Angeles City, June 23, 2003 by Ethel Soliven. Timbol (BULLETIN) We have always wondered why the Americans chose Angeles City, of all places, for their Clark Field Airbase. The answer became clear only recently on my umpteenth visit to the former American bastion, now under the management of the Clark Development Corporation.
The story begins back in 1902 when the American Cavalry set up camp in Angeles with their horses which had to be feed with hay “imported” all the way from Manila. When the supplies failed to arrive, the horses starved until the commander in charge decided to let the horses loose to graze in the open fields nearby.
Eventually, the American contingent moved out to what was known as Pati in barangay Sapangbato. The new military reservation occupying approximately 2,000 hectares, was called Fort Stotsenberg, named from Col. John Sotsenberg, the first American to be killed by Filipino forces in 1899. The fort was later re–named Clark Field after Major Harold Field, an aviator who was raised and educated in Manila. Field also happened to be a classmate of President Manuel Roxas.
What interested us more were the century old barnhouses of Clark Field. We were well acquainted with the villas of Mimosa which used to be the American officers’ quarters but had been renovated into classy accommodations for hotel guests.
The barnhouses were the original quarters circa 1903 of the American base. They were built on stilts to allow for circulation of air which were let into the house through ventilation shafts on the floor, sides of the wall, wide open windows, etc.
The floors were made of Oregon pine conveyed by ship to Manila and then through the Pampanga River. Strangely, the houses were equipped with kitchens only in the 1950s.
Originally prefered as housing by military officers because they were naturally cool and easy to maintain, the barnhouses eventually were abandoned as modern housing, complete with airconditioning, became more practical.
After the Americans left and the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) took over, somebody had the idiotic idea to tear the barnhouses down and construct new houses. Horrors!
Eloisa Narciso, a director of the CDC, had a better idea. Using her private funds, she had one of the houses restored. It cost her R1.5 M with the help of architect Willie Manuel and historian Andy Dizon — with amazing results!
So now the barnhouses are being rescued from the wreckers’ ball and faithfully restored. The few that have been finished are being used as exhibition halls — for an Ayta Museum for aetas’ crafts (there are over 2,000 aetas residing and employed in Clark), an art gallery, and a showcase of the way the Americans used to live.
Meanwhile, we were quartered at the Chairman’s Residence in a row of magnificent mansions now being used for VIP guests. The chairman, of course, is CDC chairman Dr. Emmanuel Angeles. Other CDC officers are: directors Eli Narciso who is chairman of the Clark centennial; Carmen McTavish, Victor “Chichos” Luciano, and Genero Pantig. CDC tourism and cultural officer is Edna Eufenio, assisted by Noemi Garcia; PR officer Sonny Lopez, with Noel Talabut, asst. PRO.
Tourism Sec. Richard Gordon has declared the Clark Centennial Celebration as the number one event for 2003. The CDC is in the process of developing the Clark Special Economic Zone, starting with the airport.
Meanwhile, the Clark Museum unfolds the history of the American invasion which included the arrival of the Thomasite teachers, so–called because they rode the SS Thomas. The 540 teachers boarded the ship on August 1901 at Pier 12 in San Francisco.
Ms. Ceferina Yepez, an employee of Clark for 49 years, refuses to abandon her post even after her former bosses had left. She continues as consultant of the Clark Museum and possibly its best guide.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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