A friend and fellow Navy veteran who visited Olongapo in the Philippines while serving in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War asked to read Olongapo, the crime thriller I’ve written and hope to soon publish.
I told him that I had posted five of the chapters on my website,
and he asked that I repost the chapters.
Below is chapter one, Butterfly.
The below story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine.
By Paul Davis
I lived in what we considered
a tough neighborhood in South Philadelphia when I was a teenager in the 1960s.
I ran with a tough crowd on the mean streets of South Philly, but I would later
discover that Olongapo in the early 1970s was a truly tough town.
I recall an old Navy chief
telling me and other young sailors on the USS Kitty Hawk about the notorious
port city as the aircraft carrier sailed towards the Philippines in November of
1970. The chief, who had been around the world while serving many years in the
U.S. Navy, told us that Olongapo was the wildest place he had ever seen.
“Once you walk across
the bridge over Shit River into Olongapo, you’ll be corrupted quickly by sexy
bar girls, cheap booze, available drugs, and all sorts of crime,” the old chief
said with a mischievous grin.
During the Vietnam War,
Olongapo, the city located next to the massive U.S. Navy Base at Subic Bay in
the Philippines, was like Dodge City, Las Vegas, and Sodom and Gomorrah all
rolled into one. The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet ships that operated
off the coast of Vietnam during the war were frequent visitors to Subic Bay, as
the naval base provided repairs and replenishment to the warships.
As the pent-up American
sailors left the ships and swarmed into Olongapo, the city’s shadier elements
were waiting. Sailors walked out of the naval base’s gate and crossed over the
small bridge above the Olongapo River, called “Shit River” by the Americans
due to its muddy brown color and pungent smell. Despite the filth and
pollution, several small children on boats were willing to slip into the river
and dive for the coins the sailors tossed from the bridge into the water.
On the other side of the
bridge was Olongapo’s main street, Magsaysay Drive. Known as the
“Strip,” there was a seemingly endless line of bars, restaurants and
hotels all lit up in colorful neon lights. The street was noisy and crowded
with passing American sailors and Marines, street vendors, drug dealers,
pickpockets, thieves, con artists, armed robbers and innocent-looking young
shoeshine boys who were known to hold a razor against a sailor’s heel until he
handed over his wallet.
Also on the crowded street
were scores of young, attractive Filipinas enticing sailors to come into their
bar with blown kisses, swaying hips, pushed out breasts, and shaking derrieres.
Occasionally a girl would use strong-arm tactics, such as grabbing a young
sailor by the arm and yanking him into the bar and announcing loudly that she
had a “Cherry Boy” virgin.
Crossing Magsaysay Drive was
often a case of bravery or foolhardiness, as one could be hit by one of
the ubiquitous “jeepneys,” Olongapo’s colorfully decorated minibuses that were
converted from American jeeps abandoned after World War II.
The American dollar was like
gold in the early 1970s, and one could spend a wild night in Olongapo drinking,
eating, dancing, and staying in a hotel room with a local beauty for only about
I was 18 years old when I
first visited Olongapo in 1970. I was a cocky, street-smart South Philly kid,
as well as a lean and muscular amateur middleweight boxer, so I was not
intimidated by the barrage of sights, sounds and smells of this strange town like
so many other young sailors who first experience it. I was also not fazed when
a bar girl grabbed my arm outside of a bar and yanked me towards the bar’s
“You so young and handsome,”
the pretty Filipina said as she tugged my arm. “You Cherry Boy?” I pulled
my arm loose from her grip and replied, “Not hardly.”
Thankfully, I had good
friends on the aircraft carrier who had visited Olongapo during the Kitty
Hawk’s previous combat cruise, and they warned me about the dangers and
pitfalls, as well as the delights, of the notorious city. As an aspiring
crime writer, Olongapo sounded like just the place for me.
All American servicemen were
duly warned of the dangers when visiting Olongapo’s bars and other
establishments. One rule pounded into the sailors by the older sailors was not
to “Butterfly” in individual bars. To butterfly was to associate with two bar girls,
called “Hostesses,” in any one bar. The bar girls were protective of their
claimed sailors and the money they earned from the sailors buying them whisky
(actually Coke) and champagne (actually 7-Up). The price of a drink for
the girls was only about a buck, so the sailors didn’t mind paying this
apparent scam. But the bar girls resented another bar girl poaching on their
When a sailor would
butterfly, whether on his own initiative or by the encouragement of another bar
girl, the aggrieved bar girl would often fly into a rage and attack the other
bar girl, and sometimes the offending sailor.
Even before I set foot in
Olongapo, I heard the much-repeated cautionary tale about an American sailor
who committed the offense and paid a dear price. The bar girl he had been
seeing was so mad when he flirted with another bar girl that she attacked the
girl on the dance floor. To the consternation of the bar’s manager and the
utter delight of the American sailors, the two girls pulled hair, and kicked
and punched each other.
The Filipino manager
and his waiters pulled the two girls apart. The offended girl then went to her
purse and pulled out her Batangas knife, a weapon more commonly
known as a “Butterfly” knife. The knife had two handles with the sharp blade
concealed in the groves of the handles. When flashed, flipped and fanned by
someone who knew what they are doing, the butterfly knife was a most scary and
This bar girl knew how
to use the butterfly knife and she charged the butterflying sailor and slit his
throat as he sat in a chair. He died on the way to the base hospital.
On my first visit to Olongapo
in early December of 1970, I went into one of the bars with some shipmates and
met a pretty girl who sat with me as I bought her drinks. I had fun drinking
and dancing with her, and we ended up in a hotel room for the night. I returned
to the ship the following morning and we soon shoved off for our first “Yankee
Station” line period in the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea off the coast
We spent Christmas on Yankee
Station, but we pulled back into Subic Bay on December 31st, New
Year's Eve. Not everyone was glad to see us. The American sailors
stationed on the base and on smaller ships hated when an aircraft carrier
pulled into port. With the carrier’s 4, 700 men going ashore with money in
their pockets and eager for action, the city’s inhabitants went all out to
In a case of reverse
butterflying, two sailors stationed on the base at Subic Bay resented the Kitty
Hawk’s sailors taking over the city on that first night in port. One base
sailor was truly angry, as his regular girl at the bar ignored him and cuddled up
to a young Kitty Hawk sailor. The base sailor got drunk along with his pal and
when the girl went to the restroom, the two base sailors pounced on the Kitty
Hawk sailor. They beat him to the floor and one of the two assailants broke a
bottle of beer over his head.
The Kitty Hawk sailor was
beaten unconscious before other sailors and the Filipino waiters could break it
up. The Philippine police and the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol rushed into the bar
and took hold of the two base sailors. The Kitty Hawk sailor was gravely
injured, and he was taken by two Shore Patrol petty officers to the base
hospital. The two base sailors were released by the Philippine police into the
custody of two other Shore Patrol petty officers and a junior officer. The
Shore Patrol petty officers handcuffed the pair and escorted them to the base,
where they were charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder by
civilian Naval Investigative Service (NIS) special agents.
The story of the assault on
the Kitty Hawk sailor spread quickly all over Olongapo. I heard the story from
another sailor as I sat in the Starlight bar with two of my
shipmates from the Kitty Hawk’s Communications Radio (CR) Division, Dino
Ingemi, a solid six-footer with thinning dark hair, who was an outgoing and
funny guy from the Bronx, and Mike Hunt, a brawny, laid-back Californian whose
light brown hair, ski nose and easygoing manner belied his background as an
outlaw biker prior to enlisting in the Navy to avoid being drafted into the
Army. Both Ingemi and Hunt were Olongapo veterans, having visited the wild city
the year before during Kitty Hawk’s previous combat cruise.
As I was half-Italian on my mother’s side and I
grew up in a predominantly Italian American South Philadelphia neighborhood, I
called Dino Ingemi my paisan.
"Just another fun night in Olongapo, Paul," my paison said. "That
kind of shit won't happen here at the Starlight."
The Filipino band at
the Starlight had everyone jumping and dancing to their
renditions of popular American songs of the time. The Filipino musicians were
incredible mimics, sounding like Sly and the Family Stone with one song, the
Four Tops with another, and then went on to sound eerily like the Beatles in
yet another number.
We were all dressed in
“civies,” as sailors called civilian clothes, and I was wearing a short-sleeved
tan and black Italian knit shirt and black slacks. I was something of a
clotheshorse, and I differed from most of the other sailors, who were usually clad
simply in tie-dyed t-shirts and jeans. Thankfully, the then-chief of naval
operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the enlisted man’s hero, allowed sailors to
go ashore in civies rather than in uniform.
We sat at a table drinking
bottles of San Miguel, the local beer, when I was approached by Linda Divita, a
slim, pretty girl who swayed around me to the music and then pulled me up from
my chair to dance with her. Linda had long dark hair and long lovely legs
beneath her short black dress. The low cut of her dress afforded one the view
of her mostly exposed small breasts.
“She’s got a great ass and
cute little tits,” Ingemi said to me when we finally sat back down. I nodded in
agreement as Ingemi was smacked on the arm by Marlena Abadiano, the pretty girl
he had been seeing since he first visited Olongapo the year before.
Dino Ingemi was very social
and made friends easily. He had become close with the Starlight manager,
Samuel Rosalita, during the previous cruise. Rosalita joined us at our table
and laughed and drank with us. He gave me his business card and another card
that read “Welcome to the Starlight: Charming A-Go-Go dancers, Beautiful Ladies
and Outstanding Combos.”
I mentioned to Ingemi that
Rosalita looked like the entertainer Sammy Davis Jr, and Ingemi began to call
him “Sammy,” much to the manager’s delight. Rosalita chuckled and shook his
head at everything Ingemi said.
I had a fun night drinking
and dancing with Linda that New Year's Eve at the Starlight, and
when the bar closed, I took her to a nearby hotel. I was drunk and worried that
the girl would steal my money when I fell asleep, so when she was in the
bathroom, I looked for a place to hide my slim black leather wallet that held
my Navy ID and my cash. I looked up at the light fixture mounted on the ceiling
six feet above me. Thinking I was clever, I tossed my wallet up onto the glass
fixture underneath the light bulb.
Linda came out of the
bathroom and threw her arms around me and laughed crazily. She was loopy drunk,
but she was wild, sexy and fun in bed with me right up until the moment she
passed out in my arms. In the morning, I could not wake her. I knew she was alive,
as she moaned and muttered, but she would not move from her face down position
on the bed. I found a handful of “Red Devils,” a barbiturate, on the bedside
table next to her purse. I didn’t know how many of the pills she took, but I
I dressed her and left the
room. Rosalita’s business card did not have a telephone number on it, so I went
to the front desk and I slipped five dollars to one of the clerks and asked him
to go and get the Starlight manager.
I went back to the room and
saw that Linda was still out. About a half hour later, there was a knock on the
door. Rosalita came in, accompanied by one of his waiters and an older woman
who was the Mama-San for the bar. Rosalita thanked me for
contacting him and then looked at Linda on the bed. He cursed her in Tagalog.
The two men lifted Linda and took her out of the room. After they left, I
looked up at the ceiling light and tried to retrieve my wallet, but it was
beyond my reach. I went down to the front desk and asked the clerks for a
ladder. They looked puzzled. I returned to my room with two Filipinos and a
ladder in tow. They stood in the doorway in amazement as I climbed the ladder
and retrieved my wallet.
I gave each of the hotel
clerks a five-dollar bill for their trouble as I was leaving the hotel room.
The two Filipinos took the money as they laughed uncontrollably.
“Fuck you,” I said to them,
although I had to laugh along with them.
Back at the carrier, I took a
shower, ate lunch in the galley and then I took a nap in my rack. When I awoke,
I took another shower and changed into a black dress shirt and light gray
slacks. I met up with Hunt and Ingemi and we all headed out to Olongapo and
the Starlight. We took a table and Marlena came over with
Hunt’s girl Carmelina and sat with us. I was thankful that I didn’t see Linda.
Rosalita came over to the table with a waiter armed with a tray of San Miguel
Marlena whispered into
Ingemi’s ear, and he nodded. Marlena got up and left the table. She returned to
our table with a beautiful girl that she introduced to us as her sister,
Zeny had long, raven hair
with bangs cut just above her dark, sultry eyes. She had a pretty face and an
alluring figure. At 5’ 11,’ I towered over her five-foot stature when we
danced. In addition to her being an exotic beauty, Zeny was sexy, smart and funny. I
was drawn to her immediately.
And I forgot all about Linda.
After the bar closed, Ingemi,
Hunt and I took the girls to a nearby hotel. In my hotel room, I took Zeny in
my arms, unzipped her dress and let it fall to the floor. I told her she was
beautiful as I kissed her madly, and we fell across the bed.
A couple of hours later, I
heard a pounding on the door. I jumped up and retrieved my pocketknife from
under the pillow. I heard Linda on the other side of the door.
“Paul! Paul! Open up!” I
heard her holler. “I want to talk to you!”
Zeny pulled the sheet over
her head and giggled. “Oh, you think this is funny?” I told Linda to go
“Paul, open up. I want to
talk to you!” Linda said in a screeching and blood-curdling voice. Of course, I
didn’t open the door. I then heard what I presumed were hotel employees arguing
with Linda in Tagalog, and thankfully the voices outside the door finally
“So, you think a crazy,
drugged girl coming to the room was funny,” I said to Zeny as I took her once
again in my arms.
I was awakened in the morning
by a pounding on the door. Not again, I thought. But then I heard Ingemi’s
voice. I hollered out to Ingemi that I would be ready in a half hour. I took a
shower with Zeny and afterwards I sat in a chair, and she stood in front of me
nude and dried my hair with a towel. She took my pocket comb and
combed my short, dark brown hair, carefully parting it on the
left side. I pulled her wonderfully luscious body towards me and hugged her.
I met Ingemi and Hunt outside
of the hotel and we grabbed a jeepney and headed back to the ship.
Later that evening, Ingemi
and I returned to the Starlight.
Zeny and Marlena were waiting
for us and the four of us took a table. Rosalita waved to us and motioned to a
waiter, who quickly came over with San Miguel beers. While we were drinking at
the table, Linda suddenly appeared by my side. Zeny grabbed my arm and snuggled
up close to me. Linda was clearly angry and deranged.
“You butterfly, you
“Get the fuck out of here,” I
replied calmly, tilting my head slightly to the right while trying to sound
like a South Philly half-a-hoodlum.
“I get you good,
motherfucker,” Linda said with a snarl.
Rosalita rushed over to the
table and spoke harshly in Tagalog to Linda. She spat on the table and walked
away. Rosalita apologized and left us. Zeny and Marlena were unfazed, and
Ingemi was laughing uncontrollably. Linda sat at a nearby table with some poor
sailor and began cursing me loudly in English and Tagalog.
“She crazy,” Zeny said,
kissing me to further anger Linda.
Linda then began to fling lit
cigarettes at us. Then she threw a beer bottle that hit our table. Ingemi, who
was no longer laughing, got up and walked over to Rosalita. Rosalita listened
briefly to Ingemi and then marched over to Linda, and he must have told her in
no uncertain terms to cut it out.
We resumed drinking, dancing,
and having fun and I tried to ignore Linda. A while later I got up to go to the
men’s room, which was on the other side of a wall that separated the bar from
the rest rooms, the kitchen, and storerooms. When I came out of the men’s room,
I encountered Linda in my path.
“You butterfly me, you son a
bitch,” Linda hissed. “I kill you.”
From behind her back, Linda
produced a Butterfly knife and began to twirl it in front of me. As she flashed
and fanned the knife in a menacing fashion, I threw a short right punch that
hit her square in the face. She went down, her nose and teeth bloody, and she
lay motionless on the floor.
Rosalita and two waiters
rushed in, and my immediate thought was that I would have to fight them all.
But Rosalita cursed Linda, who lay unconscious, and he kicked her twice. The
two waiters picked up Linda and took her away.
Rosalita apologized profusely
to me, and I walked back to the table and told everyone what happened.
From then on, whenever the
carrier visited Subic Bay, I went to the Starlight and stayed
I never again saw Linda, and
no one ever said what had become of her.
And I never asked.
© 2022 By Paul Davis
Note: You can read four other chapters via the