Monday, April 29, 2013


SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Clark's Chapel One, as it looked in 1959. Just recently finished that year, the modern church featured amenities such as air conditioning for churchgoers'' comfort and convenience. The church as remained the same, unlike Chapel Two which was heavily restored post-Pinatubo.

By the late 50s, Clark Field was a modern, bustling and fully equipped air base, the nerve center of U.S. Air Force operations in Southeast Asia. The “biggest air base in the world” was home to thousands of servicemen from the Thirteenth Air Force and their families. Here, they converged as a community, from all parts of America, of diverse backgrounds and interests--and with different religious beliefs.

 For the varied spiritual activities, three base chapels and a religious center staffed with 8 chaplains of different faiths, were ready to offer varied religious programs to all Clark Air Base personnel. The chapels were the designated venues for the daily and weekly activities of major religious groups. As such, there were regularly-held Protestant Sunday Services, Sunday School, General Worship Service, Episcopal Service, Latter Day Saints Sunday School, Christian Science Service, Protestant Evening Fellowship and Evangelistic Service.

Two notable churches were operational by 1959. Church 1 was the newest, built on sprawling grounds near the corner of Dyeess Highway. The church had a modern, sleek design and even had air-conditioning for the churchgoers’comfort and convenience. On the other hand, Chapel Two, with its trademark spire, stood along Marrat Highway, across Kelly Restaurant and right next to the Gymnasium.

The churches and the religious staff observed a hectic schedule, what with weekly services that include Midweek Fellowship, Episcopal Communion and Bible Study. Seven times on Sunday, Catholic Sunday masses were celebrated. On regular days, masses were said twice daily. Also conducted weekly were evening devotions, and novenas. 

Religious organizations included the well-attended Sunday schools operated by the Protestant chaplains on an inter-denominational basis. They sponsored a daily vacation Bible School, a Junior and Senior Choir, Youth Fellowship, Retreats, Bible Classes and frequent social events.

On the other hand, Roman Catholic chaplains organized religious groups like the Holy Name Society, Ladies’ Sodality, Legion of Mary, with well-rounded programs that included holding Holy Name Retreats, missions, novenas, choir and religious instruction classes.

Special Jewish services conducted by their chaplains include: Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavvoth.

Baptism, confirmation, weddings and other religious ceremonies could also be arranged by contacting the chaplain of one’s respective faith.

Today, the churches of Clark, heavily restored post-Pinatubo,  are still very much around, serving a whole new community that includes both military personnel and civilians-- local tourists, PX shoppers, residents of nearby cities of Mabalacat and Angeles. Chapel One (now dedicated to  Saint Joseph) and Chapel Two  (dedicated to Our Lady of the Remedies, patroness of Pampanga) have regular AFP chaplains on duty. They continue to be popular venues for Masses, Weddings and other Catholic rites as well as houses of prayer and refuge,  just as they were intended to be, over 50 years ago.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


FLAPPER GIRL. A fashion-forward young miss from Sta. Rita shows off her low-waisted American flapper dress, complete with stockings on her legs, a headband and a bow. Only the fan remains of the Spanish fashion influence.

 The Americanization of the Pinoy youth began rather auspiciously with the introduction of a new school system by our colonizers that called for teaching subjects in the new medium—English. Kids were taught that ”A”was for ”apple”, and were trained to sing new songs like ”America, the Beautiful”, sometimes replacing the word “America” with “Philippines”.

The unceasing stream of American pop culture—from music to movies, fashion to food-- further heightened the consciousness of Filipinos for things Americans.

Young lads, for example, easily took to American styles, shunning the camisa and the barong for the tailored Americana cerrada of sharkskin cloth, matched with white pants. With a straw boater’s hat on his head and 2-tone shoes on his feet, our young sajonista was ready to paint the town red with his dashing good looks and fashion sense.

 Filipina women were not far behind. In the 1920s, women of age lived independently from their families in Manila college dormitories ran by American dorm mothers. Mentored in the American way, these elite “dormitory girls” spoke in English among themselves and held tea parties to show off their etiquette and social skills. The Roaring Twenties ushered in a new era of fashion that has come to be known as the Flapper Era. Popularized by the looks of movie stars featured in jazz films – Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Joan Crawford, Vilma Banky—the flapper look was a breakaway from tradition, a rebellious statement against things prude and Victorian.

Perhaps, it was in synch with the rise of woman suffrage that was the talk of Philippine matriarchal society. No longer second class citizens, women decided to free themselves too of their long hair. Suddenly, bobbed hair became fashionable, along with spit hair.

 Icons of the day—like the Miss Philippines of the Commonwealth Manila Carnivals—came out in public sporting marcelled hair while wearing sleeveless, low-waisted chiffon dresses and dressy shoes of patent leather. The short skirted dresses fell above the knee and were trimmed with ruffles and sequins. To complete the look, the flapper ladies wore headbands (“headache bands”, as some remember them), dog collar adornments and extra-long string of pearls knotted around the necks which were swung at every given chance.

 The Flapper Age caught on among young Filipinas, and certainly, Kapampangans embraced the look, as seen from the above photo. Popular for over two decades, it was, without a doubt, a carefree, fun and trendsetting era. The local bodabil perpetuated the icon of the feisty Flapper—with dancers and performers scandalizing many with their short skirts and made-up faces, while flaunting cigarettes in long holders—a no-no with conservative Filipinas.

 But the Flapper era just roared on. False modesty and pretentious decorum fell by the wayside. There was daring and gaiety in the way Flappers looked, behaved and moved, repulsing others, but attracting even more youths that were bent on hastening the country’s Americanization, which they believed is the key in opening new doors for the Filipina women of the future.

 Just as quickly as it had raged, the Flapper fad would slow down as the Commonwealth years ended and a brewing war took hold of an unsuspecting Philippines. The War would eventually reach our shores and put everything on hold—and would mark the beginning of the end for an age of unbridled fun and symbolic rebellion—age of the Flapper.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


ANIMAL RACE. A field meet at Stotsenburg featured an Animal Race, held from Nov. 8-15, 1920. The participating wildlife included a goose, a chicken, a dog,  a pig and a few more fowls. Field meets were regular dependent activities in the early days of Clark and were held at the all-purpose drill grounds.

In the first two decades of Fort Stotsenburg, families of military servicemn had to find ways to amuse themselves in their down time. There was just the parade ground to work on, which was converted into a playing field for sports events like polo, equestrian competitions and softball games.

For dependents who were not into heavy sports, creative recreational games were the answers. There were “fun” races for pets and other animals that provided hours of enjoyment and laughter. With the reconstruction of Clark after the War, there was more deliberate planning for spaces and buildings for recreational purposes. By the end of the 1950s, many facilities, social clubs and leisure programs were already in place, for military wives and youngsters.

The Officers’Wives Club, was one of the first associations to be put up, which held meeting in the O’Club monthly. It organized luncheons, bridge parties and does volunteer work for charity. Meanwhile, the NCO Wives Club included in their regular social schedule a wide variety of projects to aid the needy, both on and off the base.

Not to be outdone, the wives of the airmen on base also banded together to form the “Lower Four Wives’Club”, which maintained a busy social and charitable schedule. Many of the wives also participated in their own Squadron Wives’ Club, a very active organization that had a Bowling League Tournament. It also held many social get-togethers for both wives and husbands.

The pride of the teen-agers is their own Teen-Age Club. Through sponsors, the club held weekly dances, social dinners and special field trips around the island.

For active little youngsters, there is plenty of action in the Clark Little League. This group sponsors football, basketball and baseball for little sportsmen in a competitive mode. Excitement ran high during the various seasons when high energy games are held, as parents and friends cheered on. Clark’s Little League Football ranked as one of the few and the best in the Far East.

Although outside the United States, Clark has very active troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. The scouts, together with their leaders once embarked on fund drives, camp-outs and other activities with equal vigor. Highlight of Boy Scouting has been the 10th World Jamboree held in the Philippines in which Clark scouts participated. Sports-wise, the women have their leagues too.

There were various “Powder Puff” Leagues in softball, volleyball and basketball, where women engaged in fast, rousing games climaxed by hard-won championships. Bowling leagues occupied a prominent position during the season as the dependents hurry in the bowling alleys to help their favorite teams. Clark’s Gray Ladies of the Red Cross, on the other hand, thrived on the spirit of volunteerism. It always lent a helping hand at the hospital, on a volunteer basis.

When The Hobby Shop was opened, it offered courses in leathercraft, pottery and other artistic pursuits for dependents. Movies and theatrical performances staged by Clark students became staple entertainment in the base. Then there were the fund-raising exhibits, barbecue and swimming parties that bonded many military families.

With all these activities designed to amuse and fight boredom, there really was never and idle day in Clark for Americans and their dependents, who had come to serve their country in this little spot in Pampanga, thousands of miles away from their home.