Baguio City, Philippines – Blooming with flowers, cool fresh air and the soothing effect of smell of pine trees complemented with the well maintained lawns of a picturesque golf course, one would be awed to the beauty of Camp John Hay. But that was then, when the Americans still occupies the sprawling base camp that served as their rest and recreation.
The complete facilities and services are not only exclusive to the GIs but likewise are open to the public to the appreciation of all the visitors, rich and poor. The American way of life could be seen inside the camp. Bulky and luxurious American cars are rolling the paved road of the base camp. Some of the vehicles were being used in transporting visitors from the guarded gates going to the inside of the camp – for free.
The usual PX goods were the big attraction because the visitors love to buy the “Made in the USA” products. The quality conscious locals patronized the commissary section because they feel they are being served well the same as their American counter part. American style houses dominate the base camp with complete amenities and luxuries that can only be found inside the beautifully designed structures. The serenity of the place makes the base camp the favorite place for social activities or gatherings.
But that was it; the old good days are gone. The memories keep on reminding me that there was a US R & R called “Camp John Hay” where people of all walks of life could promenade, eat their foods in the picnic table and experience the American way of life by going to the commissary, theatre and other stuff that is American. No, I am not a hostage to the American culture or way of life. Clearly, the base camp is no longer the same as it used to be.
The Camp John Hay of old was totally gone. Brought by the changing world of politics and vested interests, the prevailing system of things ultimately eliminated the once selfless image of Camp John Hay. At present, the base camp is exclusively used by the rich and famous. Ordinary folks are restricted and no longer permitted to do the things that they used to do when the base camp was under the US Military Command. Luxury hotels and European mansions now dominate Camp John Hay. Old pine trees – that was nurtured by the Americans and the local employees – were cut down to accommodate the new structures.
What a disservice to the ordinary people who used to frequent Camp John Hay and considered it as a place for everybody. The people were rubbed of their only place that they know is community friendly and accommodating to their needs, not only the solace it brings but the services that the former Camp John Hay offers. There will be no more base camp that will bring excitement to all the people like what Camp John Hay did seventeen years ago.