Vendors follow ‘moving’ US bases | Inquirer News

Vendors follow ‘moving’ US bases

/ 09:04 PM October 21, 2012

SOUVENIR vendors sell their wares near the docked ships of the United States Navy at Alava pier in the Subic Bay Freeport zone. Robert Ianne Gonzaga/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—One can usually guess when an American warship or a submarine is docking in this free port by the number of souvenir vendors along Alava Pier and the Subic boardwalk.

These vendors troop to the areas where American servicemen given liberty (a euphemism for rest and recreation) are most likely to pass by on their way to restaurants, hotels and shopping malls in the free port and Olongapo City.


Lolita Solana, a souvenir vendor of woodcraft items since the 1980s, when the United States was still using this economic zone as its naval base, said Subic is a popular spot for vendors because of the increasing presence of Americans here.


She said she and her fellow vendors chase the “moving base” of Americans all over the country.

“We go where the ships are, erecting tents to sell our wares in Manila, Palawan, Cebu or Cotabato and just about everywhere there is Balikatan (military) exercises,” Solana said.

The vendors at Alava Pier sell different things, but the most popular are wooden items made from mahogany, usually door and desk signs. These are sold for P1,500 to P1,800 apiece.

The products are made just beside their tents, upon order of their American clients, Solana said. Others sell assorted trinkets, mugs and shirts.

“Some haggle, some are stingy, some are generous. But most of these guys

know the price of these items and they haggle with us. Sometimes it is funny


because they ask for less than what we would give to Filipino buyers.

Sometimes, we ask for tips, too,” Solana said.

Asked if they wanted the Americans to return to Subic, she said: “That’s

good because we don’t have to go to different places—and if they are here

most of the time, then we have more chances to sell. We follow them around because we have to grab the opportunity.”

After the closure of the American military bases in the country, Solana said most souvenir vendors like them closed shop or went bankrupt. She said only a few survived out of sheer determination.

Jonna Bungay, a shirt vendor, said news of the arrival of Americans travel fast among vendors because their friends at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority inform them about scheduled port visits.

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This month, at least five US ships arrived in the free port: the USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Tortuga, USS Richard Byrd, USS Amelia Earhart and the USS Denver. These ships, which carried equipment and personnel used in the recently concluded 10-day military exercises between the Philippines and the US, are leaving today.

TAGS: News, Regions, US bases

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