While supporting Exercise Balikatan 2012 in Crow Valley, Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. forces reached out to the local community of Santa Juliana in several ways.
Command chaplains U.S. Navy Lts. Gary W. Foshee, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, Marine Corps Base Hawaii; Kevin S. Wilkinson, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Marine Division; and Steven Mayfield, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, organized a series of events to build community relations with locals while the AFP and U.S. forces fostered relationships through bilateral training, April 16-27.
“It’s been a great honor to work side by side with the villagers and the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Foshee said. “The local villagers are descendants from the Aeta Tribe, one of the original indigenous tribes of the Philippines.”
Together with local villagers, AFP and U.S. service members repaired two water pumps, hung tire swings in common areas, renovated the local schoolhouse and donated books and school supplies to children in need.
A worship service was held in the community where approximately 100 AFP service members and villagers came to sing, listen to scripture and be baptized, if desired. After the service, a community meal was shared and a health class was given on proper hygiene techniques, such as hand washing and treatment of wounds, from U.S. Navy medical personnel.
“I look forward to when the Americans come each year,” said Christiana Carnate, 13, of the village. “It brings everybody together and makes people happy. It’s cool to see them with (AFP service members). I feel proud to be a part of this, and I’m glad they spend time with us.”
Throughout the week, U.S. Marines and sailors played basketball games with different AFP teams. The Filipino teams looked professional in matching jerseys, and their skills impressed onlookers, while the competitive environment helped strengthen the bond between service members of both forces.
“This experience boosted everyone’s morale,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Michael D. Anderson, supply officer, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “It’s awesome to know that sports, such as basketball, can bring groups (from different cultures) together. I personally enjoyed myself and would encourage others to make a positive impact in the community. This was a great opportunity for all military members involved.”
After each event, hugs, handshakes and high fives were exchanged between the groups and smiles on the faces of those involved reflected the bond that had formed.
“I’m glad I got to be a part of the community relations here,” said U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Ferdinand A. Tapaoan, a Philippine native and medical logistics specialist with Medical Logistics Platoon, Combat Logistics Regiment 35. “We’re sharing our blessings with them, and they get to see that we’re lending a hand. Some of the children here have never seen (U.S. service members) and to watch us work hand-in-hand with their military (illustrates the Philippine-U.S. partnership).”