News: Community, AFP, US come together for competition
Story by Lance Cpl. Michael Thorn
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay province, Philippines – Humanitarian civic assistance projects are taking place around the Albay Province, allowing members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces to positively impact local communities, but those projects are not the only thing strengthening the longstanding bonds and friendships.
Filipinos and Americans came together April 24 for the Kudkod-Paga, Turo-Gata and basketball games during the Magayon Festival 2014. Kudkod-Paga, Turo-Gata means “coconut milk extraction contest,” and is a contest that takes place during the annual festival to determine who can capture the most milk from a coconut in a given time.
“There’s great interaction between the Filipinos and the Americans,” said Philippine Army 1st Lt. Raymond Carbonell, communications officer for the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force, AFP. “Moments like this provide experience for both sides.”
Seven members from Exercise Balikatan joined together for the festival contest, and several service members formed basketball teams to play with local teams.
“We greatly appreciate the hospitality and friendship we have been given during our stay,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Jason Johnson, deputy commander of JCMOTF, U.S. armed forces.
The basketball game was played in the evening, once the heat of the day had begun to diminish, and the majority of community members around the Tamaoyan Elementary School were able to attend.
The festival and games made a positive and immediate impact in the relationship between the AFP, US and community members that will continue to strengthen and grow even after Balikatan 2014 has come to an end, according to Philippine Navy Capt. Ramon Renales.
“We are capturing the hearts of the people,” said Renales, the commander of the JCMOTF, AFP. “We’re building more than just schools -we’re building a friendship.”