Sangil: The lemon grass in Clark and the gold in Mt. Province

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IN THE first part of this series, I told the story about the Battle of Manila Bay sometime in August 1898, where the fleet of Admiral George Dewey defeated the Spanish Armada only after few hours of exchange of canon balls. The Spaniards in giving up Manila asked for a payment of $20 million for the whole archipelago and this was contained in the Treaty of Paris.

At the turn of the century, the Americans were on their way to Benguet in Mountain province with picks and shovels and knew all along there was a huge gold deposit to be mined there. (Whenever you are in Baguio City and you take a selfie with Mines View Park as background, please remember of this article you may happened to read). It is known that our country has the second largest mineral deposit in the whole world, and Russia being first. We are one country that you merely scratch the surface of the earth and you'll find gold. So the Americans real objective was the vast mineral deposits in the north.

The cavalry that started from Manila on their way to their mountain destination rested the troops and their horses in Sitio Talimundok in Lourdes Sur East in Angeles town. They encamped there for some weeks. One day one of their horses got lost and the cavalry commander ordered for a search. The missing stallion was found near Barangay Sapangbato where in all its surrounding they found an abundance of lemon grass which they find good as fodder for their horses. So they moved and permanently encamped a detachment there and later a part of the troop proceeded north. So this was in 1902. ( When in Clark take notice of those two white obelisks erected on the so-called parade ground fronting the Clark Development Corporation offices and they have an inscription of 1902).

The camp was initially known as Fort Stotsenberg and was named after Colonel John Stotsenberg of the Nebraska Volunteers who was earlier killed in a gun battle in Plaridel, Bulacan. The American President then, Theodore Roosevelt declared a huge portion of the detachment a military reservation. Some 7,000 acres only but ballooned to more than 39,000 hectares and later to be known as Clark Air Force Base (CAFB). But that's going ahead of my story.

In the meanwhile, the Americans started carving out a mountain road that started from La Union going up Benguet. It was reported in several journals that there were imported labor among Japanese and Chinese who worked on the roads. And many natives too. There were several casualties as the work progressed to its completion. No date was recorded on the day it was completed nor if there was an inauguration or ribbon cutting as we customarily do it today.

The Americans picked a rolling area and encamped there and later called it Camp John Hay. They built Quonset houses and picnic grounds for their recreation. Much later, a known architect from Chicago, Daniel Burnham built a park in the middle of the town and it was named after him. He is the same Architect Burnham which designed then Dewey Boulevard and now renamed as Roxas Boulevard.

Tons of gold and other minerals were mined by the Americans and were unloaded in the constructed seaport in Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union. To protect the seaport, particularly unloading of gold and other minerals, a military camp was established. It is said that a big portion of the gold bullion deposit in Fort Knox in Kentucky, USA was mined from the mine sites in the Mountain Province.

(To be continued)


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