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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2000
Interesting book, written as a novel from the perspective of a deck seaman serving on the USS Spice, a fictional Military Sealift Command ship (probably based on the USS Spica (TAFS-9) that was actually homeported at the Subic Bay Naval Base). Takes place in the late 80's/early 90's, ably relating the story of everyday life at Subic and aboard an underway repenishment ship (my personal experience is from USS Mars (AFS-1)). The book even tastefully works in the readily available prostitution and its affects on the local inhabitants. World events intrude into life at Subic as the Spice deploys to the Persian Gulf for Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The ship returns just in time for the devastation caused by the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption, as well as the rejection of the U.S. Bases agreement by the Philippine Senate and the end of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. A must read for any Navy/Air Force man or woman who ever set foot at Subic or Clark Air Base, it will certainly bring back memories. The one drawback to the book is that it appears to have been printed without the benefit of proofreading, and the many spelling and grammar errors can be frustrating. Also, military acronyms are broken out differently in different chapters of the book. Even with these drawbacks, it is still a fascinating look into a place that is gone forever, except in the memories of many service men and women. Many thanks to Mr. Mills for telling this story.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2000
This is a novel written by an honest, hard-working seaman, who undoubtedly decided to leave out some of the nastier parts associated with our occupation of The Philippines. All in all, it's a well-written novel and it takes you back to how things were. I visited Olongapo 5 years after the Base closed down, and walking down Magsaysay, I saw the Subic that used to be in the form of ancient ruins. Many of the buildings, bars and discotheques long abandoned. This novel let's you relive the sights sounds and smells of the "Old Sailor Town". I only reccomend this book to people who have been there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2010
This book has a good start- I like the poem at the beginning. As a sailor myself, he does leave out the nastier parts of a sailors life. I can appreciate how he places a reader there- -as this is not the first book I have read by him.
The only thing I have to say it's more interesting if one has actually been there- at least for a visit. I gave one of my friends the book to read it was difficult to follow as it is a third world country. A country that poor is harder for average middle class
Americans
to grasp the feel of.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I love the restraint that Anthony Mills employed in his fond telling of a far-away exotic but squalid place which would have been forsaken by God but for its Catholic practices, and for which well-being neither the colonizing U.S. nor the colonized Philippine republic cared for very much. I, for one, am not sorry Subic Bay closed down.

Mills has so much material here; any number of them could have developed into a soppy Madame Butterfly-type tearjerker, or an idealistic Marshall plan text comparable to the altruistic nation-building attempts on their colonies by the Victorian British empire. Or, heaven forbid, the all-too-often mockery of a misunderstood people stunted by a language barrier, apathetic colonialists, unsanitary living conditions, subservient manners, embarrassing ignorance, grinding poverty, and the inevitable sleeze. Thankfully, the author didn't go anywhere near those.

The early part of the book is Mill's homage to his ship. It was all about the supply ship on which he worked in real life. (It was easy to guess which character personifies the author.) The ship navigated across the dangerous Marianas/Philippine Deep during a strong typhoon, going through the inland Visayan seas and on northwest to Subic Bay. How big and heavy the ship was, its different sections at different levels and their locations, and what work activities went on in them with great efficiency. If I'd paid more attention rather than simply skimming through this part of the book, I'd probably learn more about ship navigation and the loading and unloading of cargoes than I'd ever care to know, but I refused.

All traffic, cryptic communications, logbooks, commands and regulations, the conditions of the sea and the sky, weather reports, banners and signals, equipments and machineries, all works done thoroughly, in order, and on time and by how many people, under whose supervisions, what they wore and how they talked were all minutely described.

On land, the author's romance with Subic Bay began. No coconut palms and mango trees on white sand beaches here, no ice cold cocktails with sunbathing beauties under colorful giant umbrellas. It was the place itself, the ship repair shops, the churches, their priests and the choir, silt-filled canals, indoor lizards and market monkeys, American officers swirling San Miguel, Filipino day laborers eating meager food with their fingers, American servicemen with their Filipina escorts, the noise, the heat, the smell, the dust, the music blaring from disco jukeboxes, a school for brides, smoke-belching vehicles clogging the streets, gum vendors, flower vendors, pickpockets, and transient residents - they were what fascinated Mills through his fictional character. Bar girls and what went on behind closed doors? - not so much.

I would have loved to have a few more insights into the hearts and minds of the characters - both Americans and Filipinos - as they worked hard and lived and suffered together, to know their passion and joy, their humor, their hopes and desperation, their terror and overwhelming pathos when tragedy struck, even their longing for the comforts of home. For everyone at Subic seemed to have come from elsewhere although a few tried to make it home. When Pinatubo erupted one bright sunny day, it was the beginning of the end.

But instead Mills chose the place itself as the main protagonist in the novel. In the 70's and 80's, Subic Bay (and its sister U.S. military base, Clark) were both the shame and the envy of the rest of the Philippines. Shame for their flesh markets and other iniquities, envy for the U.S. dollars and goodies that came through them. Mills lovingly portrayed Subic Bay deftly with the scenes he wrote as much as what he kept in sweet silence.

I am giving the book the full five-stars despite frequent mispellings of Tagalog words, names and places because the more I think it, the more I like this novel. It's a love story that had to end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2013
Subic Bay: The Last American Colony chronicles the final months of the infamous US Naval base at Subic Bay Philippines. It is a historical novel based mostly on real people. The story revolves around a humble group of churchgoing American servicemen and civilians practicing their faith among the drinking and debauchery of Olongapo City. The book is a departure from the traditional historical novel in that the main characters are not military heroes, business titans, or politicians but regular people going about their lives. Having made several trips to the Philippines in the last few years I recently re read the book after receiving an original copy from the author 15 years ago. I had the pleasure of working with Tony Mills on US merchant marine vessels in the 1990's and he was one of the most interesting people I have ever known. I recommend Mill's book for anyone that wants to learn or reminisce about this legendary American Naval base from an insiders perspective. And Mills, next time I'm in Oakland or the PI, your first tomato juice with beer is on me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2011
The material is there for an excellent book,however, this is really a poorly written book.It is very difficult to follow, as it jumps from subject to subject and never completes any of them.
As a career USN sailor,many of the ships I served in often visited Subic Bay in the mid 1950's, and my family and I lived there from 1975
through 1978. We lived on the base, but often visited Olongopo and saw the things the writter tries to describe.This is just a very poor attempt to describe some of the events that occured in Subic
Bay.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2013
A simple read on available history of Subic Bay. I had to have it for my collection as I was stationed there through the Mt.Pinatubo eruption and the closing of the base. Also wanted it to share with my son who was born in Cubi Pt. Hospital.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2003
A Bad Book written on an infantile level.
The author never develops a plot simply skips from anecdote to anecdote, with little coherence. Very little is actually said about Olongopo, Subic City or The Barrio, (I have been in all of these places.) Most of the stories revolve around the USN Chaplain Corps, which the author seems to confuse with a mission service. The author also seems to be unaware that MSC does not comprise the Merchant Marine, (I have sail as a Merchant for 20+ years, never on an MSC vessel.)
ALL in all skip this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2003
A Bad Book written on an infantile level.
The author never develops a plot simply skips from anecdote to anecdote, with little coherence. Very little is actually said about Olongopo, Subic City or The Barrio, (I have been in all of these places.) Most of the stories revolve around the USN Chaplain Corps, which the author seems to confuse with a mission service. The author also seems to be unaware that MSC does not comprise the Merchant Marine, (I have sail as a Merchant for 20+ years, never on an MSC vessel.)
ALL in all skip this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 1999
An excellent read for anyone that has ever been stationed in the Philippines while in the service, or for anyone that has ever had the pleasure of making a "port of call".
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