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On my dad’s 69th birthday, we were given a gift – a mystery about his elementary school’s name that led us on a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
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Dada studied at Nellie E. Brown Elementary School, a public school in Olongapo City located in the northwestern side of the Philippines.
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 Connected to Subic Bay and facing the West Philippine Sea, Olongapo is known for being part of a U.S. naval base from 1901 to 1959. Until now, placenames in Olongapo tell stories about this time as streets, schools, and establishments carry foreign sounding names.
Most of these names can easily be traced to navy officials who were stationed in Olongapo, local government officials, and even American presidents. However, my dad, his brothers, and the people they grew up with had no idea whom their beloved school was named after.
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And now we realize the gift is a priceless one as we continue wondering – Who is Nellie E. Brown? Why was a school named after her? And why doesn’t anyone seem to know?
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