As All Saints’ Day nears, those who tend to the 20,365-acre cemetery here share such observation.
The orbs, or balls of light, have never been reported since last year. Guy Hilbero, executive officer of the 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment here, said the souls of the hundreds of people, mostly veterans of US-fought wars before World War II, must have found rest.
He noted that it was last year that the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) took over the responsibility of maintaining the Clark cemetery, after Pres. Obama signed in 2013 a law that allowed this.
Hilbero recalled that last year, the US and Philippine governments signed an agreement that paved the way for the ABMC to restore and operate the cemetery, largely through the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2485 based in nearby Angeles City.
The cemetery was badly damaged by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo a few days after the Americans abandoned the US Clark Air Force base here. VFW members in Angeles, mostly American expatriates, volunteered to maintain the cemetery through donations.
“Most of those buried at the Clark cemetery suffered sudden deaths in US-fought wars before World War II, so their souls did not immediately find rest because of their trauma. That could explain reports of apparitions at the cemetery, at least before the US takeover of the cemetery’s management,” Hilbero said.
He noted that the remains of at least one Aeta count among the thousands of the remains of Americans, Filipinos, and others of various nationalities buried at Clark.
“His name was Kudiaro Laxamana who was given the honorary rank of colonel by the US Air Force for his bravery during World War II,” Hilbero said. Laxamana was killed in the 1970’s over ancestral land conflict, but was posthumously honored by the Americans in 1995.
Laxamana reportedly killed 50 Japanese soldiers in his effort to hide and protect the lives of 10 US soldiers on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo during the last world war.
“I think that Kudiaro is again honored by his being buried in the Clark cemetery now officially under the care of the American Battle Monuments Commission which honors those who had valiantly died in US wars,” said Hilbero.
Hilbero noted that the present Clark Veterans Cemetery, near Clark Freeport’s main gate, was actually established in 1948 to accommodate the remains of some 5,000 persons, mostly Americans who had died in US foreign wars before WWII, who were buried in Fort McKinley in the outskirts of Manila, as well as remains from yet two other American cemeteries within Clark.
“Now, the location of one of the former cemeteries, somewhere within Mimosa golf area, is said to be more haunted than the present cemetery. A building for a restaurant was built on that site after the Americans left and Clark converted into a Philippine economic zone, but the building has never been completed amid its haunted reputation,” Hilbero said.
With the US government now maintaining it, the Clark cemetery is well kept, its uniform white tombstones upright amid a carpet of green bermuda grass.
But most of the dead there will remain unvisited on Nov. 1, because apart from some markers that extol them as heroes, decades have made them anonymous to relatives.