(Where have all the tombstones gone?)
CLARK FREEPORT – The Clark Development Corp. (CDC) has come under fire after its contractor was accused of “desecrating” the K-9 cemetery here by virtually uprooting tombstones among other works purportedly to upgrade the site into a park for dogs costing P2.8 million.
In a statement, CDC public affairs and information chief Noel Tulabut virtually denied that the cemetery was demolished and that it was just “actually undergoing a major facelift.”
A trip to the cemetery, however, revealed that the tombstones were gone where they used to mark canine remains. They, including broken ones, were instead piled one on top the other at one corner of the cemetery. The cemetery was also laid over with new soil.
Earlier, Lt. Guy Indra Hilbero of the 26th US Cavalry Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment, a group recognized by the US Veterans of Foreign Wars based in nearby Angeles City, insisted that “the desecration of the cemetery is in full violation of the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act of the National Museum of the Philippines.”
Hilbero stressed that the cemetery ¨should have been preserved and protected in the first place.”
In a statement, Tulabut said the cemetery project was “true for all other tourist sites with historical and cultural significance within the Clark Freeport Zone such as the Manuel A. Roxas memorial statue, the flagpole memorial markers, Parade Grounds, Clark Museum, the Bi-Centennial Park, Children’s Playground, and the Japanese light anti-aircraft twin automatic cannons, barnhouses to name a few. CDC has planned for their improvements, restoration, and preservation. Some of which have been recently completed.”
CDC’s Tourism and Promotions Division (CDC-TPD) has been exerting all efforts to enhance the historical sites for stakeholders and visitors alike, and the K-9 cemetery is no exception. It has also been allotted funds for its improvement, he added.
Tulabut also said that in general, the plans for these sites include fencing, lighting, landscaping, concreting of pathways and in the case of the K-9 cemetery, the construction of small pet-friendly park.”
Hilbero said the K-9 Cemetery at the former US Air Force base is considered a historical and cultural heritage: “The K-9 cemetery is a sacred ground. These dog entities had military ranks too and served in the armed forces like regular servicemen. They are also our heroes that protected and saved lives in the past.”
“I used to be a deputized personnel of the National Museum, head of the Mabalacat Tourism Office, and to date, executive officer of the 26th US Cavalry, Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment Fort Stotsenburg. Every year, there are many former US military who pay respect and visit this sacred K-9 ground,” Hilbero also said.
He also lamented that “even if they try to rebuild it, where in the hell they know the exact location of each tombstones when they just ravaged and tear down it just like that, without proper procedure, planning and catalogue of each tombstones.”
Reacting to this, Tulabut said the tombstones have actually been catalogued and mapped by the contractor and will be restored to their original locations once the project is finished.
A huge board at the cemetery indicated that the CDC had allocated P2.9 million for a project in the cemetery area. It identified one JD Venzon as contractor who was tasked to do “works involving site development with embankment, PCCP, pipe culverts, manholes and concrete curb and gutters” within 90 days. There was no mention of the cemetery.
The removed tombstones looked like short, narrow obelisks marked with the names of “dog heroes” with amusing names such as Pig, Tiger, Wolf, Lobo, Roxanne, Restus, Storm, Raleigh.
When Clark was still a US Air Force base, the 3rd Security Police Group (3SPG) operated here the largest military working dog unit of the United States Air Force with hundreds of dogs during its entire history. Canines that died from natural causes or were put to sleep after they became ineffective for the job were interred at this K-9 cemetery. Some of the dogs had served in the Vietnam War.