By Mhike R. Cigaral
Photos: John Michael Mendoza
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Hermosa Mayor Jopet Inton, Bataan Governor Abet Garcia, joined residents and officials who gathered here on Wednesday to commemorate the 52nd death anniversary of former Olongapo City Mayor James Leonard Tagle Gordon, who was considered the founding father of the city.
Senator Richard J. Gordon led the ceremony by laying a wreath of flowers before the monument of his father, which was erected at Tappan Park here, the former public plaza of the old Olongapo community where the elder Gordon was born.
Guests at the ceremony included senatorial contenders like former Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and former Interior Secretary and former Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan III.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Wilma T. Eisma, who also graced the ceremony, said the old Olongapo community used to occupy what is now the central business district of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone until it was moved to its present location when the U.S. Navy built a military base here.
“A good part of the history of Subic Bay was made when Olongapo was still here,” she added.
Senator Gordon, who was the first chairman and administrator of the SBMA, said in an emotional tribute that his father James has been instrumental in the move for the independence of Olongapo, since the area had remained under the jurisdiction of the United States government until 1946.
He recalled that the late mayor was well-respected by U.S. Navy officials and had many friends among the Americans on base, “but he could not stomach the military regulations that limited the movements of people in Olongapo.”
In a series of articles published in the Manila Chronicle on July 3 to 7, 1955, the elder Gordon exposed the abuses and harassments suffered by Olongapo residents under U.S. military rule.
James Leonard Gordon went on to become the first elected mayor of Olongapo City on December 30, 1963 and remained so until he was felled by an assassin’s bullet on February 20, 1967.
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law declaring January 17, the birthday of the former mayor, as James Leonard Tagle Gordon Day, which will be a special non-working holiday in Olongapo City and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
The holiday was declared in recognition of the achievements, contributions, and heroism of the late politician.