The Spanish period began when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, funded by the Spanish monarchy, landed on Homonhon Island, southeast of Samar on March 16, 1521 but Spanish colonization began with the arrival of conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and his 500 soldiers forty-four years later. The Spanish fleet sailed to Cebu on April 27, 1565, and attacked the villages of the local ruler, Rajah Tupas. There, after defeating Tupas, the Spaniards established their colony, naming it "Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús" (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), and "Villa de San Miguel" (Saint Michael's Town)
Legazpi remained in Cebu and did not initially accompany his men during their exploration (or their battles with the locals and eventual conquering and colonization) of Manila because of health problems and advanced age. Having heard of the rich resources in Luzon, he dispatched two of his Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, to explore the northern region. The era of Spanish occupation lasted for more than three hundred years but its Spanish legacy plagues the country to this day.
The Spanish conquerors unified most of the archipelago, (over powering the independent kingdoms and communities that comprised the region,) and forcing the first draft of the country that was to become known as the Philippines, (after King Philip II of Spain.) They also enforced Catholism and the Spanish code of law.
In 1796, the town head of San Fernando, Don Ángel Pantaleón de Miranda along with some followers, staked out a new settlement, which they named Culiat because of the abundance of vines of that name in the area. The settlers cleared and cultivated the area for rice and sugar farming. Don Ángel built his first house with light materials at the northwest corner of the intersection of Sapang Balen and the road going towards the town of Porac. It was later donated to the Roman Catholic Church and became a cemetery known as the "Campo Santong Matua." Today it's the site where the Nepomuceno Coliseum is situated.
On May 12, 1812, the new settlers tried to make Culiat a self-governing town but the Catholic friars resisted the move, led by Fray Jose Pometa. Ten years later, on February 11, 1822, Don Ángel filed a petition for the independent township of Culiat from San Fernando but it was denied. This was followed by another petition within the same year, jointly signed by Don Ángel, his son-in-law, Dr. Mariano Henson, and the latter's father, Severino Henson. He donated 35 hectares for the construction of the first Catholic Church, a convent and a primary school while Doña Agustina Henson de Nepomuceno, the niece of who would become the first gobernadorcillo of Angeles in 1830, Don Ciriaco de Miranda, gave land for the new public market. Don Ángel paid the complete amount required by law just for the political separation of Culiat from San Fernando. There were only 160 taxpayers then but the law required that it should have at least 500 taxpayers.
Located some 10 miles (16 km) north of the capital town of Pampanga, Culiat was a barrio of San Fernando for 33 years and on December 8, 1829, it finally became a separate municipality, at which time it was renamed "El Pueblo de los Angeles" (The Town of the Angels,) in honor of its patron saints, "Los Santos Angeles de los Custodios" (Holy Guardian Angels), and the name of its founder, Don Ángel, coinciding with the rise of new barrios such as Santo Cristo (as the poblacion or town proper), Cutcut, Pampang and Pulong Anunas. The progressive barrios developed some new industries like a sugar mill and a wine distillery. The transition of Angeles from a jungle clearing to a barrio, to a town and finally to a city took 168 years and in that time, it survived locusts' infestations, wars, epidemics, volcanic eruptions and typhoons to become one of the fastest rising towns in the country. When it received its first official municipal charter, the town contained 661 people, 151 houses and an area of 38.65 km².
On March 17, 1899, General Emilio Aguinaldo transferred the seat of Philippine government to Angeles. It then became the site of the first anniversary celebration of the Philippine Independence from Spain, which was proclaimed a year earlier in Kawit, Cavite. It was highlighted with a parade led by the youngest ever Filipino generals, Gregorio del Pilar and Manuel Tinio. It was viewed by General Aguinaldo from the Pamintuan's residence, which became the Presidential Palace from May to July 1899 and now houses the Central Bank of the Philippines in Central Luzon. Aguinaldo's sojourn was short however, for in July of this same year he transferred his government to the province of Tarlac ahead of the advancing American forces.
On August 10, 1899, U.S. forces began the attack on Angeles and ended with a battle on November 5, 1899 when the town fell to the Americans. The Battle of Angeles was the longest battle in the Filipino-American War in Pampanga. This led to the establishment of an American camp in Barrio Talimundoc (what is now Lourdes Sur), located next to the railroad station, in order to establish control over the central plains of Luzon. In January 1900, General Frederick D. Grant organized the first U.S. Civil Government in Angeles by appointing a municipal mayor, thus it was the beginning of American colonization in Angeles.
In 1902, a U.S. Army study suggested relocating their post from Barrio Talimundoc to a fertile plain in Barrio Sapang Bato, which reportedly had better grass for their horses. A year after that President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order on September 1, establishing 7,700 acres (31 km2) of land in Sapang Bato as Fort Stotsenburg. In 1908 it was expanded to 156,204 acres (632.14 km2) and in 1919 became Clark Air Base It was centered on what was Clark Air Base's parade ground in modern years.
The Holy Rosary Parish Church was converted into an army hospital and the choir loft served as a dental clinic. The convent, which now houses Holy Family Academy, was the barracks for medical officers and enlisted men. The sacristy was preserved so Angeleños could hear mass. When the Americans relocated to Fort Stotsenburg, they paid Rev. Vicente Lapus, the parish priest $638 for damages and rent.
The American government sent thousands of English speaking teachers to the Philippines to help educate the people. During the 1940's and 1950's the Philippines became the most progressive economy in Asia and had one of the largest English speaking populations in the world.
World War II
Within hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan attacked the Philippines, targeting the American military presence, as well as the Philippine Army, and taking over the civilian government. On one occasion during the Japanese occupation of the country, 57,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war passed the town of Angeles. They were forced to join the Death March going to Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. Angeleños helped by handing them foods, milk, boiled eggs, rice cakes, cigarettes, and water. They also followed them up to the train station in Dau to give moral and spiritual support, and helped any escapees.
War historians considered the bombing of Fort Stotsenburg on December 8, 1941 at 12:30 p.m. as one of the most destructive air raids in World War II because almost all the American war planes were wrecked on the ground. In thirty minutes, the air might of America in the Far East was completely destroyed.
On the early morning of the New Year's Day of 1942, the first Japanese troops entered Angeles occupying it up to January 1945. During the Japanese invasion, another type of local government was set up on January 22, 1942. During the Japanese occupation, Clark Air Base then became a major centre for staging Japanese air operations. Japanese aircraft flying out of Clark participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, reported to be the largest naval battle of the Second World War.
Clark Air Base was recaptured by the Americans in January 1945, culminating three months of fierce fighting. After three years of horrendous atrocities committed by the Japanese forces, Angeles City and the rest of the Philippines were finally liberated by the combined United States and Philippine Commonwealth troops in 1945.
Independence and Cityhood
After World War II, the Philippines was granted independence from the United States on July 4, 1946 and has fortunately stayed nestled in a neo-colonial relationship ever since. The "Treaty of General Relations" signed on Independence Day returned possession, control and sovereignty back to the Philippines, except for the military bases. It was followed by the Philippine-American Military Bases Agreement in March 14, 1947, permitting the U.S. to maintain territorial integrity and sovereignty (at a very high rental price) over Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base for the next 44 years. Clark occupied 63,103 hectares and served as the tactical operational U.S. air force installation in the entire Southeast Asian region that had the capacity to accommodate the U.S. military transport planes, which served the entire Western Pacific.
Through the years, Fort Stotsenburg continued to expand and became what known as Clark Air Base. Angeles remained fairly small until the end of World War II. It was inaugurated on January 1, 1964 as a chartered city under Republic Act No. 3700 and then entered a period of tremendous growth that has resulted in its present position as the "Premier City in Central Luzon." It was then Mayor Rafael del Rosario's brainchild that Angeles became a city. He gained the distinction of being the last municipal mayor of Angeles. He was assisted in the preparation of the City Charter by Attorney Enrique Tayag, a prominent resident of the town. Congresswoman Juanita L. Nepomuceno of the first district of Pampanga sponsored the bill in Congress, which was approved by then President Diosdado Macapagal, the ninth Philippine president and a native of the province of Pampanga.
Due to the presence of the U.S. base for nearly one hundred years, Angeles not only prospered financially, it has also become the home to a large number of expatriates as many of the American military men took Filipino brides and chose to permanently settle in Angeles. During the years between 1898 and 1946 alone, more than 800,000 American / Filipino (Amerasian) children were born in the Philippines, adding yet another element to the diversity and richness of the Filipino culture. In subsequent years that number is estimated to have grown to well over two million.
There are those who like to say that prostitution was another consequence of the U.S. bases' presence in the country but in reality prostitution is wide spread throughout the Philippines (not only adjacent to US military bases) and existed long before any American ever set foot in the country. Since the early days of the military base an entertainment, restaurant, and hotel district has been steadily growing along Fields Ave and the surrounding area and helped drive the city's economy and fund its growth through taxation.
Mount Pinatubo Eruption and Angeles Today
On June 15, 1991 nature struck and Angeles City was devastated by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and upwards of 60,000 people were evacuated from the city. It was the second-largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century and, by far, the largest eruption to affect a densely populated area. Nearly all businesses in Angeles City were affected but the agricultural sector was hardest hit because everything in the area was covered by millions of tons of lahar. There were no casualties reported inside Clark since two days before the initial eruption, the 18,000 personnel and their families were transported to Subic Naval Base Zambales Guam. Many later were posted back to the United States.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo facilitated the U.S. to move up the scheduled closing its military installation at Clark Air Base as they were also at that time shutting down several of their military installations around the world. This is in addition to the voting by the Philippine Senate in 1991 to no longer extend the Laurel-Langley Act, which permitted the U.S. military to own bases in the Philippine, thus ending that chapter of Filipino-American co-operation in Angeles City. The U.S. Military turned over the base to the Philippine government on November 26, 1991 and it was subsequently looted almost to the point of total destruction by the locals.
In 1993, cleanup and removal of volcanic ash deposits began. The former base was renamed, Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) as approved by then President Fidel V. Ramos on April 3 of the same year and in 2001, Clark International Airport has become known as Diosdado Macapagal International Airport after the father of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The airfield infrastructure was improved with hopes of becoming one of the premiere airports in the country. The creation of CSEZ has helped somewhat to offset the huge loss of income and jobs previously generated by the presence of the U.S. base in Angeles. Today, Angeles and Clark together form the hub for business, industry, aviation and tourism, as well as the entertainment and gaming center of Central Luzon.