Disclaimer: Before you make presumptions, please know that I am notorious in making clickbait titles. But believe me, this is an interesting chronicle to read. In case you feel that I’m just beating around the bush, exercise the freedom to exit this page. However, since you’ve read this far, might as well read the whole story, right? So hang on. Let me serve you an appetizing misadventure.
I had a very poor background of Philippine Geography. Compared to the teachers of today who are equipped with PowerPoint, videos, and first-hand travel stories, mine had only the book as a reference for the regions, topography, and natural resources of the country. I remembered my works being posted on the bulletin board’s “Best Works” not because I was able to fully-understand how topography affects the lives of the people but because I can accurately draw the maps of the different regions of the country. I couldn’t blame my teacher though. Traveling was a leisure not everyone can afford back then – no DIYs, no seat sales, no joiner tours, and no blogs to give tips and hacks. Nonetheless, she was able to teach us the highlights of Philippine tourism: Mayon, Taal, Pinatubo, Apo, Pagsangjan Falls, Maria Cristina Falls, Manila Zoo, Hundred Islands, Chocolate Hills, Intramuros, and Nayong Pilipino.
Nayong Pilipino was once the country’s most popular theme park located near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It was established through the efforts of the former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. Because of economic development, it was closed in 2002 to give way for the construction of Terminals 2 and 3 of the international airport. It briefly re-opened in 2004 but was closed once again and was finally transferred to Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
Since not everyone can travel all 7,641 islands and 81 provinces of the country, Nayong Pilipino gives an abridged experience of all the landmarks of the country from Luzon to Mindanao. It became one of the favorite fieldtrip destinations of school children and weekend bonding spot for families; hence, a must-visit site for tourists. Or so I thought.
What happened to Nayong Pilipino?
Given the early morning flight to Clark, I had the whole morning to wait for my friends who were traveling from Baguio for our Mt. Pinatubo hike. I was researching for some places to visit when I learned that Nayong Pilipino is just nearby the airport. Thanks to blogs that were written years back, I was able to navigate my way going to the said park. From the Main Gate of Clark Freeport Zone, I rode a jeepney bound for Parkson Duty Free. Since there’s no jeepney that goes to Nayong Pilipino, the blog says you have to take a five to ten minute walk. For a hiker, that was a no-brainer.
I actually enjoyed the whole trip. Random conversation with locals. Observing the people in the jeepney. And savoring the chilly air brought about by northeast monsoon. Even the walk to the park was great. With tons of road signage, it’s easy to navigate around. I was getting all excited to finally arrive at the park upon seeing the Nayong Pilipino marker but was totally blown away upon ready the billboard that says: Bagong Nayong Pilipino sa Clark Abangan!
Abangan! Wait, what?! Peeking through the gates, I saw how things were still under construction. The gates were indefinitely closed and there were no attendants to ask for details. Imagine my despair. I’ve done my research, I asked some locals, but none of them told me it was closed all this time! Shunga. Don’t tell me I don’t read and watch the news. According to reports, Nayong Pilipino was set to open even before the SEA Games – that was way back November, what month are we now?
Defeated, I went back without even taking a single photo of the site. It was heartbreaking. I walked at a very slow pace, consoling my expectations, wandering through the intersections, wondering where else to go.
Then I chanced upon this K-9 Cemetery – a military police dog cemetery established by the Americans before they left this former US Air Force base. An undisturbed but seemingly forgotten space which remained despite the passing of time, the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, and continuous redevelopment of Clark Freeport Zone.
The neatly arranged tombstones and surrounding old trees calmed the storm in me. But the faded letters and numbers of the tombstone of the once brave military canines also brought queries: With the controversies revolving around the revival of Nayong Pilipino, will it share the same fate with this forgotten K-9 Cemetery?