Depending on the public it is addressing, the decision to reinstate “Clark International Airport” as the official name of the former American air base in Pampanga, in place of its present name “President Diosdado Macapagal,” may be welcome or unwelcome. But a positive response could be at best tepid, for who would overtly embrace with open arms an act that is obviously political and partisan, even vindictive, with the name Macapagal having fallen into disrepute not because of the poor boy from Lubao, but because of the notorious record of his daughter who repeated his feat of becoming president but tainted his legacy, which by and large was characterized by integrity and vision? Therefore, for those who are still smarting from the depredations committed by Macapagal’s inglorious daughter when she was president, or for those who would like to get back at her, dropping the name of the fifth president of the Republic from the airport located right in his own province may be sweet revenge, especially since former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has always claimed to be daddy’s girl.
Understandably, the news is unwelcome to the Kapampangans; it may even smack of betrayal since President Aquino and the Aquinos and Cojuangcos of Tarlac have Kapampangan roots. The Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML) has protested the decision, which had been announced by Victor Jose Luciano, president and CEO of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC). But Luciano told the PML that the CIAC board had passed a resolution last October reinstating the old name, upon the suggestion of Felipe Antonio Remollo, president of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC), the agency that runs the former American air base that has been converted into an economic hub and free port. Since both Luciano and Remollo are Aquino appointees, their move has been readily seen to be politically motivated.
But the PML should realize that the Macapagal name itself has the strong, pungent smell of politics: it was given to the airport by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s CIAC in 2001 reportedly in response to a popular clamor from Pampanga leaders, though the move appeared to most Filipinos at that time as self-serving and an act of sycophancy by her appointees.
However, the renaming was “not fulfilled,” according to President Aquino’s newly appointed Clark bosses, because it was not backed by the required legislation. The Pampanga leaders have realized this, so, last Feb. 28 the Angeles City council passed a resolution asking Congress to enact a law officially naming Clark airport after Macapagal. It also passed another resolution opposing the removal of the name of Macapagal from the facility.
It’s best that Congress debate what to name the airport if only because Luciano and his board insist it should revert to its old name—Clark International Airport (CIA). Luciano said the name was formalized by President Fidel Ramos’ Executive Order 192 in 1994, which called the airport the “Clark Aviation Complex.” He added that based on a survey, domestic and international aviation players know the airport more as Clark than as Macapagal; among pilots, it is known by its three-letter code, CRK. But the same pilots also know that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is still listed as MNL, or Manila.
Reverting to the old name of Clark simply goes against the grain of nationalist renaming, as reflected in a guideline of the National Historical Commission, which states that “proposed names must have historical and cultural significance and must contribute to the positive development of national pride through the good example exhibited by the name being used.”
To be sure, some foreign names of Philippine streets and facilities must be retained, especially if the names are part and parcel of Philippine history, such as Legazpi, Reina Regente, Salazar, and even more recently, Forbes. But Clark does not have any connection with Philippine history: it used to be named Fort Stotsenberg; it was renamed by the Americans in honor of Maj. Harold Clark of the US Army Signal Corps who died in a seaplane crash in the Panama Canal in 1919. Clark simply has nothing to do with the Philippines.
Ironically, Luciano insists: “We will project Clark as Clark, including its history.” He misses the point. We need to rename the airport exactly because of its history. Naming is an act of defining and determining history. Clark simply won’t fly.
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