In May, Carlo and I flew VFR around Central Luzon. Carlo calls this area, “Our backyard.” Carlo and I have flown over the great plain so often, on the way to Baguio, La Union, Lingayen or Ilocos. You could blindfold and fly us to any point here, and we could fly our way home. No chart, no GPS.
Pangasinan province is a good place to start — my Mom comes from there.
Alaminos, Pangasinan. Many think that Alaminos is synonymous with the Hundred Islands.
Actually, seen from the air, Alaminos is far inland. The town where you embark for the Hundred Islands is Lucap, Pangasinan.
We’ve flown over the Hundred Islands several times, both high and low.
Some islands have been linked with barriers, turning the erstwhile scenic clusters into one gigantic fish trap. Geez!
The Pangasinan coastline south of the islands is beautiful, if not often extolled.
There are bays and coves that could be great dive spots, with underwater coral ledges and walls clearly revealed by our aerial reconnaissance. And we were 5,500 feet high!
At Sual, Pangasinan, there is a coal-fired power generation plant with a bizarre claim to fame.
On December 10 (my Mom’s birthday!), 1999, “50 truckloads of dikya were sucked into the plant’s cooling water system”. The plant ground to a halt, and the failure cascaded catastrophically throughout the entire Luzon grid, resulting in a complete power blackout in half of the country!
A fishy story.
Maybe that’s why they penned the Hundred Islands? To keep the loathsome dikya out (or in?).
You can see more monster dikya attacking from the right!
My Mom hails from Mabini, Pangasinan.
Mabini is also the site of the Malaysian Proton car plant, on the upper left corner of the photo. It was seduced away from the other car assembly plants in Southern Luzon by former President Ramos. 😛 I don’t know if it is in production still.
Lingayen Gulf, bounded by the curving Pangasinan and La Union coastlines, has its own claim to fame. The Japanese landed here in December 1941 and charged rapidly down Central Luzon to capture Manila.
Central Luzon is a great, flat plain, with few natural defensive obstacles to an invader, except for the rivers. There is a thrilling war story, for example, about the Calumpit bridge near Baliuag and Plaridel in December 1941. We will keep that for another article.
So invading at Lingayen and advancing straight down to Manila was an obvious tactic in World War II.
Thus, the Americans also landed in Lingayen Gulf in 1945, to begin the liberation of Luzon. There’s a great chart of the amphibious landing here, from an outstanding website on the US Army campaign in the Philippines, by Robert Ross Smith.
The US Sixth Army landed near San Fabian, here where the coastline curves upward from Pangasinan to La Union in northern Luzon.
They, too, swept down the length of the Central Luzon plain towards Manila. In fact, the “MacArthur Highway” is so named because it follows the route taken by the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division, as it charged in a “flying column” towards the capital city.
There was not much in the way of their charging, since the Japanese had decided on a defensive stand in the Cordillera mountains. This left the way open to Manila, which the Japanese, like MacArthur 3 years earlier, did not plan to defend.
But then the Japanese Navy decided to fill in the vaccum, and Japanese Marines fortified Manila, which became the second most destroyed city in the second world war. More people died in the battle for Manila than died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Along the way from Lingayen to Manila, the Americans raided the prison camp near Cabanatuan and freed the American prisoners who had survived since the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, 3 years earlier. That too, will be a separate article, with aerial photos!
The airport is a good challenge because of stiff crosswinds and some wind shear, and is nearly 60 nautical miles from Omni. So it’s a perfect cross-country training destination for student pilots going through the private pilot course.
The northern reaches of Central Luzon are beautiful, despite the coal-fired power plants and the man-made fish pens around the Hundred Islands. The overall impression is of a scenic, lazy backyard, with little habitats here and there. Like a backyard, it is full of summer vacation memories.
To be continued! 🙂
Next week, touring more of Central Luzon by air — Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan.