Inside the Athlete’s Village and the Controversial New Clark City | Tarlac

For two days, I experienced what it’s like being inside an athlete’s village. Ever since I started following the Olympics, I became curious about what’s it like being in such place. Fortunately, I got invited as part of a small media team to spend a night at the one the Philippines built for the 30th South East Asian Games held at the New Clark City in Tarlac. Although this sporting event is a lot smaller in scale, I am hoping that we can further expand our sporting infrastructures, so we can host the Asian Games and then the Olympics someday.

Alyanna Bromeo

Building the New Clark City

As the project of the BCDA (Bases Conversion Development Authority) who also owns a total of 9,450 hectares, of which only 3,500 hectares are buildable, leaving almost 6,000 hectares to be reserved for green spaces suitable for growing farms and forest reserves, the New Clark City is part of a master-plan to construct a sustainable and green city of the future.

Displaced Aeta

Today, the early signs of development can be seen through the architecturally gifted structures of the Athletics Stadium, the New Aquatics Center, the Athlete's village and a few office buildings. The vast empty area circled by wide rows of roads signals the availability of expansive prime lots awaiting future development.

New Clark City Athletics Stadium

This 20,000-seating capacity stadium was designed by Budji + Royal Architecture + Design using Mt. Pinatubo as inspiration. Like for example the ringed roof-line resembling the volcano's crater and the use of volcanic debris on its facade.

Danica Lolita Tigas

Since the opening of the 30th Sea Games was still a few days away, it was empty on the day of our visit. I get to try running a short lap over the oval tracks which felt like no other terrain I’ve ran before. It has the perfect mix of softness, firmness and cohesiveness on the feet.

Kay Sison

It would have been an amazing bonus experience if I also get to be a spectator on the live competition such as the 100-meter sprint and the other athletics event.

The Controversial Cauldron

Dampening the architectural marvel of the Athletics Stadium is the over-priced cauldron—which became an unfortunate symbol of the Government’s excess. Priced at a staggering 60 million peso, it was designed by Philippine National Artist Francisco Mañosa. I must agree though that it look a lot appealing to the eyes given its industrial look and design inspiration from the Filipino traditional Filipino torch known as sulo.

Jecca Javellana

In a country besieged with overpriced contracts and endless streak of corruption, I wish the developers were more open in explaining all the details of the cauldron’s design—including what they claim as the underground tunnel used to direct the fuel to light the cauldron throughout the duration of the games.

New Clark City Aquatics Center

Also designed by Budj + Royal Architecture + Design, this structure incorporates a figural form of a 'baklad'—fish traps or 'kural'—and elements of Filipino handicrafts of weaving and wood carving. It has a winged prismitic roof made of 'capiz' coating that doubles as an open shed.

The Aquatics Center houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a training pool and diving pool. The sports of swimming, water polo and all categories of diving in the 2019 SEA Games was held here.

Jomie Naynes

Spending a Night at the Athlete’s Village

As opposed to the misfortunes experienced by the athletes in Manila due to a series of organizational blunders, for the ones billeted at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City, there were all raves and no complains. Let’s just say the BCDA did a better job of organizing the event on their end. It appears they were spared from the mis-management that besieged Cayetano’s SEA Games planning committee.

Gretchen Filart

Being able to spend a night inside the Athelete’s village had me observing the jovial atmosphere brimming of Filipino hospitality. The meals served were lavishly served round the clock from breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and even a midnight snack. All the meals were halal-certified to accommodate the Muslim athletes from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Top chefs such as Sau Del Rosario personally headed the kitchen crew. There are also entertainment areas where athletes can hang out, a couple of swimming pools, a basketball court and a souvenir shop.

What about the Indigenous People?

As promising and exciting the future of New Clark City is, it’s conceptualization and actual creation didn’t came without controversy. As we listened to Athletes Village Mayor Arrey Perez discuss the plans of BCDA for the New Clark City, I admit being thrilled at what the future will bring. Imagine a new city that will attract technology, tourism, sports development and even new residents, to comprise a post-modern and sustainable green city? I mean who wouldn’t be excited at that idea.

But all of these comes with a cloud of suspicion that in doing so, thousands of our indigenous brothers and sisters from the Aeta community who call the plains of Pampanga and Tarlac as their home for many centuries, were displaced by the conception of the New Clark City.

The BCDA have released a statement saying they gave "financial assistance packages amounting to Php300,000 per hectare (or Php30.00/sq.m.), have also been made available to all project-affected people, including IPs/farmers"

30 pesos per square meters? in exchange of being displaced and for a new city poor IP people can't afford to live in, to take their place? As huge as my excitement for a green city to emerge out of Metro Manila and to see more eye-popping architectural wonders, I must ask myself a question: Is it worth it? 

I just hope the BCDA and the Government can do a lot more to our IP brothers and sisters than just handing them 30 pesos per square meters of their land. I pray that they will be included in the future development and growth of the New Clark City.

Oh, and please make the sports facilities at New Clark City accessible to all Filipino athletes.