Olongapo Scams and the
By: Mark McMenamin
After two tours at Cubi Point, 1984-1987 and 1990-1992 as well as numerous port calls on ships in the late 1970's and late 1980's have seen quite a few of the scams that the local populace ran on sailors.
In the 70's you would be walking with your Honey-Ko on the street and a policeman would walk or drive up and ask for your "Steady Papers". These were a supposedly a document that gave your girlfriend permission from the city to be out with you and not working in the bar regardless of any bar fine or other arrangement you had made. The cop would ask you for the papers and if you didn't have them, he would threaten you with taking your girlfriend away to jail. Some would actually go to some office and have some of these papers drawn up (for a fee of course) and then pay a fine to the police for not having them. Steady papers had no legal standing in any court but it was a way for these officials to get their grease money. In many cases a simple, (on the spot) bribe of 5 bucks would let you off the hook for that night.
Another scam was the guy walking down the side walk on Magasaysay with his arms full of tee-shirts stacked so high he could barely see ahead to walk. You would accidentally "bump" into him and all his shirts would fall to the street and he would try and get you to pay for the dirty tee-shirts. It rarely worked because if you kept walking, he would not want to follow you and leave his shirts abandoned.
The child pick-pockets were also a gas!! Three or four of them would surround you and while a few would keep you distracted another would slip in and try to pick your pocket. One afternoon a gang of them tried it on me. I always kept my wallet in my sock (advise from an old salt) but I kept my cigarettes in my front pants pocket. Anyway, the kids got me distracted and were able to lift my pack of KOOL Filter Kings. The little guy took a look at the pack, realized it was not my wallet and we made eye contact and I held out my hand and he gave them back (he was too young to smoke apparently).
After being in Olongapo frequently, many of us became pretty jaded and the feeling was the whole town was out to rip off the Navy. One incident I recall vividly proved that this view was un-founded.
In my younger days on the ship I had a bad habit of taking my wallet out of my sock and paying the jeepney driver and then putting the wallet under my left leg while I was sitting on the long benches in the back. Well, this day I got out of the jeepney and left my wallet on the bench. I got to the main gate and when I looked for my Military ID I realized it was in my wallet and the wallet was gone. The guard gave me a pass and I made it back to the USS Constellation. The problem I has was the ship had a policy, albeit illegal, that if you lost your ID card it would take three days for the personnel office to issue you a new one. It was basically like being on restriction when you were not on restriction. The ship wanted to discourage sailors from losing their ID cards out ion town and this policy seemed to work. I was resigned to the fact that I would have no liberty for four days and sat down to cry in my cup of coffee. The next day I got a message on the quarter deck to go down to the main gate because someone had turned in my wallet. I got my LPO to escort me down there and lo and behold the wallet was there, intact, and still had 15 bucks and about 30 peso's in it. I asked the Sergeant of the Guard who had turned it in and he said "some jeepney driver". I wanted to find out who he was and give him a reward but I never found out who he was. I owed him, big time. That guy saved me three days of precious liberty which I was able to enjoy because the ship pulled out three days later!!!!!!