IN THE last three months of the year, Angeles City is heavy in preparations for various events. Every second Sunday of October is the La Naval Fiesta and on the last Friday of the month will be Fiestang Kuliat. It is on the last Thursday and Friday of October that a portion of the MacArthur Highway in Barangay Balibago will be closed to traffic to give way for the Tigtigan, Terakan keng Dalan, a festivity conceptualized by Alex Caugiran in the early nineties.
Time flew so swiftly. Throwback: It was 1964 and life seemed so easy. Months before the turn of the year, an outstanding member of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Juanita Lumanlan Nepomuceno was on a sponsorship speech for the chartering of Angeles town into a city. After the approval of both houses, the charter bill became a law. It crossed the threshold of a township. Lawyer Rafael Sicangco Del Rosario became the last town mayor and became the first city mayor. My first work in the city was working with one of Del Rosario’s advisers, the late Manoling Yap an economist who proposed the master planning of the city. It didn’t push through though. Del Rosario was defeated in his re-election against Eugenio N. Suarez a member of the landed Henson family. I worked also with Mayor Suarez as his city information officer in 1967 till his re-election defeat against Rafael Lazatin.
I was born in the nearby town of Porac but after my graduation from high school in St. Catherine Academy which was run then by St. Rita nuns and Bonifacio Romero, father of Reghis II, was the principal, I moved to Angeles City. I may not have the best of recollections of then Angeles town but what I remember most was there was Iniang's Place, a small restaurant near the police headquarter and served “jambalay”, a real treat which cost fifty centavos. The restaurant, a “totobits” was owned by the late Virginia Flores, grandmother of CDC President Noel F. Manankil. Clark Air Base workers loved the brewed coffee mixed with carabao milk. It cost five centavos. Across the street was Plaza Cafe, a watering hole for lotharios courting young maidens behind the counter while Jo Stafford's hit No Other Love was playing continuously on the jukebox.
Dainty restaurant was the most popular Chinese restaurant, and Chew Chi's was serving American dishes, and Rotary Club of Angeles was chartered with the late Geromin Nepomuceno as its first president. They held their regular meeting at Chew Chi's. It was only the Paraiso theater of the Hensons that showed tagalog movies, while Marte and Devry theaters screened Hollywood movies. Orchestra tickets were priced at 25 centavos. CB Lacson, Nicson and H.P. Caingat were the known fashion and tailor shops. There were no SM and Robinsons malls yet, but near the railroad track was Marimar Shopping center which sells Post Exchanges (PX) items mostly sourced from nearby Clark Air Force Base. Nepo Mart came later.
The town was a magnet for job seekers. Migration was heavy. Thousands were able to find employment at the nearby Clark. The town population grew at much faster rate. It became a melting pot. Not only the town was an attraction to job hunters but to business people as well. Big night clubs like Paulines, Rorecel and the Sands were owned and operated by non-residents. The most popular was the late Leopoldo Paulino whose grandson Rolen and the latter son Lenbecame mayor of Olongapo City. The Paulinos ended the Gordons’ tight grip.
The first housing subdivision was Marisol Village, an idle land owned by the Valdez family and developed by Maria Soledad Dolor of Batangas. It was tenanted by American servicemen and their families. Came next was Diamond Subdivision. The Tinio owned property was developed by Severina Lim Realty Company and the initial price offering was one peso per square meter. The businessmen of those years met regularly at a tennis court in Barrio Pulungbulo. The Tablantes built housing units and started constructing more movie houses. The Naguiats made a bundle in their taxi operation inside Clark. The Sandicos established a pharmaceutical company. Trinidad Lazatin was in sugar business. Dodong Tinio was operating a lumberyard. Dr. Jose Pelayo had a very lucrative practice. And the same for Dr. Maximo Lagman. Life was a lot easier in those years.