Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sites in the Book: Neilson Field

"It was Neilson Field that made my family rich."
The area where the Reynaldos lived outside of Manila is called Makati. It has had many different spellings over the years, and the meaning of the word is still debated until this day. (I tend to believe the Spanish version which translates roughly into: hot mosquito plagued swamp.) For hundreds of years, not many people choose to live there, other than farmers.

Things started to change when Neilson Field, Manila's first private airport, was built there in the  1937. Suddenly, elite "high flyers" were landing in Makati from all over the parts of the Philippine archipelago, Asia and the rest of the world. However, this all ended in 1941 with the invasion of the Japanese. Neilson was turned into a Japanese military installation. Towards the end of the war, kamikaze pilots would launch from here. This post-war photo shows what it looked like. Notice the wrecked Japanese planes. (Click the photo to see a larger version.) The building inside the red circle is the control tower and terminal. It survives unto this day.

This is what the Makati area looked like in 2011. Big difference, huh? Neilson Field did not last long after the war. Manila was practically destroyed and many people, especially the rich ones, decided to homestead in Makati where it was prettier and safer. The original runways became the main boulevards of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue. It is now the most expensive real estate in the Philippines. The control tower and terminal still stand in a small park at the intersections and are used as a museum today. (Click on the photo to see the tiny building inside the red circle.)

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