Dinner At McDonalds With Jarheads: What Filipinos need to understand about respect

This article is written in tribute to Fallen Angel’s latest article as well as this old article by Benign0

“U.S. Marine” or “U.S. Military”, what do those words mean to most of us? For the typical Pinoy at least, those words either refer to a group of soldiers or military men who are probably some of the best in the world, able to quell rebellions and defeat terrorists at a moment’s notice or they’re those raunchy white (or sometimes black) foreigners eager to get laid in the Philippines. Unfortunately, very few Pinoys ever realize that these foreigners are really not that different from them and are also doing most of what they do to make a good living.

Well, just so you know, I was also raised by a military man myself. My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy and he taught me most of what I know about the English language as well as world history from the many books that line our household. I am willing to say, and proudly at that, that I learned more from my grandfather and our talks rather than the typical crap I got from my “formal” education.

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US MarinesAnyway, on to the point, American servicemen receive a mixed image here in the Philippines. However, views towards them are often severely polarized and somewhat even dehumanizing in its own right. They are either seen as squeaky-clean heroes trying to protect freedom and all it entails or greedy villains who sate their wanton desires on third-world countries like our own. This is especially true with U.S. marines with some thinking that they are the key to the Philippines winning the war with China and the MILF or they are openly demonized by the media because of what happened to Jeffrey Laude and a certain rape case that happened not to long ago. But then, what I’m about to recount here might give you an alternate view of them…

It was late one evening not long ago while I was busy working out at a gym. The gym was almost deserted save for me, about two others and, of course, the gym staff. Then about eight guys and two girls came pouring into the gym. They wore t-shirts labeled with “USMC”.

They quickly got to working out, lifting weights and chatting while they were at it. The subjects of their talk altered here and there with some complaining how they were being literally “ambushed” by hookers and peddlers to the somewhat vulnerable state of the Philippines thanks to its inept government. But then, they started talking literature, particularly King Arthur and that’s when I surprised them.

When one marine was asked about the three “Grail Knights” of the epic and could only remember Percival and Galahad, I answered “Bors” for him and they all looked at me. Soon enough we were talking gleefully about King Arthur then moved to American literature where we talked about Tom Sawyer as well as Edgar Allan Poe. After the gym closed, we all went to a 24-hour branch of McDonalds’ and continued our talk there.

The talk soon took a turn towards more unpleasant topics. Well I won’t bore you with details, but here are the major points of our conversation:

Actions Will Always Speak Louder Than Words

The thing is, while we struggle to deny that the Philippines is a country of slaves and prostitutes and take offense to such statements, there is no denying the fact that this is what most foreigners see when they come to the Philippines or when they see Filipinos. While a lot of us may not admit it, there are enough prostitutes and peddlers in the Philippines to make a lot of tourists assume that this is all we are. With all the Filipinos taking menial jobs outside the country, it becomes easy for many foreigners to assume that these are the kind of jobs that we prefer.

“Show don’t tell.” said one of the two female marines.

We can say all we want that Filipinos are well-educated, smart and efficient but with so few of these to see, it becomes fairly easy to assume the opposite. Indeed, the marines went on to tell me that not all marines are “killing machines” and that some of them are IT professionals, cooks or generally non-combat roles (one of the ones I was having dinner with turned out to be gay even, despite being an intimidating black dude) but it is often their more aggressive brethren that are seen and are therefore the stereotype.

However, unlike the marines who must maintain their image of being highly efficient killers, we Filipinos can change our image of being slaves and prostitutes. Unfortunately, no one in the Philippines seems to be too interesting in changing our national image. We can call ourselves anything we want and “claim” that we are a noble people but, when we do the opposite, is it any surprise that the international community continues to laugh at us?

Respect Begets Respect

After stereotyping, another big problem with typical Pinoys is their constant demand for respect. Instead of earning respect the right way (which maybe difficult but is actually more awesome), we simply jump at people criticizing us and use our “Persona Non Grata” card. If we really want respect, according to the marines, we must first learn to respect ourselves, our laws and then others.

Above all else, we must learn to respect ourselves first. While there are beggars and prostitutes all over the world, we must first learn to explore other options before taking the easy way out all the time. It’s true that life is often hard and that many of us have to make do with what is given to us, but it’s another thing entirely to fall back on easy solutions all the time.

How can we present ourselves as the “respectable” people we claim to be when the typical Pinay’s idea of a “success story” is marrying a rich foreigner for his money? How can people see us as a “noble” and “brave” people when the best thing we can do about foreign invasion is whine about it?

Your Enemies Might Not Share Your Ideals

Another of the authors we discussed was Robert Heinlein, more specifically his book Starship Troopers, which featured a Filipino protagonists. However, going beyond that point, the idea behind the book is that while pacifism is good, it might be nothing more than “wishful thinking” in some respects. Going back to Benign0’s article here, it’s quite clear that some of us, especially people like De Lima and Ferrer, don’t exactly understand that the MILF and PRC don’t share our values and ideas.

Sure, they’re people too, I know that. But it’s like some of our “pacifist” officials seem to think that the Chinese military and the terrorists of the south will somehow stop antagonizing us because they will suddenly have a change of heart and pity us. To believe in God or the goodness of humanity is not a bad thing, but expecting it to solve everything is naivete or outright madness.

Like one marine said before we left: “Be nice and smile but keep your rifle as an insurance policy.”

18 Replies to “Dinner At McDonalds With Jarheads: What Filipinos need to understand about respect”

  1. ‘jarhead’ sounds a bit demeaning, but that aside, the USMC does have a proud history, ‘from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.’ They solved the piracy problem during President Madison’s term in very short order.
    But they can’t be everywhere: in VietNam, when the Chinese brought out this huge oil rig, this quickly roused the Vietnamese to drive the intruders out. Their fighting spirit sent the Chinese a very clear message – that they were not to be messed with!
    But we seem to take the opposite tactic, that winning in an international court will somehow change things. Australia won against the Japanese whalers in an international court, but they still seem to be hell-bent on continuing the ‘scientific research’ on whales, every last one of them!
    and finally, that line about ‘respect begets respect’ – yes, spot on. It starts with oneself, and ends with the rest of the world. The key to success, as no other. That, and prayer, of course!

    1. Yeah, I know about the term. But I’ve known some marines who accept the name and label anyway. Then they call British Royal Marines “Royal Pains in the Arse”. 😀

      Interservice and international rivalry indeed…

  2. Before my father died, he said the worst thing about growing old was that other men stop seeing you as dangerous…I’ve always remember that how being dangerous was sacred, a badge of honor. You live your life by a code. An ethos, every man does. It’s your shoreline. It’s what guides you home and trust me, you’re always trying to get home.

    Your father was a reader, Churchill of course, but also Faulkner and books about Tecumseh. He loved artists who painted people with bodies that looked like boxes. I’d give him hell about that. He’d just say you gotta look harder. Look harder, your father would say, I always knew he wasn’t just talking about those boxy abstract paintings.

    There’s threats everywhere in a world that’s draped in camouflage. Your father’s grandfather gave up his life flying a B24 in World War II. He kept the liberator aloft just long enough for everyone to jump, and then he went down with the plane. That’s the blood coursing in your veins. Your father was my boss and I was his chief. What we knew about each other’s traits and our bond as operators. There’s a brotherhood between us and we depended on each other more than a family. Tecumseh said although a single twig may break, a bundle of twigs is strong.

    Our platoon was headed downrange. We had Weimy, our sniper, he grew up in the middle of the Mojave desert, most excitement he had as a kid was bowling frozen turkeys down the aisle at the grocery store.

    Ray, our comms guy, our radio man. He grew up in east LA gangland. He had a silver star for pulling a wounded teammate out of a freight.

    Sonny, he was made of granite, this guy didn’t even do push ups because he was afraid his chest was gonna get too big.

    Ajay joined the teams late in his 30’s. He had been a Muay Thai fighter all his life, before that he grew up dirt poor in Trinidad.

    Mikey had 20 years in the teams, as humble as he was. You never even know him. He kept a picture of his wife in his helmet, and a lock of her hair in his pocket, quiet as the breeze.

    And finally, senior chief Miller. Couldn’t really tell you much about him other than I’d rather take a knife to a gun fight than have to be interrogated by him.

    That last night at home you think about how you coulda been a better dad, a better husband, that bedtime story you shoulda read or that anniversary you forgot. You don’t expect your family to understand what your doing, You just hope they accept it. When you get home, you hope you can pickup right where you left off.

    War is a country of will, there’s no room for sympathy. If you’re not willing to give up everything…You’ve already lost.

    Your father was a good man. Growing up without him is going be hard. It’s going to hurt. You’ll feel alone, out to sea with no shore in sight. You’ll wonder why me, why him. Remember you have warrior’s blood in your veins, the code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect. Put your pain in a box. Lock it down, like those people in the paintings your father liked. We are men made up of boxes, chambers of loss, triumph, of hurt and hope and love. No one is stronger or more dangerous than a man who can harness his emotions, his past. Use it as fuel, as ammunition, as ink to write the most important letter of YOUR life. Before your father died, he asked me to give you this poem by Tecumseh, I told him I’d fold it into a paper airplane, and in a way…I guess that’s what I’m doing, sailing it from him to you.

    So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

    Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

    When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

    When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

    1. My grandfather’s blood, the one I speak of in the article, does NOT run in my veins. He and I are not bound by blood but we are family nonetheless. He is a warrior with a warrior’s heart and was old enough to have seen the conquest of Iwo Jima all those many years ago. He lives to this very day, a shadow of the great man he once was, but is now frail and weak.

      I am NOT a warrior. I have always seen myself as more of a philosopher. A lover, keeper and giver of knowledge. I remember the days when he was still strong, when his arms could bear up my small form.

      Once, I lived in a dark cave. I knew there were others with me but I never saw them clearly. I also saw a light beyond, shimmering, mysterious and unknowable.

      Everyone feared that light, even my father. Like all the others, he didn’t even want to speak of it. My mother probably knew what the light was but she rarely spoke of it. My grandfather didn’t come from the cave we lived in however. He lived somewhere beyond it.

      And when I asked to see what the light was, he carried me on his shoulders so that I might see it for myself. And lo and behold, I witnessed the glory of the sun.

      It was beautiful beyond words. I wept at the sight of it both from joy and pain because it was both so bright and warm. But it was all worth it because the sun’s beauty and warmth touched my very soul in a way I could not begin to understand.

      I rushed back to the cave to bring my friends with me. I wanted to show them the beauty of the sun but they were afraid. Not just of the sun, but me as well. They thought I had gone mad from seeing the sun.

      And then I saw something else. Around each of the people in the cave was a demon that covered their eyes and whispered to them comforting lies. The demons told them again and again about the evils of the sun and that the dark was always better.

      To this day, I work to do what my grandfather had done for me. To bring others into the light, to show them the glory of the sun and shed the demons that blind them. It is all I can do as a philosopher, for I am no warrior.

  3. The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.

  4. We have too many prostitutes and beggars; because , we have too may Squatters in Metro Manila.
    Squatting on private properties, were made legal. So, Squatters multiplied like rabbits. These people have no decent jobs. To survive, they have to become: prostitutes; criminals; drug peddlers; etc…

    As long Prostitues are our “tourist attraction”, the Philippines will never have respect. As long as our OFW, are “servants of the world”, we will be looked down by other countries. I do not look down on these OFWs. Serving people is an honest way to earn a living…they are better than those stinking/ thieving politicians. However, other countries, are not sympathetic enough to our OFWs.

    I, myself is an OFW.

  5. Respect is earned, not given.

    If most Filipinos fail to understand this, it’ll only make them arrogant bastards.

    We are a brave people. History has already proven that. But it can only go so far with an incompetent leadership at the helm. As Talleyrand said, “I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.”

    So far, a bunch of sheep are leading us.

    1. Oh, stop blaming everything on your leaders. Yes, they’re idiots, crooks and thieves. If you didn’t vote for them, then ignore them. As the Chinese say: the sky is high and the emperor is far away, and that’s very true in the Philippines. The reach of the state barely extends outside of Metro Manila; out in the provinces, the state is weak or nonexistent.

      Unfortunately, beyond the big smoke, the country is ruled by the common Filipino. He makes up his own rules. And it turns out he’s no smarter, nicer, or more hardworking than the average politician.

  6. Theh ‘Jar -heads’ THINK they are tough, and TOGETHER THEY ARE !!!! But I will tell,When I was about 12 yrs. old a future Marine sucker punched me,I was half his size and probably still am, I got him on the ground and blackened his eyes so badly he claimed he ‘fell down the stairs’.I BEST THE FUCK out of that scumbag.Frankie was his name. Flash forward 10 yrs. and ‘Frankie’ had just gotten out of ‘boot camp MARINE TRAINING school’ with flying colors and he walked past my house while I was sitting on the stoop.NO DOUBT he remebered that beating he begged me for, but did he do or say anything when he came back 10 yrs. later looking for revenge? NO HE SURE FUCKING DID NOT !!!!
    I would have kicked his ass again or died trying.

    The point being, these jar-heads are either tough or not, before they enter the Marines.Sure they get training but it doesn’t matter:IF YOUR A PUSSY AT HEART, YOU ALWAYS WILL BE.No amount of training takes a pussy and turns him into a Man.
    Don’t be intimidated,EVER…its is the surest way to get attacked.

      1. AND that is a brilliant observation,.BTW I NEVER SAID I WAS A TOUGH GUY, but I did kick the shit of out Frankie Mc…,no names. ….and I’d do it again, like I said or die trying.You Jet ,I am a MAN…and I don’t let people push me round.I have taken beatings in my life time that would have killed other less fortunates,BUT I stuck up for myself.MAYBE you think I am raggin on the USA Marines,which I am not.

      2. it also happens to be the GHT,God’s Honest Truth.it happened,the 1t incident,when I was in 6th grade.so I was actually 10 or 11 yrs old…and used to getting beat up by my older brothers.

      3. @jet…..you’ve been through ‘Camp LeJune’ have you? The USA Marines are a well trained fighting force,sure.I am one MAN.

  7. Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airman or just plain tourists… Its all food for thought. Some of you may feel the need to dehumanize or demoralize the Marines to make yourselves feel better but I don’t think that was the point of the article. The Marines in the Gym could have been from any background. Why is it so hard for people to understand that US Military Servicemen are just everyday people? We (foreigners) all see the same things here. The country is in a shit state but when WE say it, out comes the attacks. If you don’t like the way “foreigners” view your country then, as the Marine said, “Show don’t tell.”

    1. Again, a common and frustrating problem.

      To further her point, she said:

      “You can ALWAYS say ‘I’m a good marksman’. But remember, ANYONE can say that. It’s another matter entirely to PROVE that.”

    2. they,the Marines,if they could find a decent job at home, probably/might not be in the Military. The UCMJ is no joke,the Uniformed Code of Military Justice? no thanks.

  8. US military is a racket in the service of Chiquita Bananas, Haliburton, Chevron, Exon, US crony capitalism. To think so otherwise would make you as deluded as most Yanks. Philippines must be the biggest US sycophant, even worse than the Europeans. Must be the only country sucking up to the biggest terrorist and fraud on earth, the US Idiocracy….hey have you forgotten your own history, or did that US of A write it for you???

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