going into details has become a habit of mine when it comes to visiting places. Aside from the cultural dos and don’ts, the basic safety guidelines, I don’t delve too much into a place’s history. Sure, it’s impractical and often leads to blunders that could easily be avoided, but I like making mistakes. I like the versatility that comes with not knowing. I like the freedom and sense of wonder it entails. This allows me to fully immerse in the story, especially when I learn of it from someone who lives there. I find that this way keeps me from being jaded
When I found out that we’d be going to the Bataan Techno Park (BTP), I wasn’t exactly thrilled. I know of UP Ayala Technohub, and Laguna Technopark, and both aren’t really my cup of tea. I thought the BTP would just be a huge tract of land where tech businesses converge. I didn’texpect it to be a confluence of Southeast Asian history.
The BTP is a 365-hectare property nestled in the mountains of the Morong Special Economic Zone. While it is being pegged as the focal point for knowledge-based industries, with some – like Grand Innovasia Concept Corp., an outsourcing company – already taking root, the area has more significance than just economic.
In the aftermath of the second Indochina War (aka the Vietnam War), the United Nations set up a refugees camp in what is now the BTP. The Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) welcomed more than 300,000 Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese refugees throughout the 70s and 80s, providing the displaced individuals with shelter, food, as well as skills-training. These “boat people” made the best of their stay in the PRPC, even making local friends along the way and leaving remnants of their culture not just in the BTP, but in the whole of Morong.
The BTP’s colorful history is detailed in a carefully curated museum within the park. Daisy Fernando, who used to work in the camp, now serves as the resident tour guide. She delights guests with information mingled with personal anecdotes of those times. There is the camp’s “jail”, she says, a rehabilitation facility that the Vietnamese dubbed as the Monkey House – for people who were into monkey business. Actual photos, faded but still recognizable, are also on display. One of the boats used by the refugees has also been restored, making it the museum’s most prized piece.
But the traces of the Southeast Asian refugees are not confined in the museum. Scattered all over the property are parcels of religious and cultural monuments, attempts to make the land as homely as possible.
There is the Khmer Monument, a miniature replica of the temples that dominate Angkor Wat. There is also the Bayon Monument which shows four faces in the four cardinal points of the compass. Chua Van-Hanh, a place of worship for the Vietnamese, now serves as a garden that looks out into a portion of Morong’s marvelous landscape.
But even beyond this vast property, the presence of the refugees can be felt. No one would’ve thought of Morong as somewhere to get Vietnamese dishes, but there are several eateries – its owners learning the recipes from the refugees – that serve traditional meals such as hu tieu, banh mi, and bun cha gio.
I had no idea that such a place can be found in Bataan. As I learned about these fascinating pieces of history, I found comfort in the fact that even with plans to turn the area into the next BGC, measures have been taken in order to preserve the historical significance of the place. The Chua Van-Hanh, for example, has been locally identified as a historical landmark and steps are being taken to ensure its conservation.
This is what I love about Bataan. Aside from being one of the truly varied places in the country, it doesn’t set out for progress just for the heck of it. It promotes mindfulness and stewardship, and even after all my visits, I still find it has something new to offer each time.
Take a bus from either Cubao or Pasay to Balanga. In the city, there are buses heading to Morong. Take note that the Morong-bound buses are only available until 9PM.
Bataan Technology Park
BTP Complex, Sabang, Morong, Bataan
Contact Ms. Daisy Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org
or +63 939 887 3585, +63 908 112 6002 for inquiries and tour schedules