Living on Easy Street: A Resident’s Take on Subic Bay
A resident of Subic Bay reflects on why living there is so great—and gives visitors some insider ideas on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.
Real Living contributor Jay Ramos literally lives on Easy Street, a street name that is also a perfect encapsulation of what it's like to live in Subic Bay. Learn more about the places to visit and things to do in this specialized residential, commercial, and industrial zone straight from a local's point of view.
Subic Bay is one of a kind. The biggest developers in the country put together can never hope to duplicate Subic. The tourist brochures will tell you all about the virgin forests, the wild flora and fauna, and the beaches. All of that is wonderful, but it's the little things that make living here so great.
After having lived most of my life in Manila, it is almost surreal to live in a place where I can let my little boy walk the dog alone without worrying about his safety; a place where my wife who grew up in the United States can drive around in safe, orderly traffic; a place where the garbage is picked up unnoticed; where the lights turn on every time you flick the switch; where the water flows each time you turn the tap. It truly is a first-world city in a third-world country.
Many people don't realize that the total land area of Subic is about the size of Singapore. It may not seem like it, but a lot of people actually live here. The neighborhood I live in, Binictican Heights, is a thriving community. My street is a kind of United Nations. I have American, Austrian, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Korean, and of course, Filipino neighbors. They all live and work inside the Freeport; they're not just weekenders maintaining a second home. Brent International School is a short distance away and it's normal to see kids rushing home on foot or on their bikes--just like in a suburban American city.
My office is a five-minute drive from my house, allowing me the simple joy of having lunch at home with my wife and son. I also have at least one or two extra hours each day that I'm not wasting sitting in traffic. I've begun to use that time to start swimming, biking, and running. In fact, I've completed two triathlons and am now in the best shape of my life. People who have known me for a long time will realize how far-fetched that sounds--me completing a triathlon. But a little discipline and the environment at Subic helped make it possible. For one thing, it's so convenient: There are swimming pools, safe roads for biking, and a track oval for everybody's use.
One of my early concerns about living here was the selection (or lack thereof) of restaurants. After our son was born, late nights out became obsolete for my wife and me, so dining out became our form of entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover numerous dining options that span various cuisines and price ranges. There is a sizeable community of retired American servicemen in Olongapo, and these restaurants cater mostly to them. American breakfast at Dryden's and Mexican food at Papagayo's in Barrio Barretto, Olongapo City are must-visits. For a change of pace or when we want to entertain guests, there is no shortage of bars and live bands either. After all, Subic Bay was the former home of the US Navy 7th Fleet!
A Change of Pace
My work requires me to go back to Manila every week, and I dread it. It's not the drive I mind. What I dread is being forced to deal with the traffic, the crowds, the pollution, and the poverty. Where Subic is tranquil and orderly, Manila is loud and chaotic. It may only be a couple of hours away, but they are worlds apart.
For me, the best part of going to Manila is going back to Subic. Once I enter the Subic Tollway, I can already feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders. I take a breath full of fresh air and all of a sudden, I'm back on Easy Street.
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