Angeles City

and Mount Pinatubo

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The Philippines’ own City of Angels, Angeles City is the largest in the state of Pampanga and lies in the shadow of Mount Pinatubo, which catastrophically erupted in 1991 in what was one of the most powerful eruptions of the twentieth century. It was at this time that the city’s long association with the US military ended, as Clark Air Base was evacuated and abandoned. Ten years later the ash was still being cleared from the streets.

We spent three nights in Angeles City, after a drive of only a couple of hours north from Manila. The first order of the visit was to get up to the crater of Mount Pinatubo, which as we were right at the start of the rainy season was weather dependent. One night was spent on Clark Air Base in an old US military family home, now turned into a hotel.

Friendship Jeepney Terminal

Like many big cities in the Philippines, the way to get around Angeles City is by Jeepney. Some, such as this alleged Mercedes Jeepney are very colourfully decorated.

Mount Arayat looms over Angeles City, which is bisected by a river bed still grey with the ash from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

Mount Arayat over Angeles City

Local transport on Mount Pinatubo

Our first destination was Mount Pinatubo itself. On the way up we didn't see many other people, but one of the most notable was this chap heading up the mountain with his dogs on cowback.

We battered our way up the ash canyon, cut by the stream over the twenty-two years since the eruption, when the lahar (ash-mud) flowed all the way through to Angeles City, like liquid concrete.

Approach to Mount Pinatubo

Eroded ash cliffs

Ash cliffs stand either side of the route up to the crater, heavily eroded by rainfall and flash floods.

At the top of the track we had to leave our Jeep and walk the rest of the route, not far to the crater lake. We were up and down in the same morning, as it was almost the start of the rainy season and the afternoon is when the deluges come.

Jeep stop

Sulphur streams

Volcanic evidence is everywhere, such as these sulphurous streams running down the path.

The crater lake at the summit of Mount Pinatubo formed after the 1991 eruption, and got progressively deeper but less acidic over many years until a notch was cut in the crater rim to allow it to safely drain. It is perhaps as much as 800 metres deep, and not safe for swimming.

Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake

Death March Memorial

During the war many thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced by the Japanese occupying forces to march across Luzon, in what became known as the Bataan Death March. It is remembered at the Capas National Shrine, amongst other locations, where those prisoners who survived the journey were interred.

Outside of Angeles City we visited Abe's Farm, a small guesthouse resort where we had lunch and picked mangos from the trees.

Abe's Farm resort

Holy Angel University

Holy Angel University is one of the oldest universities in the country, having been founded in 1933. It also regularly ranks amongst the top Philippine universities.

Local transport lingering outside the university, in the form of lounging motorbike and sidecar drivers.


Fancy jeepney

If you have a few more pesos, you can travel by fancy Jeepney!

Less bling Jeepneys pass infront of the Old Pamintuan Residence, the seat of the first government of the short-lived independent Republic of the Philippines in 1899.

Old Pamintuan Residence

Holy Rosary Parish Church

Holy Rosary Parish Church, also known as Santo Rosario Church, is the oldest religious centre in town, dating from the late 19th century.

On the road approaching Holy Rosary Church are market stalls selling local fruit and vegetables.

Market place

Local politics posters

The Philippines was one of the first Asian nations to emerge from colonialism to full independence in 1946, and despite having a turbulent departure from democracy during the reign of Ferdinand Marcos, is again a place where politics and passion go together. Political posters for many candidates for all sorts of office can be seen across the country.

Fort Stotsenburg parade ground was the centre of Clark Air Base, the biggest hub of American air power west of Hawaii. It operated for nearly one hundred years, until being abandoned in the wake of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

Fort Stotsenburg

Clark Museum

The story of Clark Air Base during the American occupation, second world war, Japanese occupation, independence, abandonment and final conversion to a free trade zone is described in detail at the Clark Museum.

There are still abandoned buildings within Clark Air Base, such as this Prudential Bank building.

Abandoned Prudential Bank

Abandoned mall

This was once a shopping mall, but has become deeply overgrown during the last twenty years.

The old housing for the US military officers and their families still stands, in this case it has been converted into hotel chalets. I was really surprised by how much it felt like being in a genuine American suburb, I could be anywhere in the US right now. We spent the night in a villa with a pool, one of the old NCO houses.

Fontana Resort American suburb

Gun free zone

Gun free zone, declared at the Mimosa Casino within the Clark Freeport Zone. I felt so much safer.

Another less savoury legacy of the air base is the "hospitality" clubs which sprung up on Fields Avenue. Not the place for a family evening!

Fields Avenue

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2013