The Side Pot

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The US Navy had an agreement with the Philippine government that as long as the US had bases in their country Filipino’s could join the US Navy. But because of security requirements the jobs within the US Navy were restricted to the ones that didn’t require US Citizenship. The Royal Navy had a similar agreement with China albeit the British did not enlist them but hired them as contract labor on the ships to run the laundry and other tasks.

In 1964 most of the Filipino’s worked in Food Service but others after receiving US Citizenship branched into all fields and ratings (Jobs) within the Navy. But not surprising because of their love of cooking many stayed in the cooking field as did other groups of Navy personal, My Brother Dan was a Navy cook.

Survival Cebuano

The term side pot has morphed into a term meaning girlfriend but its origin is; “What is the extra food? As the Pinoy crew members would go through the chow line the cooks always had a side pot of something pure Filipino to eat. But it was also available to any crew member if the American style food didn’t appeal to them.

So it literally meant something on the side, which later would come to mean girlfriend to those who Butterfly around.

The same side pot rules applied on the merchant ship’s I rode. On Thursday nights on one ship (USNS San Jose) it was Philippine Night and it was an all Filipino menu. As I went to the chow line I asked the head cook Rolando what the side pot was. He looked at me with questions marks in his eyes and scratched his head. I said you should have cheeseburgers for those who don’t want Adobo it seems only fair.

Well we did have a laugh about that and the other Filipino’s started calling me Side Pot Paul, I was lucky I was still single at the time But the next Thursday night Rolando had hamburgers as the side pot, and told me that it only seemed fair. The Chief Steward, who was also my friend and fellow street runner, thought that was funny and told every cook in the fleet. But even all these years later if there is a party at my house there will always be a hamburger on the grill’s side pot, and it is very popular with everybody, but especially the kids.

So there I was an Irish kid from Boston meeting my very first people from the Philippines in San Diego Boot Camp in 1964, since I’d studied their country in geography class at Minot Elementary School in Dorchester MA. I had many questions for those guys. But a few years later as my ship steamed past Grande Island into Subic Bay, I found that those guys hadn’t told me everything.

Forty plus years have passed since that wonderful day in 1969; I’ve forgiven those guys that withheld certain information from this impressionable young lad from Boston, for as I reflect back on it, I realized I never would have believed them! I mean really, imagine the term side pot having two meanings!

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Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson; has resided in the Philippines since 1993, living close to Subic Bay. I’m married to a wonderful girl named Maria (AKA Mayang).Who is from Gordon Heights in Olongapo where she grew up with her Mom & Dad and seven siblings Our two daughters are both grown up and have left the nest, the eldest married to a wonderful guy named Chris, and they have blessed us with our granddaughter Heather Colleen Our youngest daughter and her husband Cecil have blessed us with a grandson named. Jayden Logan. I’m a retired U.S. NAVY Senior Chief after 22 years of active duty. After retirement from the Navy I lived for 7 years in Puerto Rico as a Night Club owner. Then Hurricane Hugo told me to find a new line of work, I was hired by Military Sealift Command and went back to sea in Asia as a Merchant Seaman for 10 years. After 30 plus years at sea I buried my anchor on a mountain in the Philippines and am now residing in Dinalupihan (or DinBat for short), Roosevelt, Bataan where we built our home. And last but not least, anything I writes will be pure "Tongue in Cheek "If anybody is offended, I'll lose no sleep over it, but here's a quick Mea Culpa in advance!

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Edgardo Blancaflor Dominguez

It wasnt just PINOY who weren’t allowed to serve beyond S-Division. Admiral Zumwalt “Z gram” opened the door for minorities to strike for other ratings, and when we acquire US citizenship can even switch to a security sensitive ratings.

6 years ago

The good ole days. Pulling into the bay it was drizzling and in town it was sizzling. Magsaysay was one of a kind or at least the best of its kind. Paradise to many, hell to some. But it will never be replicated.

6 years ago

Hi Paul,

So many memories you must have…

Cool vintage photos!

John Payne
6 years ago

photo of a couple of possible “side pots” ?

John A. Coldwell
6 years ago

Excellent article Paul – especially for us landlubbers.

6 years ago

Hi Paul, great post again makes my Monday morning reading them you sure have fantastic memories, you been there done that got the badge they could make a film about your life,
God only knows how many times you have been round the world ,
Keep the stories coming love reading them, Derek in pasig.

Luke Tynan
6 years ago

Great Article Paul. You hit the Philippines just a few months before me. (I was shore based). I was transefered to the Comm. Sta at San Antonio about 30 kilometers up the road from Subic in Earily 1970. And I lived there for 3 years. My wife-at-tthat-time &I hit the exchange at Subic several times a month after she joined me from the States. And I thought that I knew a lot about the Philippines. But when I came back in 2007 to met Katleen (we married in 2008) I found out how much I did not know and the… Read more »

6 years ago

BTW – my friend just opened a new Sports Bar in Subic. Liberty, first bar for those just coming off the ships.

Dave Starr
6 years ago

Great article Paul, it brought back memories and as usual with your articles I learned something (which means today is another day _not_ wasted). Just for the record, though, non US citizen Filipinos still can enlist in the US Navy (or other DoD departments). It’s much more restrictive than in the days you are talking about, because the candidate has to have a Green Card or other legal means of entering the USA, and they must attain US citizenship before being allowed to reenlist, but their are expedited ways to do this easily during the first hitch. Doubt it will… Read more »

Denzil Browne
6 years ago


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