Voice of America Relay Station at Tinang in the Philippines

The first three VOA Voice of America relay stations in the Philippine Islands were installed consecutively as follows: Country area near Manila, followed by Malolos, and then Poro.  The fourth VOA relay station in this sequence in the Philippines is the large and powerful station that is located at Tinang, some 50 miles north of the national capital, Manila, on the main island of Luzon.  All aspects of construction for the new Tinang station were collectively identified as Project Bamboo.  

In March 1965, VOA announced that work had begun at Tinang in the Philippines for a huge new shortwave station that was planned to contain 13 transmitters and 39 antenna systems.  When fully operational, the new VOA Tinang would become the only VOA shortwave station in the Philippines, and thus the usage of Poro and Malolos would be discontinued. 

In the local Tagalog language, the name Barangay Tinang would indicate a small and probably unimportant village, named in honor of a girl called Tina.  In the Tagalog language, the name Tina is a diminutive and friendly form of a girl’s name, Tina, indicating affection and friendship. 

Preparatory work on the large and highly significant VOA property at Tinang in the Philippines, measuring approximately 3½ square miles, began in 1966, and plans were laid for the preliminary arrival of a mobile shortwave station that was specially built in the United States for installation at Tinang.  The station was built to use incoming commercial electrical power, though they also utilize their own emergency generators which can maintain some of the transmitters on air at a lower power level.

That mobile VOA relay station was identified as Transportable 2, and it was assembled by the Gates company in Quincy Illinois with three shortwave transmitters rated at 50 kW each.  Test broadcasts from Transportable 2 at Tinang began in May 1968, and the three units were taken into full service half a year later, in November (1968).  These three transmitters were identified in VOA terminology in their scheduling bulletins under the abbreviation PHX.

In the meantime, work continued for the installation at Tinang of ten high powered 250 kW transmitters which were built by the Hughes Aircraft Company in Los Angeles California.  The first of these new units was activated on May 4, 1969.  Two months later on July 1 (1969), the first three of these mega-transmitters were officially taken into regular service, and the usage of VOA Malolos was ended. 

The regular high powered transmitters at Tinang are identified in VOA terminology as PHT.  They were noted on air quite early in both New Zealand and Australia.  Thirteen years later (1982), two additional transmitters at 250 kW each, from the Brown Boveri Company in Switzerland, were installed at the Tinang VOA relay station.

VOA relay station at Tinang, Philippines (1984). Photo: Lev Lytovchenko’s flickr account

On June 9, 1991, the nearby volcanic Mt. Pinatubo exploded, and it was described as the second largest volcanic upheaval for the entire century.  The massive pyroclastic upheaval sent 10 billion tons of ash, debris and gas 28 miles high into the sky, the effects of which were felt worldwide.  Volcanic ash deposits in the valleys around Pinatubo were more than 600 feet deep, and satellites tracked the ash cloud around the globe several times.

Due to the horrendous effects from the super-explosion from Mt Pinatubo, VOA Tinang was shut down temporarily; no commercial electricity coming in, and they were unable to use their own generators due to the ash downfall.  However, the shortwave service from VOA Poro was not affected, and neither was the shortwave programming from the prominent Christian Gospel station FEBC, the Far Eastern Broadcasting Company. 

However 8 years later, VOA Poro was finally closed, leaving only VOA Tinang still on the air, and it remains on the air to this day, now with the use of 9 transmitters at 250 kW each.

The VOA receiver station in the Philippines was installed on 80 acres of land in the Camp John Hay Air Base at Baguio, 166 miles north of Metro-Manila.  This location was established as an American army base in 1903. 

VOA Tinang in 2011. Photos: Lev Lytovchenko’s flickr account

On December 8, 1941, Camp John Hay was bombed by the Japanese Air Force; and three weeks later it was taken over by the Japanese army.  However the American return invasion reclaimed  the encampment in April 1945.   

The VOA receiver station was installed at Camp John Hay in 1964 at what had formerly been a tourist location, with four receiving antennas.  A total of five program circuits were available, allowing the simultaneous processing of 25 programs on relay from the United States. 

In 1991 satellite relays from the VOA studios in Washington DC replaced the usage of shortwave communication as a program feed and the shortwave receiver station was then turned over to the Philippine government for development as a Philippine tourist location. 

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of May 22, 2022

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