|LS2 Marty Olayvar and LS3 Joseph Aceron greet Vice President Jejomar Binay at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.
WASHINGTON D.C. - Two sailors asked visiting Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay what he thought about reopening American military bases in the country – barred by the Philippine Constitution – but a question that Filipinos in the United States appear to be asking more frequently.
“I think establishing a military base would really benefit both countries and Asia as well,” opined US Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Marty Olayvar.
Olayvar, president of the Filipino American Association of Bethesda (FAAB), posed to question to Binay at a forum organized by the Philippine Embassy last month.
The FAAB is one the most active Fil-Am organizations in Maryland, composed mainly of young US Navy officers and enlisted personnel assigned to the sprawling military medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland.
There are about 65,000 immigrants now serving with the US armed forces – about 23 percent of them from the Philippines – and most are with the US Navy.
Filipinos have been serving with the US Navy since 1901. In 1915, Telesforo Trinidad of Imus, Cavite became the 1st Filipino in the US Navy to earn the coveted Congressional Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life to save fellow sailors following a boiler room explosion aboard the cruiser USS San Diego.
Thousands of Filipinos have since served with the US Navy and it's often become a generational bridge to the Navy’s latest recruits.
Commander Leopoldo Albea Jr. is skipper of the guided-missile Burke-class destroyer USS Wayne Meyer. His father, a native of Polangui, Albay, worked his way up the ranks from a US Navy steward to Command Master Chief by the time he retired in 1992, completing 28 years of service.
Albea, who was born in the US, was at the helm of the USS Meyer when it sailed into Philippine waters last February. At least 3 current US Navy Rear-Admirals have Filipino roots.
Olayvar told the Manila Mail it is always a proud moment when Filipinos and Fil-Ams in the US Navy get to perform part of their duties in the Philippines. “It would be great to be home to serve both countries at the same time,” he admitted.
He was born in Cebu, just like his mother; his father hails from Davao. He was only 11 years old when the family moved to Ohio in 1992.
The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 to close the US Subic Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales. The 1986 Constitution specifically prohibits the permanent posting of foreign troops in the Philippines. But after the 9/11 terror attack, the Philippines allowed US Special Operations troops to help hunt down the Abu Sayyaf, a local Al-Qaeda affiliate, in Sulu, Basilan and Mindanao.
With recent tensions in the disputed isles of the South China Sea, the Philippines has sought increased US military presence to counter China’s growing belligerence in the region.
Logistics Specialist Joseph Aceron, FAAB secretary, said he also welcomed being deployed to the Philippines where his father was a vice mayor who was killed under the tumultuous Marcos regime.
“I’m still a Filipino working on my American citizenship,” he revealed. He’s lived in New York since 1982 and joined the US Navy only 8 months ago.
“It was short term for me but now I’m thinking of staying a little longer,” Aceron said.
Commenting on the recent flare-up between the Philippines and China, he said he wasn’t surprised by China’s behavior there. “They’re pretty much, in my opinion, bullies. They bully the Taiwanese and now they’re picking on the Philippines.”