An hour north of Metro Manila in the Pampanga province lies the Clark Freeport Zone, the remnants of the former U.S. Clark Air Base vacated by the Americans in 1991. You can tell that the CFZ was built for Americans – the roads are large, the grass is trimmed, and the design of the place has a sense of order that would feel familiar to anyone who had stayed in the United States for an extended period of time.
We stayed overnight at a villa in one of the large country club/tourism condos. The compound was huge – it took 5 minutes just to drive from the main gate to our villa. There were restaurants, bars, and even a full casino. As we drove by, I noticed that some of the villas are placed alongside the golf course, and that the villas were very uniform-looking. It was as if I was driving down the street in my old neighborhood in Glendale, Arizona.
Due to special economic provisions maintained even after the Americans vacated the place, CFZ has several duty-free stores selling American-made goods that are so hard to find in Manila. At one of the sporting good outlets I bought a vintage Mariners hat – common in the US, but absolutely rare and thrilling for me (fitted baseball caps are hard to find in Manila). I would have bought the Tom Brady jersey also, but it was over $120. Maybe next time.
I’m back in Manila now, which is fine, but I would like to take more trips up to Clark, or to Subic, where the old US naval base is. It’s fun to go to those places every once in a while, to remember where I’m from. Going to Clark or Subic is almost like going back to the US just for a day – an instant homesickness cure of sorts.