Wednesday, September 8, 2010

‘Filipino mafia’ on US warship

Manila Bulletin, Monday, September 6, 2010,

Aboard the United States’ 100,000-ton nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier, USS George Washington which is now on
a four-day port visit in Manila, is a “Filipino mafia.”

This, in light banter, is how Filipino sailors described
their bond as part of the 5,000 crew of what is known as
one of the world’s largest warships dubbed “City at Sea.”

Capt. David “Too Tall” Lausman, USS GW commanding officer,
told a group of reporters given a tour of the ship as it
docked at Manila Bay their visit also serves as a homecoming
for its Filipino sailors, who comprise about 30 percent of
the crewmembers.

The USS George Washington and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5
(CVW 5) along with guided-missile destroyers, USS John S
McCain (DDG 56) and USS McCampbell (DDG 85), arrived before
dawn last Saturday near Corregidor island where she was met
by the Philippine Navy ship, BRP Leopoldo Regis (PG 847) and
escorted her to the vicinity of the SM Mall of Asia (MoA).

This is the warship’s second port call to Manila, the last
being in August, 2009, when its sailors also took the time
to enjoy Philippine culture.

“As you know from last year, about 30 percent of the crew
have direct ties to the Philippines either through aunts,
uncles, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, great uncles,
great grandmothers, etc., and this is really a homecoming
of families and cultures because they are waiting to come
back to their homes as well,” Lausman said.

He noted that during their last port call in Manila, “there
was a lot of unique family reunions” and there are some
again this year.

“I know there’s a lot of families that’s going to be welcomed
aboard for a personal tour while we’re on port and some of
them (sailors) are going on leave,” said Lausman, even
recounting that some of the returning Filipino sailors talked
about a special family gathering or reunion in their neighborhoods.

Asked how he would rate the Filipino sailors’ performance on
the ship, Lausman quickly responded,

“I don’t need to say anything, this is a great warship, they
did it.” He added, “This is great. I’m very proud to be their

Meanwhile, the Filipino sailors expressed their excitement in
coming home to the country as they also shared their life on
the ship and how they anxiously await their chance to see or
visit their families, relatives, and friends even for t a brief time.

“I am glad that I get this opportunity to visit my family and
friends,” said Olongapo-born Aviation Ordnance Airman Steven
Hoffman of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 28.

“It has been six years since I was in the Philippines, so it
would be nice to see how things have changed and to talk with
my family about the things I have done in the US Navy,” he said.

For Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician Carlo Roberto
Toledo, a port visit to Manila is the chance of a lifetime for
sailors who are from the Philippines.

With the big number of Filipino and Filipino-American sailors
on board the giant warship, some of those interviewed laughingly
said there is, in fact, what some of the crewmembers from other
nations tagged as “Filipino mafia” not for anything else, but
because of the strong brotherhood that exists among them.

Aviation Ordnance expert Gza Ione Larican, a petite lass from
Isabela province, said Filipino sailors on board USS George
Washington “stick together, that is why they call us “Filipino

“It doesn’t matter if someone says something bad or good, we
just stick together,” Larican said, adding while they support
one another, they also blend with fellow sailors of other

She also described how Filipino sailors show their friendliness
as they say hi to everyone they see or meet along the hallway
and resiliency as they just go on even in some instances they
experience a bit of discrimination.

“We always try to be happy,” she said.

But aside from the Filipino sailors, the rest of the crewmembers
of the warship, according to Lausman, are also excited to come
to Manila, having fully enjoyed their first visit last year.

He said the first area of interest of the sailors is a trip to
the SM Mall of Asia, the fourth largest shopping mall in the world.

“They are ready to go shop, shop, shop and eat. Eat. eat. And
hey enjoyed that last year, and I think some of the shop owners
are waiting for them to return as well,” said Lausman.

The sailors will also get the chance to tour Corregidor, go
scuba diving, among others.

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