In my coverage of events that happened in Pampanga and some parts of Central Luzon in the more than two decades that I was a photojournalist, I have seen significant events that were the start of something big.
One was the eruption of Mount Pinatubo 25 years ago where we saw Kapampangans help each other to save the province from the devastation wrought by the eruption of the volcano on June 15, 1991, and the subsequent lahar flows that would plague Pampanga for the next couple of years.
Which reminds me. I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the organizers of the Pinatubo 25th Anniversary “Celebration of the Triumph of the Kapampangan’s Unity and Resiliency” as I was among the people that were recognized who, in one way or another, contributed to the efforts to help Pampanga rise from the volcanic catastrophe which includes public officials, civic organizations, the clergy, private individuals, the media, and ordinary folk.
However, one very significant event that occurred 20 years ago in the Clark International Airport (CRK) that came in the wake of the Pinatubo eruption and equally as important that it impacted the lives of the people living around the former Clark Air Force Base, then known as the Clark Special Economic Zone, seems to have been forgotten.
On June 16, 1996, five years after the devastating Pinatubo eruption, a Grand Air Boeing 737 aircraft took off at around 7 pm from the Clark International Airport for Hong Kong to become the first commercial flight, known as the Clark Maiden International Flight, out of the fledgling airport in Pampanga.
The inaugural flight, themed “One Small Step for Clark, One Giant Leap for Philippines 2000” (since it was undertaken during erstwhile President Fidel V. Ramos’s term), FVR said in his message: “With Clark as the country’s newest premier international airport, we can expect not only new and vast possibilities of improving trade, tourism, and other business prospects with the rest of the world, but also added respect, confidence, and admiration from the international community.”
And improve trade, tourism and other business prospects the Clark International Airport has in the past 20 years. From a fledgling airport then with the oft-repeated claim that “only birds flew at Clark,” it is now a bustling gateway for seven airlines, namely: Asiana Airlines and Jin Air of South Korea; Emirates of the United Arab Emirates; Qatar Airways; Hong Kong-based Dragonair; Tiger Air of Singapore; and, Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific.
Records at the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) show that more than 8,617,104 passengers have passed through the Clark airport. The flights of Asiana Airlines that started in 2003 also brought about a “Korean invasion’ as the flights ushered in the coming of Korean tourists and students that led to the establishment of Korea Town along Friendship in Angeles City that generated economic activity and the much-needed jobs.
The Clark International Airport has also gone further as it has won several awards that include the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation’s Low-Cost Airport of the Year in 2006; the Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Aerospace and Defense Awards Airport of the Year in 2008 (for airports under 15 million passengers category); and, the most recent, winner of the Routes Airport Marketing Awards in 2013 (for ‘Under 20 Million’ Category).
My media colleagues and I have been witnesses to this development, from joining the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in clearing the runway of volcanic ash and sand with shovels to what it is today. And have been participants of at least two maiden international flights. Several of us even had the privilege of being on two maiden flights, the Grand Air maiden flight to Hong Kong in 1996, and the Asiana Airlines maiden flight to South Korea in 2003.
There is also some parallelism between Cebu Pacific that has made the Clark International Airport one of its hubs. The Clark airport and CIAC as the domestic carrier is also celebrating its 20th year this year. And in time with this event, some changes have been made to the airline, a brand revamp such as a change in the color scheme and logo as well as the crew and staff uniforms.
Much has happened since that maiden flight. And much will happen still, with the pronouncements made by the new administration led by President Rodrigo R. Duterte about developing a road network to the Clark airport and the transfer of some domestic flights to the airport in Pampanga.
Sure smells like change.
Some candidates were not fortunate enough to be reelected to their posts in the last elections.
Could it be that maybe, these candidates seeking reelection fell short of the people’s expectations when they were in position, that is why the electorate was easily swayed by their opponents’ “very persuasive” tactics?
Some, on the other hand, were really never going to make it, owing to some glaring and flagrant blunders while in office.
Just an afterthought.