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The historic Clark parade grounds, site of the former Fort Stotsenburg, turns into a virtual raging sea during thunderstorms. Too many trees cut in Clark?
The US military at Clark...Memorable Years


by Ding Cervantes

Those memorable 1960s. Beatles, bell bottoms, mini skirts, hippies, moon walk. Why, even Vatican Council II. 'Twas a decade that put the world awhirl towards a future that clashed and merged, as colorful as its flower people.


Influences from Woodstock to St. Peter's basilica readily swept Angeles folk who, over centuries of Spanish rule, remained largely Catholic, and yet, via the proximity and decades of Americans at Clark air base, were readily Westernized if not Americanized.


Through all these were things that made the '60 significant in Angeles: the town became a city and then the Metro Clark Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. ( MACCII) was founded, specifically in 1964.


Was it mere coincidence that these two developments crossed the same time vortex?


The 60's birthed unusual economic boom in the city. The US went into bigger scale involvement in the Vietnam War with Clark serving as hub for the Vietnam operations, boosting American population therein as never before. Angeles became catch basin for huge American soldiers and even their families. Or more specifically, their spending. Yes, that prosperous decade.


To the rest of the country, Angeles City became synonymous with Clark US Air Base, in part because of the huge fan base created by fascination over PX or "stateside" goods that, through assorted conveyances from the US base, found their way at the famous Marimar PX goods center and at the Nepo complex in Angeles, even before the town's cityhood.


Despite economic abundance, however, MACCII, truthfully if not ruefully, began at a certain point to fear the heavy and growing dependence of the city on the Americans at Clark .


For the most part among most city folk, however, familiarity with the Americans who had stayed at Clark as far as they could remember inspired some confidence that the GI's would stay on and on for many years still, if not forever. The world's most powerful country, afterall, had interests to protect in Asia. The US would not leave Clark, not in the their generation anyway. MACCII had but a bugbear.


But the nightmare came. Almost unexpectedly the Americans, in a long and unprecedented convoy of vehicles towards Subic naval base, left Clark on June 10, 1991 amid forewarning of a powerful eruption of an already smoking Mt. Pinatubo lining the horizon of their base.


In a coup d'theatre two days later, Mt. Pinatubo erupted with such historic power that could have decimated any dream for any future in Angeles. The aftermath was arid desolation and a continuing threat from volcanic ash explosions and lahar flows.


Equally if not more devastating for Angeles folk, the Philippine Senate did not renew the Military Bases Agreement with the US. The Americans had to go, permanently.


MACCII couldn't have survived. The dollars that flowed from Americans, the PX goods that lured all to Angeles, the houses, apartments, and hotel rooms that mushroomed for US patronage, the jobs held by thousands of Filipinos at Clark headed to oblivion and replaced by volcanic ash and lahar.


But MACII survived. It has turned golden, 50 years old this year, even laying out a confident blueprint of what to do for the city in yet another half a century.


This year, thus, is an anniversary worth marking with memories of the five decades lived so far by MACCII and its folk, those events and circumstances, even those personal minutiaes of early days that could quench thirst for the colorful curios of history before they vanish forever.


It is commemoration that also should- for posterity, legacy and even blueprint for the future- take stock of the role MACCII played in the city that has moved on and up.


Hence....


ANGELES CAME FIRST
Was it the Angeles egg first, then the American chicken?


Those unfamiliar with the history of Angeles tend to surmise that Angeles came after the Americans. First there were the Americans, then followed the Angelenos.
It's a local egg-and-chicken conumdrum readily resolved by history, of course.


Angeles was established as barrio Culiat of San Fernando town way back in 1796, courtesy of Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda who would later donate 35 hectares for the construction of the first Catholic church, a convent and a primary school in the barrio.
Culiat became a separate town on Dec. 8, 1892 and was given the name El Pueblo de los Angeles (the Town of Angels). It was also a name meant to honor its founder Don Angel.


But it wasn't until over a century later, in 1899, that the Americans came to Angeles, a year after Spain ceded the Phlippines to the US in the Treaty of Paris. This initially turned Filipino ire towards the Americans.


American forces went on to suppress pocket rebellions against them, including the three-day Battle of Angeles that started on Aug. 13, 1899 that lasted up to Nov. 5 in the same year. The Americans established themselves in Barangay Talimundoc, now Lourdes Sur in Angeles, to cope with remaining rebelliousness in other parts of the region.


In Talimundoc, the Americans made their presence felt. With rebellion to deal with, they coverted the Holy Rosary parish church into an army hospital. The choir loft was used as a dental clinic, while the convent was turned into barracks for medical officers and soldiers.


The main church itself, however, was kept for the Filipino faithful who continued to hear Masses there. In 1903 when the Americans moved to Fort Stotsenberg where Clark freeport is now, they felt obliged to pay the parish priest Rev. Vicente Lapus the sum of $638 for the use of the church.


BRUSHING ELBOWS WITH AMERICANS


From then on, Angeles folk were to closely brush elbows with the Americans. Between the settlement that Don Angel founded and Fort stotsenburg was a stretch of a few kilometers of highway that was to be bridged by the American dollar, if not Fil-Am friendship.


By the human dictates of off-shore military life, however, relationships went beyond mere friendship. One estimate was that during their stay at Clark and other US bases in the country, Americans fathered about 800,000 Amerasians from 1898 to 1946 and one can only presume that many of these children were conceived in Angeles which had, afterall, hosted one of the biggest American military bases in the world.


(American reign at Clark was sundered, but only for three years, during World War II after Clark was heavily bombed and fell into Japanese hands. The Amercans returned after Japan surrendered in 1945. But this episode is for a thicker, more dramatic volume.)


There is dearth of account of the day-to-day lives of Angelenos with the Americans they hosted in pre-war days, alhough those times seemed less dramatic than in the 1960's and after. The American dollar was not as powerful then as the exchange rate was only P2 for every dollar before the 60's.


So what's with the '60's that MACCII had to be born therein, along with Angeles' cityhood?


THE VIETNAM WAR


Off the western shores of Luzon, North Vietnam was already communist. The US espoused the domino theory that if the South fell to communism, the rest of Southeast Asia would be overtaken one after the other. Thus in 1963, US Pres. Lyndon Johnson expanded US involvement in the war.


Johnson sent the first US ground troops to Vietnam the following year after the North Vietnamese fired at two US ships in the Golf of Tonkin. Clark filled up with American soldiers, some with their families in tow. The last US troops were not to leave Vietnam until March 29, 1973.


In the US, some factories which used to produce consumer goods shifted to production of military wares, causing a plunge in shopping rates and hurting the US economy. Military spending caused budget deficits, inflation and spiked interest rates.
Conversely, Angeles prospered.


The boom of American population was now more than what Clark could take in, so that US soldiers, including those who were privileged to arrive with their families, were allowed to rent houses outside the base.


It is said that about 2,594,000 US personnel served in Vietnam during the war period, with over 58,220 of them getting killed and another and 153,303 wounded. Many of them had stayed in Clark at one time or another.


How much was pumped into the economy of Angeles? At the 2011 dollar rate, some $920 billion had reportedly spent by the US for the Vietnam War, including the estimated $140 billion direct cost of war.


The Vietnam Was turned out later to be bane for the US, but for Angeles, it was boon, or more dramatically, boom. Local folk found wealth, girls lured from elsewhere clinched American husbands alongside the American dream.


Recalls Dan Tinio, son of MACCII founder Abelardo Tinio: "During the Vietnam war years, Angeles became a booming metropolis and it was at that time also that the town became a city. Business and employment opportunities both inside and outside of the base was expanded. It is presumed, that due to these positive developments transpiring in Angeles, the need to unite, cooperate with both the local and base authorities became imperative so as to update and forge a closer relationship to further develop the economic and social well-being of the community."


DOUBLE BOOM, UNDERGROUND ECONOMY


In 1961, reportedly with the support of the US which disliked Pres. Carlos P. Garcia's "Filipino First" policy, Kapampangan Pres. Diosdado Macapagal won in the presidential race.


By 1962, Macapagal boosted a decontrol policy for the economy in part by allowing free market to buffet foreign exchange which used to be controlled by the Central Bank. The exchange rate then was two pesos to the US dollar.


On November 8, 1965, the decontrol program was completed and the peso was devalued at P3.90 to a US dollar.


To folk in Angeles who earned dollars from Clark, the devaluation worked well, in the same way it now does the families of overseas Filipino workers earning US or other foreign currencies abroad.


There should be no doubt that the tandem of the first significant boost in the value of the US dollar and the Vietnam War in the 1960's both virtually conspired to catapult Angeles to cityhood and to push its business folk to birth MACCII.


The matter of whether Macapagal's move was a blessing for the entire country was to be another matter altogehter.


For Angelenos earning dollars, the exchange rate was manna...from Clark.


"Americans ending their tour of duty at Clark were allowed to sell their cars to Filipinos. Out of the proceeds of the car sale they bought locally made furniture and other locally made products as they were allocated one container truck per family for items to bring back home to the US," recalls Renato "Abong" Tayag, Jr. ( Abong was MACCI president from 19... to 19...)


Aside from furniture, the Americans were buying toys, gifts, house decors, paintings, throw pillow cases, curtains, and an array of other items that had to have a Filipino mark.


In turn, American canned goods, soaps, shampoo, cigaretts, liquor, and other such items that came to be known as "stateside" found their way into a flourishing underground economy and became a way of life, if not culture in Angeles.


Stainless steel kitchen ware good as heirloom for generations found themselves in local Filipino kitchens and even in farther towns like Guagua, where Cadillacs which were replicas of Batman's batmobile negotiated dusty roads.


At the commissary within Clark, Filipinos who had items to sell to Americans were given space by Col John Murphy, who became a friend of MACCII for this welcoming policy. Thus, Angelenos found more explicit American market within the base.


FEELING THE AMERICANS IN ANGELES


There were services that also got paid in dollars. The US Air Force kept an average of 23,000 full time Filipino employees and, reportedly also provided jobs to another 23,000 contract workers, on top of 22, 000 hired and domestic helpers and hundreds more who were indirectly employed through its concessions.
Their annual payroll totaled almost $100 million.


Angelenos were hospitable to the Americans regardless of race, but apartheid, among the Americans themselves, spilled over from the fences of Clark. There were houses for rent at the railways in Barangay Sta. Teresita where Aling Lucing's sisig shack was later to establish, but in the 60's African American renters found themselves on the western side of the railway, while the Caucasians dominated the eastern flank.


"Most bar girls frequented the west because the African Americans had the reputation of being more generous," recalls Florante Timbol (Florante, MACCI president, 1976-78).


All knew that the US military’s reference to rest and recreation, or R & R, was euphemism for prostitution that started to flourish in the city. But Angelenos were always ready to point to the bar girls, whom "colegialas" referred to as "pam-pams" for reasons now lost, as being from elsewhere, citing Bicol and the Visayas.


Aetas also largely loved Clark’s Americans. Far from the animosity in Nora Aunor's movie wherein she had to confront Americans with an emotionally charged declaration that "my brother is not a pig," majority of Aeta tribal folk up to the present have only fond memories of the Americans during the military base days.


"Our kinky hair, color and height were enough passes when we descend from Mt. Pinatubo to visit the dumpsters near restaurants," says Aeta Josie Gilbert whose American surname was borne of her father being allegedly adopted by an American.


Restaurants and even households in Clark threw away all foods in their freezers after every power outage, regardless of how long this lasted.
"All the foods they dumped, including slabs of steaks and cartons of milk were all still good, so we waited for them near the dumpsters whenever there was power failure," Josie recalls. Relying on such dumpsters hardly spelled terms of high endearment, but for deprived Aetas, this provided for days of unforgettable plenty.


Ceferina Yepez, today still affectionately the Miss Yepez as curator of the Clark museum under the Clark Development Corp. (CDC), spent most of her life within American Clark. She had been a student scholar of the Americans at the University of the Philippines within the base, and the later taught in Clark schools.


"During the Vietnam war, you'd have a really good student and then one day, you'd see his chair empty because he had to fight in Vietnam. The next thing is that you're told he would never come back, because he got killed in the war. It was all so sad," she recalls.


There were kinks, but by and large, Angeles had loved the Americans and the affection seemed generally reciprocal.


HOUSING EXPLOSION


Subdivisions mushroomed in the 60s because Clark was bursting at the seams with soldiers. Many of them were going to war in Vietnam, but in the meantime, they needed homes which Clark physcally lacked.


Allowing Americans to live beyond the base was also seen as ploy to foster closer ties with the Filipino communities amid sparks of anti-American sentiments in some parts of the world, including the Philippines.


Abong notes that at a certain point, some 10,000 American families were living outside Clark.


"American military personnel assigned to Clark were given the privilege of bringing their families with them as their ‘tour of duty’ normally lasted two and a half years. All US military personnel with the rank of full colonels were automatically given houses inside Clark. On top of their paycheck, those who had to stay off base were given housing allowances covering house rent, utilities, stay-in housemaid and a yard boy who reported weekly," he recounts


He further recalls: "As there were no housing available for the additional American personnel assigned to Clark, local businessmen were encouraged to build new houses inside new subdivisions wherein this new development expanded up to the boundary of San Fernando in Telabastagan, towards Porac in the West where the Fil-Am friendship highway oand toll bridge were constructed by a group of businessmen led by then Pampanga Gov.Francisco G.Nepomuceno, Abelardo G.Tinio, Trinidad T.Lazatin, Jose E.Suarez and Renato D.Tayag."


US military authorities at Clark issued some physical requirements for American housing off base. This explains the architectural uniformity of homes which have survived to the present.


Notes Abong: "the house leasing industry became the dominant sector of the Angeles economy creating demand for construction materials, utilities and employment. Included in this sector were the hotels that were built to accommodate US servicemen on a R & R (rest and recreation) in Clark from Vietnam, US Airline crew under contract by the US defense department, American families waiting for vacancy in off-base housing or those waiting to fly back to the US after ending their tour of duty."


Peter Nepomuceno (Peter was MACCI president, 19 - 19...) recalls that "those series of subdivisions, from Villa Teresa which was founded by my family to the others parallel to Sto. Rosario St., were all established in the 60's and many if not most of the houses there were suited for rental by the Americans at Clark."


The the subdivision owners in the area shared a common motive to make all well for their American patrons, so they they decided to create a common road parallel to the Sto. Rosario road to link their subdivisions. But one of the subdivisions defaulted.
"Everything in Angeles seemed to revolve around the Americans at Clark. The Americans spent on many things outside the base," Peter says.


Peter, however, also knew that the Clark was also attracting more Filipinos to move to Angeles and they, too, were human economic factors to accomodate.


Housing for locals was at the Nepo area, while the Americans were renting at Marisol Subdivision, among other areas mushrooming for renters from Clark.


"I don't know how Villa Teresa became to be known as a subdivision for the rich, because that was not the initial intent," he now wonders.


Investments in housing was profitable. MACCI's Marc Nepomuceno's family even opted live temporarily with a relative so that they could have their own house (lot now occupied by Security Bank on Sto. Rosario St.) rented out to an American family for $300 to $400 per month.


"That amount must be really significant at that time as to prompt my parents to make such a move," Marc says rather with fascination.


The city was then powered by the Angeles Electric Corp. (AEC) which at that time had 10 megawatts for about 30,000 households of the 60's. The cost of power was 1.3 centavos per kilowatt hour plus P10 demand charge. AEC was buying bunker fuel at six centavos per liter. Again thanks to the Americans, the business of electricity was growing.


THE TOWN OF 'PAM PAMS' BECOMES A CITY


Balibago was not a commercial zone in the 1950's. The nightclubs were in the downtown area. The MacArthur highway in Balibago, which is now business and tourism hub, was mostly ricefields on the eastern flank, and sugarcane on the west.
Just across from where the prominent Tayags lived (where the city library is now in Sto. Rosario), there was Melody night club. Along Calle Real, which is now Sto. Rosario St., were Julie's Club and Rendezvous, among other establishments that would not have been there had the Americans not existed at Clark, although most took in Filipinos, too.


But in the 60s, the night club scenario and its complementing late-night American drunkeness, on top of occasional calesa races the Americans became fond of along Calle Real, prompted some hurling of fire and brimstone from the pulpit of the Sto. Rosario church.


"So one after the other, the bars started to move nearer Clark, through the MacArthur highway in Balibago. Initially, there were shacks and then came more solid structures. Pauline's was among the classiest for Americans and moneyed Pinoys," recounts lawyer Ner Biag (Ner, MACCI president 19... to 19...)


But even by then, Fields Avenue along Clark's periphery was building a reputation as entertainment district for Clark's single and temporarily lonely, mostly bachelors.


The economy of the municipality of Angeles was in such pink of health that, inevitably, leaders thought it deserved to become a chartered city. To some, it already was a "sin city."


Mayor Rafael del Rosario, assisted by lawyer Enrique Tayag, prepared the city charter for Angeles in 1963. The cityhood was then brought to Congress by first district Rep. Juanita Nepomuceno and the move was later approved by Macapagal. Cityhood was to come into effect on Jan. 1, 1963.


The charter initially allowed cityfolk to elect provincial officials, but this was overtaken by Batas Pambansa Bilang 51 on December 22, 1979 declaring that cities that were classified as belonging to the newly introduced "highly urbanized city" distinction lost their eligibility to participate in provincial elections regardless of what their charter provided.


CHAMBER COMES INTO BEING


Abelardo G. Tinio wasn't born to an affluent family, or he would not have worked as butcher at the city slaughterhouse, although he belonged to a family of meat vendors. But he had talent and the will to rise up the economic ladder. And yes, the Americans were at Clark, spending locally.


Cong Dodu, as he was called, was born May 18, 1922. At nine, he lost his father. He then took on the role of breadwinner for his mother and six siblings.


"I could never become a base commander (at Clark)," he once joked and thus he worked as butcher instead. Between his work and family, he found time to court and marry Agonia Manio Dizon in 1943 and from thereon sired eight children.


Eyeing the Americans at Clark as market, Cong Dadu got a logging concession in Patling in Capas, Tarlac and ventured into saw milling, lumber retailing and furniture making, wood treating and creosoting.


In 1960, Cong Dodu attended an international conference of the Jaycees in Osaka, Japan where he met Mr. Hiroshi Kobayashi. They became close friends and the Japanese found himself visiting Angeles every now and then.


Eventually, the two thought of other business ventures in Angeles to bring more jobs to some local folk who, somehow, still found the dollar glut elusive. Among other projects, they also pioneered in the use of LPG ( liquified petroleum gas ) in homes and businesses.


Cong Dodu himself also brought from Japan some portable knitting machines which he distributed to the barrios to encourage livelihood.


In such spirit that mixed business with social responsibility, MACCII was born as the Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1964. It was initially Kobayashi's idea, and Cong Dodu readily said yes.
The chamber in Angeles, through Kobayashi, established a sister-chamber relationship with Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan.


"Although my dad remained head of the chamber up to his death in 1972, it wasn't really a one man affair," says Cong Dodu's son Dan.


The son listed up names of those who became what he described as "nucleus of the chamber" during his father's term: "Mr. Felix Timbol, Mr.Ulpiano Tongol, Mr. Angustias Sicangco, Mr. Johnny Joseph, Mr. Johnny Uy, Mr. Phil Almalel, Mr. Democrito Lumanlan, Mr. Jeremias Abad Santos, Mr. Ric Ma. Ocampo, to name a few.",


"The Philippine Chamber of Wood Industries, Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines ( he also founded the Angeles chapter of CFIP ) collaborated and supported the Angeles City Chamber of Commerce," the younger Tinio adds.


HUKS, MARTIAL LAW


Dadu got sick and eventally passed on in 1972 the year ex-Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.


"The drive and sacrifices of all those who believed in the goals and objctives of the chamber startd to dissipate. His death in 1972 placed the chamber into a temporary cessation of operations," recalls Dan.


The inactivity of the chamber that year was likely also a result of the dramatic and overwhelming declaration of martial law. Like the rest of the country, Angeles City also largely yielded to it.


There was curfew starting midnight, Philippine Constabulary soldiers were more visible and donned more bravado, while local hippies became scarce amid Pinoy soldiers ready not only to shoot but also to cut their long hairs to the scalp.


The Americans at Clark, whose officials reportedly knew in advance martial law would be declared, became discreet in the early months by being less visible outside the base. But this monasticism did not last long. Soon, Americans were "resting and recreating" anew at Fields Avenue night clubs which, out of discretion, kept their doors closed while their innards rocked, danced and romanced until curfew was lifted at 4 a.m.


"But we in the chamber were welcoming of martial law at that time. We thought that it would improve the peace and order situation and remove the influence of the Huks," says Florante.


He was referring to the the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon, a guerilla movement that fought the Japanese during World War II and later became a dissident movement that became Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan or the People's Liberation Army in 1950, operating mainly in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan, and in Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Laguna, Bataan and Quezon.


The Huk weakened after its leader Luis Taruc surrendered in 1954, but was again resurrected 1960's to become such force in Angeles as to be credited with maintaining a shadow government in the city.


"There was fear then among local folk. They knew about the Huks but they would talk about it only in whispers," recalls Florante.


It is said that the Huks, under Faustino del Mundo alias Kumander Sumulong who became its Supremo in 1962, flexed such muscles as to wrest significant control over the operations of nightclubs that started to sprout beyond the northern end of the Abacan bridge. Politicians also secretly courted them for votes.


But Florante and Peter agree that while the Huks impacted on local politics, MACCI members never brought them up as an issue even as the dissidents vanished from the local scene in the years after martial law was declared.


Peter recalls, however, that it was during the Huk heydays that local folk began to contruct higher fences to secure their homes from some atmosphere of insecurity.


CHAMBER REVIVED


Dan notes that his father's term as president of the chamber was a period when "the massive campaign of those advocating for drastic social change with lefting leanings were at its peak, thereby creating a very disturbing peace and order situation to the detriment of the entire community and the people."


"The Angeles City Chamber of Commerce, together with the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce made their presence felt by collaborating with the city government and ensuring that measres and projects were immediately done," he says.


But Cong Dodu passed on in 1972, still being the head of the chamber he had founded in 1964. He left a vacuum.


Dan says that after his father's death, "the drive and sacrifices of all those who believed in the goals and objectives of the chamber started to dissipate" and that the chamber "temporarily ceased to operate."


But then, "sometime in 1973, upon the suggestion of Mr. Agustias Sicango, the chamber was reactivated with someof the pillars of business in the city assuming various leadership positions," he recalls.


He cites names: "Ricardo Ma. Ocampo, Francisco Villanueva, Renato Tayag, Jr., Teresita Wilkerson, Eloisa Narciso, Peter Nepomuceno, Dante Timbol, Feleng Timbol, Rene Romero." Dan himself was among them.


Even by then, MACII members had their feet on solid Angeles soil by asking: What would happen if their city is abandoned by the Americans?
It was a question that was getting more timely as time ticked off.


The Military Bases Agreement (MBA) signed in 1947 initially guaranteed the stay of the Americans at Clark and other 22 US military installations in the country for 99 years. Clark was the largest among these sites.


The US base commanders were empowered to tax, operate utilities, issue licenses, search without warrants, and even deport undesirables. The MBA was dovetailed by the MBA was the signing of the Military Assistance Agreement of 1947 and the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.


By 1956, the US began to recognize sovereignty of the Philippine government over the base lands. In 1959, Olongapo, which was then an American territory, was officially turned over by the US to the Philippines.


Over the years, 17 of the 23 military installations were also turned over to the Philippines. In 1965, the US gave up exclusive jurisdiction over the on-base offenses and the creation of a joint criminal jurisdiction committee.


Significantly on Sept. 16, 1966, the Ramos-Rusk Agreement reduced the term of MBA of 1947 from 99 to 25 years starting from 1966. Ominously, the 25th year was 1991, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.


And 1991 was not far off.


MACCI read these signs of those times, although many Angeles folk still kept faith the MBA would be renewed. Still, Dan recalls that "one good undertaking the chamber initiated was to have a study made as to what could be done with the base once it gets vacated."


"The suggested alternatives then turned out to be the real projects being undertaken now," he adds.


CRUISING THROUGH MARTIAL LAW


The decade of the 70's was as memorable. For one thing, it was in 1972 that the late Pres. Marcos declared martial law.


There were activitists and students who became poltiical detainees in Angeles as in other parts of the country, but the city's economy, being reliant on Americans at Clark, went on as usual.


The dollar-dependent local economy was even boosted when the government adopted a floating rate system in February, 1970 that pegged the dollar at P5.62. This, again, was significant boom for locals who did business with Clark's Americans.


Angeles was by this time so urbanized that it had enough hotels for national gatherings. No less than 12 decent hotels were advertising accomodations , the rates stated in US dollars. At Hotel Oasis, for example, single room cost $8.30 while double was at $8.80. There was even a room for three, or tripple at $12.30. It was cheaper at the Narra Hotel, where rates were $4.50 for single, $6.50 for double, and $9 for triple.


The city had its telephone system that required four digits to connect. For a provincial city, that was very urban in those days.


Still, the city's dependence on Clark remained a staple and this even business leaders so recognized as to look into the future with the US air force as major component.


This was quite obvious in a statement in the Jaycees souvenir program of the local Jaycees for its national convention in Angeles in 1973 which said: "With the cooperation of the city residents, the city government and the US air force authorities and their personnel, Angeles may become one of the most attractive tourist areas in the Philippines soon or in the very future. Angeles City may yet become the Las Vegas of the Orient."


As if, indeed, the Americans were in Clark to stay wedded to Angeles till Apocalypse did them part.


AMERICANS PART OF FUTURE


While MACCI was already more aware of the possibility that Angeles could be orphaned by the Americans as the years headed towards the 1991 deadline of the Ramos-Rusk Agreement, a plan mapped out in 1973 indicated that the Angeles City government was beginning to be as similarly concerned as MACII.


The plan, titled "Focus on Development" and prepared by the city planning and development staff, recognized the dependence of the local economy on Clark.


The plan noted that "most of the small and medium scale industries flock near the base perimeter for purposes of ready market, accessibility to customers, and a built-in advertisement for US servicemen and their dependents."


It also noted how local cottage industry was "sometimes dependent totally on the American buyers and on a few domestic tourists."


But still, there was nothing explicit in the plan about how to cope with a final American exodus from Clark, except for one paragraph that gave but a mere hint by proposing the education of manufacturing groups "on the fundamentals of export marketing..."


The city was thriving by this time with its about 155,000 households, including about 10,000 of Americans. Jeepneys numbered about 5,000, trailed by some 2,500 calesas, although the US folk preferred renting cars at $7, plus six cents per kilometer per day, or $38.50 plus five cents per kilometer for a week.


The pam-pam's continued to bed with their American dreams rooted in the potentials that Clark Americans could offer.


1980's: BRACING FOR POSSIBILITIES


In the 1980's, unrest continued to brew in Manila as the Marcos government thawed in popularity. Former Sen. Ninoy Aquino was killed in 1983, then his wife Cory Aquino became president in a sensational People Power Revolution in 1986. Mrs. Aquino's administration was rocked by a series of coup d'etats. Through all these, some US soldiers were killed reportedly by local communists, perhaps, nationalists.


Many Angeles denizens figures in the these dramatic events of national history. In Angeles, however, the Clark-dependent economy went on unperturbed. Nay, Angelenos saw their days even better: by 1983, the exchange rate was at P10 per dollar in May, P11 in June, and P14 in October. In 1984, the dollar settled at P19.97.


But with 1991 on the horizon, MACCII started to act on its fears over possible American pull out.


From 1985 to 1986 during the term of Remigio T. Nepomuceno (MACCII president 19...) and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry governor for Central Luzon Alejandro D. Tinio, MACCII flew to Washington DC under a grant from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) for capacity-building training, seminar and workshop to "enhance the capablities of its officers and members in articulating the needs and sentiments and become the voice of the locall businesses in the city."


It was an experience that rippled to strengthen the small and medium business enterprises which composed the majority in the city's economic family.


Recalls Abong: "This program also proved to be prophetic as it prepared the chamber to face many challenges in the days ahead, many of which were in the realm of government...ACCCII took the lead so the local economy could move forward."


" As a result of this capacity building we helped strengthened the (Chamber of Commerce (CoC) of Bulacan,Tarlac and Cabanatuan City. We organized the CoC of Bataan,Olongapo City and San Fernando, Pampanga," he says.


He further notes: "By this time our secretariat had enough experience, talent and capabilities to run the day to day activities of the chamber. We became the leading CoC North of Manila."


Being one of the pioneers in the country. MACCII hosted the regional business conference of the PCCI in 1988 ad 1990. Beyond this, it became more vocal as it lobbied for the entry of Digitel in monopolized Angeles, helped establish a micro-lending program for subcontractors of member manufacturers, established traning programs under the auspices of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).


It also forged working relations with the German Federation of Small Business and Crafts [ZDH] and Technonet Asia.


MACCII also pushed for street lighting in the city. Thus, for the first time, nighttime became more visible along the McArthur Hiway in Balibago, the Friendship road, and other majour thoroughfares such as Henson,Rizal,Miranda and Sto.Rosario streets.


It was moving as if the Angeles was to be orphaned, and had to be caught still on its feet.


PROPHETIC PLAN SANS US BASE


Starting 1987, MACCII was more vocal in pushing for measures to buttress the local economy in case of the US base pullout by 1991. It drew up a "parallel development plan" that sought the help of the then Center for Research and Communication (now University of Asia and the Pacific) .


It also started to flex muscles in the city's streets as the crescendo of anti-US base militarism rose. Amid killings of Americans stationed at Clark, its members organized and held a peace rally in July 1988 and even motored several times to the Senate to lobby for a continuing MBA.


By this time, majority of civil society in Angeles entertained the possiblity that the MBA just might not be renewed by the Senate. MACCII and those with stake in the local economy formed the the Angeles City Coalition for Economic Self-Sufficiency [ACCESS] "primarily to prepare the city for a possible pull-out of the Americans in Clark in case the Philippine senate votes not to renew the Bases Agreement come September 1991." Sister Sister Josefina G.Nepomuceno OSB was chosen at its chair.


"We saw the intensification of talks of possible pull out of U.S.Bases in our country and ACCII’s response to these events was very dynamic. We participated in activities that would articulate our stand on the future of Clark Air Base and Angeles City. We joined and organized pro bases rally here and Manila, participated in bases conversion plan workshops organized by President Cory Aquino," says Abong.


Then he stresses: "We made it clear to all that we were not against the eventual pull-out of US bases in our country but we opted for a Phase In-Phase out or ‘joint-use bases conversion plan' that would minimize economic dislocation specially for the local economy adjacent to Clark."


It was a prophetic plan, for its proposals were to come to reality some years therefrom. Abong talks of the plan thus:


"First Phase was the establishment of a civil aviation complex in the first three years focusing on civilian aircraft repair and maintenance facility for the Asia-Pacific region. Tourism related infrastructure like convention, hotels and recreational should be made available, while the training of fresh graduates for the needed new skills were to be initiated soonest.


"Second Phase would involved the putting up of Clark International Airport accepting limited domestic and international passenger and cargo traffic while encouraging airport dependent light industries, assembly type and export oriented firms to invest, amid continuing upgrading of local tourism facilities."


"Third Phase called for the transformation of a full fledged international airport. To oversee the Clark conversion process, a Clark Special Economic Zone Corporation would be created."


Abong recalls that "we envisioned a corporation run as a private corporation with the leadership drawn from the private sector. We saw Clark as the center of a region similar to what now links HongKong and the Canton region in Mainland China. The areas around Clark- Angeles City, Magalang, San Fernando, Porac, Mabalacat in Pampanga and Bamban ,Capas and Concepcion in Tarlac can serve as the production and manufacturing sites backed by the civil aviation complex in Clark. Subic will serve as our main seaport."


Prophetic. Nowadays, deja vu.


PROVIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP


By 1989, as negotiations for the possible extension of the stay of the Americans at Clark and other US facilities in the country gained momentum and amid violence being committed against US military, Eloisa P. Narciso became MACCII president (19... to 19...)


Earlier in 1987, US military men were told to keep themselves within Clark as much as possible amid threats to their safety. Already, the communist New People's Army had declared virtual war against them.


"The very timely start of the term of Pres. Eloisa Narciso proved to be a blessing to all the events that were about to unfold," writes a former president. "She was very hands on."


With the deadline for the US military base looming, MACCII joined the lobbyists in the Senate to press for the renewal of the Military Bases Agreement. At the Senate, they found strong ally in then Olongapo City Mayor Richard Gordon.


This, even as Tita Ely strengthened MACCII secretariat's capability to run the day to day undertakings through more and better office equipment and by training the staff. She also secured more partnerships with other non-government organizations such as ZDH Techno Net Asia, CFIP. PCCI, KDF, among other groups.


She was at the helm of MACCII on July 16, 1990 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook northeast Luzon, causing severe devastation in the cities of Cabanatuan and Baguio. It was to be an acid test for MACCII as it mustered skills that would enable it to cope with an unforseen devastation that was to face it very soon at home.


Angeles and Clark, because of their location during the 1990 earthquake, were the logical vortex of rescue and relief operations. Helicopters took off from the two areas to reach the victims who were isolated by collapsed bridges and other infrastructure.


At Clark, huge volumes of relief goods came in from other US bases in Asia. But since US personnel, amid security threats, were discouraged from venturing outside the base, 405th combat support group commander Col. John Murphy sought the help of MACCII in bringing the goods to the victims.


From Clark, the relief goods were delivered to the MACCII office at the Nepo Center.


"The volume was so large that our president Eloisa R. Narciso requested for volunteers for packing and distribution.Quick to respond to our appeal was Sister Josefina G.Nepomuceno OSB then president of Holy Angel University by organizing two teams, one for packing and distribution together with members of the chamber and staff," recalls Abong.


The HAU annex near Maccii office was used as warehouse where repacking was done. MACCII director Ruben Patawaran provided vans to deliver the goods to the victims, first in Santa Fe in Nueva Vizcaya and then to more areas.


Abong recalls: "We accompanied the delivery together with Jun Feliciano and Tito Lazatin in our pickups. Hardest hit was barangay Imugan. Immediately after that, deliveries were sent to Barangays in Dagupan, Agoo, Aringay, Naguilian and Baguio. HAU was represented by Evan Nepomuceno and Cecile Yumul in those sorties."


Nearer home, Mt. Pinatubo was forming small holes that emanated some smoke.


PINATUBO BLOWS UP


The huge earthquake was a drill for MACII. The huge task was now ahead, ready to confront it face to face.


In April 1991 Aetas living in the Zambales mountain range expressed concern over smoke emanating from various points near the summit of what ordinary folk knew as mere mountain.


By mid April , Abong and some other MACCII members and their families, Dr. Loy Paras, Roy Del Rosario, and Ruben Patawaran hatched plans to dig deeper into the fears of the Aetas. Clark’s Col. Murphy discouraged them as he feared for our safety.


"We went anyway on hired 4x4 jeeps, assisted by Barangay Sapang Bato captain Cora Garcia and Lt. George Gaddi of the police. We packed food for lunch and canned goods to last up to the following day. Between Sitio Target and Kalang where some Aetas lived, there was a vent that emitted water that flowed in a stream," relates Abong.


After lunch, they trekked up through Camachile, Pilapil, Agwit and finally, after two hours, Inararo which was 2,000 feet above sea level. From there, near a geothermal drilling site of the Philippine National Oil Corp. (PNOC) where the Phivolcs and the US Geological Society had already installed seismographs, thick smoke could be seen emitting from a vent just below the summit.


Inararo was a wonderful area at that time. The slope rolled gently and was layered by thick greens: coconuts, bananas, sayote, coffee, cocoa, black pepper vines embracing kakawate tree trunks. It was a farm developed by the Castillo family of Silang, Cavite. An Aeta called King had leased to the family the site. From that height at night, the lights of Angeles and Clark twinkled like stars, a reflection of the sky.


Then from the looming possible departure of the Americans from Clark, MACCI’s fears shifted to one decidedly immediately life-threatening.


Recalls Abong: "The Chamber partnered with the police in creating awareness in the business community regarding possible life threatening scenarios in case Mt.Pinatubo erupts. We encountered a disinterested community coupled with a local government unit dismissing the possible scenarios as unbelievable."


In May, the National Disaster Coordinating Council [NDCC] issued a "Pyroclastic-flow Hazard Map." It indicated that Clark and Angeles City could be inundated via Abacan and Sacobia Rivers by volcanic lahar flows.


MACCIII and the police immediately designed an evacuation plan for Angeles, identifying two exit routes via Dau in Mabalacat towards the North Luzon Expresway or to the MacArhtur highway towards San Fernando, Pampanga.


In the morning of June 12, 1991, Independence Day, all people in the streets in Angeles and the rest of Pampanga were staring at a rising dark could in the sky. Mt. Pinatubo was visibly erupting. The city, however, was not being evacuated. The mayor said such a move would be "overreacting."


Indeed, the mayor said the Americans overreacted when, in a convoy of long vehicles towards their Subic naval base, abandoned Clark in haste two days earlier on June 10.


In the morning of June 15, typhoon Diding had reached Mt. Pinatubo. The mountain, now known to all as volcano, was again erupting, this time more violently. Angeles and the rest of Pampanga shook in a series of earthquakes, as the sky was blanketed by unusual mix of a typhoon and nonpareil eruption. It was surreal. Local folk fled at last, but most knew not where to go.


Angeles, Clark, and the rest of Pampanga and other parts of Central Luzon were devastated. Thick lahar sand carpeted all, the weight of debris dismantling vegetation and causing buildings to collapse. Along water channels on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo, violent lahar flowed to bury low-lying villages, even some humans.


The Senate had junked the MBA and on Sept. 21, 1991, only three months after Mt. Pinatubo’s big bang, a small group of Americans and Filipinos were holding at Clark some ceremonies finally ending almost a century of US military presence there. But the continuing volcanic onslaught stole the drama from the sentimental goodbye rites witnessed by a few over a wide replica of the Sahara desert. Some tears were shed; a huge worry had descended.


The nightmare came true. For MACCI, a huge challenge began.

Murder of Clark chief engineer


 CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga- - At least four top executives of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), mostly members of the bids and awards committee (BAC) have received threatening text messages apparently related to the recent murder of the airport's chief engineer in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac. This, even as Sta. Ignacia police head Chief Inspector Crisanto Paac told the Star in a telephone interview that the police task force group formed to probe the killing of Clark airport chief engineer Ruel Angeles is now focusing its probe on the victim's activities at the Clark airport. "Sta. Ignacia is a peaceful town and we know of no involvement of the victim in the town that could give a hint on his murder. He had been known as a peaceful and even religious man in his community, so the task force is now focusing on the possibility that his case could be job-related," said Paac who is a member of the task force. A ranking official of CIAC, who asked not to be named amid alleged "gag order" on the killing of Angeles, said that one member of the BAC received the text "One down, more to go." "At least four others, including two women, also received similar text messages," the source said. Almost all of the recipients on the text messages are members of the BAC which has been involved in the controversial bidding for the Clark airpor's Instrument Landing System (ILS). Angeles was a member of the BAC. Angeles was shot dead by one of two motorcycle-riding men while driving his wife Crusenia and their grandchild to school in Barangay Pada-Pada in his sometown in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac Monday last week. Crusenia has fully recovered from a bullet wound while the child was unhurt. Paac said that the remains of Angeles are expected to be buried today, Nov. 19, in Sta. Ignacia. He also said that Crusenia has fully recovered and that he has provided the Angeles family at least six policemen to secure them pending investigation of the murder case. Paac said that investigation conducted by his men revealed that while Angeles was member of the Tarlac Fowl Gaming Association and participated in local cockfights, he was known as a "minor" bettor. "Our information is that he was into cockfighting as mere pastime and never had enemies in cockfighting," he added. Another very reliable source from CIAC who also asked not to be identified noted that Angeles's engineering department had been credited for maintaining the 18-year-old ILS at the Clark airport. An ILS reportedly costs P250 million. Because the lifespan of an ILS is supposed to be 15 years at most, the Clark airport's BAC held a bidding for a new one last year, with the firm Evercon winning with a bid of P205 million on Oct. 22, he noted. "Evercon turned out to be the only qualified bidder because the terms of reference categorized the project as infrastructure that required a permit from the Philippine Contractors Association of the Philippines (PCAP) and Evercon was the only one who had such permit," the source said. Those who were disqualified, however, protested the classification of the project as infrastructure and urged that it be classified as mere "delivery of supply" that would qualify more bidders. Thus, upon instruction of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) which is the mother agency of CIAC, the BAC here was compelled to declare a failure of bidding only recently, the source related.   Newly installed CIAC president and chief excutive officer Emigdio Tanjuatco said in a telephone interview that the re-bidding for the ILS was deferred last Nov. 14 amid a protest filed by Evercon which had paid P1.2 million protest fee. "I believe there are two or three interested bidders, but the (CIAC) board is first resolving the protest," Tanjautco added. -30-

A Brief on Clark Freeport

Clarkfield is actually Clark Freeport, a former U.S. Air Force base on Luzon Island in the Philippines. It nestles against the northwest side of Angeles City in the province of Pampanga, and is about 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Manila. Its main gate opens toward the busy roads of Angeles City, still grappling with its reputation as Sin City, and the town of Mabalacat where rural quiet is long gone, taken over by the rush of commerce. Clark itself, spread over 4,500 hectares, is managed by the government-owned Clark Development Corp. (CDC) and, at the aviation complex, the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC). The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) is located at Clark's aviation complex. The airport is eyed as the future premiere international gateway of the Philippines.

At Clark's main gate is this confusing sinage followed by one that imposes a sudden swerve for motorists without stickers. Logic is not a specialty of Clark traffic officers.

It's not UFO landing in the photo below. Practicing and campus journalists and others from multi sectoral groups from all over Central Luzon link arms around the Salakot, a landmark at the entrance to the former US Clark air force base in Angeles City, to mark the fourth year of the still unresolved Ampatuan massacre that killer 58 persons, including 32 journalists. They urged the resolution of the case by 2016. (Ding cervantes)





CL journalists mark 4th year
 of Ampatuan massacre
Nov. 23, 2013

ANGELES CITY-  JOurnalists from all over Central Luzon observed last Friday the fourth anniversary of the infamous Ampatuan massacre at the "Salakot" landmark near the main gate of the former US military base at Clark freeport here with a demand for timetable and full media coverage of court hearings on the case.

     The journalists, led by the National Union of JOurnalists of the Philippines (NUJP), were backed by campus writers and other representatives from multi-sectoral groups, formed a human chain around the landmark which was built during the stay of the US military at Clark to highlight Philippine sovereignty, expressed lament over the slow pace in resolving the case.
      "We call on the Supreme Court to delegate a special court exclusively for the Ampatuan massacre that can conduct daily hearings with full media coverage," said NUJP-Pampanga chairman Ashley Manabat.
      For his part, Fred Villareal, vice chair of the NUJP- Pampanga urged that the case be resolved by the end of Pres. Aquino's term in 2016.

     Manabat noted that "it has been four years since 58 people, including 32 journalists, were brutally killed by a powerful clan in Maguindanao but not one has been convicted. The same is true in other murders of mediamen in the country."
    "What is worse is that the culture of impunity seems to reign even more strongly even as we reel from the devastation of typhoon Yolanda," he said.

    He noted that "the pork barrel scandal and reports of government neglect, politicking, lawlessnewss, continuing hunger in the devastated lands, and the  the fudging of the casualty count in the Visayas make for a richer ground for the culture of impunity."
    "Let us not forget," he appealed to the media, even as they vowed to continue marking the anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre even after the case is resolved.

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