In my latest book Dreams of the Philippines, (out soon) I write about arriving at Clark Air Base for the first time. I sat anxiously in the windowless cargo bay of a C-141 Starlifter military transport aircraft. It was pure adventure. Here’s an excerpt from the book …
I closed my eyes as I waited anxiously for the wheels to touch the runway. I was excited about the prospect of visiting the Philippines. I’d heard about it. I’d listened to the stories from the troops stationed there. I’d read books about it. I read the boring encyclopedia articles about it. Even the boring entries sounded exciting.
The Philippines – made up of over seven thousand islands. What’s the exact number? Who knows? A Filipina beauty pageant contestant explained it best. One of the judges asked, “How many islands are there in the Philippines?” Her reply drew great laughter, applause and admiration, “Do you mean high tide or low tide?”
The Philippines – under Spanish rule for over 300 years. Manila was the oriental hub for the Spanish galleon trade. European goods came in, Filipino and Chinese goods went out. Along with the exchange of goods came the exchange of ideas, the collision of cultures – east and west – creating a flavorful mix of Malay and Madrid.
The Philippines – a US colony for 48 years. The Americans took the islands in 1898 after a short war with Spain. The Filipino’s weren’t consulted. The US granted independence on 4 July 1946 but the American influence continued. Now the islands were home for two massive US military installations – Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base. Hotdogs, apple pie and baseball were now thrown into the cultural mix.
I felt the bump, I heard the noise. The wheels made contact with the runway. The plane touched down. We landed. My heart jumped a bit as I imagined what I’d see when the door opened up and I would gaze upon – for the first time – Clark Air Base, near Angeles City, Pampanga, island of Luzon, Philippines.