he had to say.


The float and foot parade followed, which was also very fun… Hello, Daniel Matsunaga!

You know, it’s moments like these that get you to really thinking about it. There are times when life would feel pretty unfair, you know, those days when the SBMA wasn’t the “now” SBMA. But look where SBMA is today. And it’s all because of every single person who helped, every single soul who volunteered, everyone who did not expect for anything in return. Well done, SBMA. Congratulations!