Philippine Enlistment Program Sailors Reflect on Heritage

Story Number: NNS090301-05Release Date: 3/1/2009 8:26:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rialyn Rodrigo, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Filipinos have been serving in the U.S. Navy since 1901 when President William McKinley's executive order allowed 500 Filipinos to enlist. Their specific recruitment, however, wasn't formalized until 1947 at Subic Bay, Philippines, under the U.S.-Philippine Military Bases Agreement.

The agreement allowed Filipinos to enlist through the U.S. Navy Philippine Enlistment Program (PEP) as foreign nationals without the requirement of U.S. immigrant credentials.

"I actually knew about [PEP] since I was young," said Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Eduardo Castro, who enlisted Oct. 5, 1981. "I sent two applications. The first one was after I graduated from high school, but I was not lucky enough to be accepted. I submitted the second one during college. There were 150 applicants; four people passed the test, but only three of us passed the interview."

Castro said Filipinos tried to join the Navy because there were few good job opportunities in the Philippines, and getting accepted changed his life.

Chief Storekeeper (SW/AW) Geoffrey Ventura, also assigned to VRC-30 and a native of Baguio City, Philippines, said the Navy sent out calling cards for recruiting, and receiving one was like having a winning lottery ticket. Like Castro, Ventura took the test along with 300 other applicants, but only Ventura was accepted.

"I came from a family with a military background, so that's what motivated me to join, and I knew it would be good for me as well," said Ventura, who joined Aug. 22, 1989. "Actually I didn't come from a rich family in the Philippines. You may have a good profession (in the Philippines), but the money to provide for a family was not enough."

After they were notified of their acceptance, Castro and Ventura left the Philippines for Recruit Training Center San Diego with their uniforms, a recruit haircut and $20.

"Coming from a tropical country, arriving in the U.S. during December was really cold; it was a shock for me," said Castro. "The environment, the people and the food are so different. Adjusting was a challenge, but I was able to do it."

As VRC-30 senior enlisted advisor, Castro contributes to the command's diversity, showing them a different perspective on how to handle day-to-day business.

"Coming from Philippines, a third world country, poor people and low income, it gave us (Filipinos] the insight to appreciate the things that the Navy has to offer, which are usually being taken for granted by local born U.S. citizens," said Castro.

"We are good at budgeting our resources and good at academics which we used as a tool to help the command and our Sailors. We have provided the necessary enlisted leadership that is needed.

"We have outstanding work ethic which resulted in command success in their operations and mission completion."

According to the Military Personnel Center, more than 19,000 Filipinos signed up in 1989, but when the U.S.-Philippine Military Bases Agreement expired in 1992, the recruitment program also ended. Most Subic Bay Sailors are now retired or serving as senior leaders like Castro and Ventura.

"I really feel sad sometimes because we are a dying breed," said Ventura. "Subic Bay has been the golden melting pot, and I'm proud to say that, because they did not just recruit high school graduates but they recruited Sailors with degrees or with college backgrounds."

"The Navy is a diverse community," said Castro, native of San Quintin Pangasinan, Philippines. "Filipinos make up one aspect of the Navy's many cultures and being in a position of leadership gives a better picture of how Filipinos contribute to the success of the mission."

Castro added that his biggest life accomplishment was joining the Navy.

"I believe in the saying, 'the United States of America is the land of opportunity,'" said Castro. "The Navy gave me everything that I have."

Ventura said he's thankful of the opportunities the Navy provided him, but he never took it for granted.

"To be successful in the Navy, everything is hard work," said Ventura. "It depends on the person, whether they accept this responsibility. If you can learn to value hard work, then you will be successful in life.

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