POSTSCRIPT / April 9, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Coming for centennial? Don’t miss Clark expo

BY the time you read this, President Ramos may be winging his way back to Manila from a Holy Week pilgrimage to Washington, DC.

Mr. Ramos set out to do a number of things during his weeklong visit, but I see it more as his farewell call on his opposite number at the White House. The gesture is appropriate considering that the United States is the most important ally of the former American colony marking this year the centennial of its declaration of independence.

Bill Clinton invited Eddie Ramos over and it was but proper that the Philippine president obliged despite his being in the thick of campaigning for Speaker Jose de Venecia, the administration Lakas party’s presidential bet.

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NOTE that I said we are marking the centennial of our “declaration” of independence, not the centennial of our independence.

On June 12, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo unfurled a Philippine flag at the balcony of his house in Kawit, Cavite, and declared our independence. Such balcony scene is indeed historic, but it does not necessarily mean that by Aguinaldo’s unilateral declaration we suddenly became an independent nation taking its place among sovereign states.

In fact, a few days after that proclamation, Americans forces landed, roused Aguinaldo from his daydreaming, campaigned to quell what they said was an insurrection and proceeded to colonize us.

Uncle Sam, a neophyte in the Old World trick of colonization, was painfully awkward in its handling of its new possession across the Pacific. But in fairness to America, it did what Spain failed to do in more than three centuries of oppressive rule – to prepare us for eventual independence, which we actually gained on July 4, 1946, and which was duly recognized by the rest of the civilized world.

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THE American connection intrigues me, especially after it was decided that Clark Field, erstwhile base of the US 13th Air Force, was chosen the virtual center or focus of the centennial of the declaration of independence.

If we go by the June 12 scenario adopted by then President Macapagal and carried on to this day, the logical center of the celebration should be Kawit or thereabouts, certainly not Clark which is 60 miles north of Manila.

Slowly rising in Clark now is the Expo Pilipino, a 60-hectare (148 acres) P2.5-billion permanent theater and exhibit showcasing our development since 1898, our present status and what we could be 25 years hence.

Its outstanding component is the Freedom Ring occupying nine hectares (22 acres) covered by a unique fiberglass and teflon roof with a huge stage in the center in an amphitheater-like setting for an audience of 35,000.

The site used to be the US air force’s regional communications center identifiable through tall pylons arranged in a circle. The pylons, incorporated into the Freedom Ring design, will now fly huge Philippine flags.

Talking of flags, an illuminated representation of the colors the size of an Olympic swimming pool will greet the expected eight million visitors entering the site on a P180 admission fee per head.

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OUTSIDE the Freedom Ring are other features of Expo Pilipino. These include the Heroes Walk, Ancient Island, Colonial Plaza, Global City, Millennium Hall, Friendship Pavilion and the carnival area.

Ancient Island digs up our ethnic roots. It features a Moro mosque, the Banawe rice terraces, a Tabon cave and replicas of other noteworthy tribal structures.

The Colonial Plaza highlights the country’s colonial past, including our Chinese and Spanish background. There is a smaller version of the historic Barosoain church and museums housing historical relics.

In the Global City is celebrated the country’s international links, mainly through permanent exhibits by various countries. The Time Walk, on the other hand, is a pictorial and graphic display of 100 years of Philippine history juxtaposed against parallel contemporaneous events elsewhere in the world.

After financial disputes derailed the timetable, former Minister Aber Canlas – the public works miracle man of then first lady Imelda Marcos – was made project manager. Canlas told Filipino Reporter this week that Expo Pilipino will be substantially finished for the May 3 soft opening and fully operational for the June 12 rites.

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IT’S not all serious stuff. A local outfit with an American (Hawaiian) connection will bring in $8.5-million worth of duty-free carnival equipment for a fun city.

There will be eateries galore for the hungry crowd, from exotic restaurants to fast food cafeterias. I have not verified if kamayan carinderias, fishball vendors or McDonalds, the American exemplar for fine dining, will be there.

If you’re coming over for the centennial and have no relatives to stay with, it is best to inquire early about accommodation. There are not enough hotel rooms in the luxurious Mimosa leisure estate inside Clark.

By the way, there is a misconception (even among the information officers of Expo Pilipino) that Clark is in Angeles City. Some 85 percent of Clark is actually in neighboring town Mabalacat, but Clark is mistakenly identified with Angeles because its main gate in Balibago happens to be in that city.

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