Yesterday’s Christmas in Clark

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‘When I was small and Christmas trees were tall, we used to love while other used to play. Don’t ask me why the time has passed by….’
‘Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small…’
Those not old enough will not have any memory of what was the Clark Freeport now  when it was still Clark Air Force Base, the largest military installation outside of continental America, and home to the 13th US Air Force. And how the American families celebrated Christmas.
I remember me and my late friend Romy Yusi were invited by an American master sergeant in their home and witnessed for the first time how westerners prepared for the holidays. The living room with a tall Christmas tree with gifts wrapped in boxes of several sizes. Apples, oranges, chestnuts, ham and a whole roasted turkey. It was a spectacle that I can’t help but swallowed the saliva watering my mouth. With that strange smell, the ‘nilaga and malagkit ‘ at home were no match.
As a throwback, access to the base was so restrictive. Privileged local people were issued the so-called Commander’s Pass. This was a very much coveted identification card that will give you access to the base, and will even allow you to dine at the Officers Club and other restaurants and cafeterias.
Normally issued the passes were elected officials of Angeles and Mabalacat and selected towns, including some governors and congressmen. No hoi poloi.
Aside from the privilege by having the commander’s pass to dine in their restaurants, there was an entitlement of making a purchase for few oranges, apples and chocolates. Filipinos were feeling good just to have some few of these goodies. We love then and proud to have US servicemen and their families as our neighbors. We were separated by a fence and patrolling military police (MPs) with their ferocious dogs.
Not even the holidays will the Clark entrances be opened to the public. You need an escort. Even Santa Claus will be stopped at the gates.