Troops give chapel on Philippines base a new life
November 19, 2004
CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines — U.S. Marines and Philippine Air Force members teamed this week to make needed repairs to one of the most-used facilities on base during Exercise Talon Vision 05.
The troops spent Tuesday and Wednesday renovating a multipurpose room and the kitchen at the base chapel. A new tile floor was installed. The kitchen received a fresh coat of paint, new counter tops and cabinets. And from two incomplete stoves donated to the church, troops made one working appliance.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cerino Bargola, a chaplain with Marine Aircraft Group 36 from Okinawa, said numerous chairs and two sofas also were donated to the chapel. Bags of clothing donated by servicemembers and their families on Okinawa were delivered to the church. Bargola, originally from the Philippines’ Bukidnon province, said giving back to the people of his homeland feels good.
“It’s my privilege to help,” he said. "I know the situation here: It’s a poor country. I’m just glad to have the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Navy but yet provide support here.”
The donations are very much appreciated, and vital to the church, said Philippine Air Force Capt. Raul S. Cino, base chaplain for Clark. He said the government provides no maintenance budget for the base church, which must rely solely on parishioners’ donations. The church hasn’t undergone any significant renovations since the U.S. Air Force occupied the base, he said.
Cino said the chapel is used often; he holds a daily mass, three masses on Sunday and a baptism. Every Sunday, more than 1,000 worshipers attend the three masses, he said; often, it’s standing room only.
The church’s renovation needs, with cost estimates, were presented to U.S. forces during a planning conference, Cino said. The U.S. servicemembers said they could help.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Anthony N. Brenner, logistics chief for the United States forces during the exercise, helped coordinate the project. He was one of the Marines who completed installing the new tile floor. He said many of the materials were donated. The chairs, tables and sofas came from various church groups on Okinawa; the supplies needed to paint and lay the tile were purchased with funds those same groups and Marines from MAG 36 donated.
The U.S. Marines who worked on the project all were from MAG 36 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 172.
The day before the chapel project, another community relations event took place involving troops from both the U.S. and Philippines. Bargola said almost a dozen troops spent an hour and a half at a senior citizens home in Angeles City. The group took six bags of clothes to donate to those living there and the chaplains provided prayer services for those who asked.
Bargola said those at the home were very receptive; many had been associated with Americans when U.S. servicemembers still occupied the base.
“They were happy just to sit down and talk to people,” Bargola said of the residents, many of whom, he said, have no family members to visit them. “For them, this was a big deal.”
Another community relations project, a visit to a special-needs children’s home, had to be cancelled when Talon 05 was cut short by the approach of Tropical Storm Mufia.
But Cino said he was happy for what the Marines and sailors could accomplish.
“I’m so impressed with the way U.S. troops work for Filipinos,” he said. “Not only for us but for others around the world.”