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Understanding Filipino Soldiers

Updated on March 13, 2016

Filipino Soldiers during Colonial Periods

Filipino Soldiers are known for their bravery and combat skills. History defined Filipino soldiers to be excellent and fearsome warriors. The nature of the warrior tradition can be traced back at the time before colonizers invaded the Philippine Archipelago. Long before Magellan discovered the archipelago there were rival tribes scattered around the islands. There are times that these tribes would engage into tribal wars to settle disputes. Philippine culture has always been conservative but hospitable and this has influenced the warrior culture of all tribes. Ferdinand Magellan a Portuguese who served under the Spanish crown died in battle at the hands of early Filipino warriors under the command of Lapu Lapu.

Ferdinand Magellan and several of his men were equipped with modern weaponry. However, they were outmatched in combat skills and tactics which led to their deaths. Spain finally took control of the Philippines with the help of local tribes that became their ally. Without any assistance from native allies, Spain would not have been able to colonize the Philippine Archipelago. The Spanish Rulers recognized the significance of Filipino soldiers they hired many of them to form part of their armed forces during their occupation of the Philippines.

During the American occupation Filipino soldiers particularly the Philippine Scouts were regarded to be one of the best Military Units in the world, General MacArthur considers them as his best soldiers. They were known to be outstanding shots. Their qualities were put into action when they defended Bataan during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. They caused the delay of the timetable of the Japanese Imperial Army’s invasion, allowing the Allies in the Pacific to regroup and consolidate their forces. Were it not for the order to surrender they would have fought to the last man. Those who refused to surrender fought guerrilla warfare and were a constant threat to the occupying forces, the Japanese.

Significance in Major Wars and Conflicts

Filipino Soldiers were instrumental in the success of the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. After the Second World War Filipino Soldiers contributed to international conflicts like during the outbreak of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Peacekeeping Missions in the Middle East, Peace Keeping Missions in the East Timor, and to the recent war on terrorism.

During the Korean War Filipino Soldiers were regarded as the most persistent in holding the line and in mounting their offensives. They were outnumbered but never outmatched. What made them extraordinary is their character towards their identity as soldiers. This is where culture influences the motivation of every soldier in the field. They were not used to cold weather and they lacked winter jackets to keep them warm. But they did not complain and continued to endure the cold. They fought so well that they were able to liquidate waves after waves of enemy attacks.

While there were soldiers assigned overseas to fulfil the Nations commitment to the UN, there are local insurgencies that Filipino soldiers face on a daily basis. The reason for the uprising of local insurgents is political. Nevertheless, Filipino soldiers are bound to protect the state. Insurgency in the Philippines has been in existence for decades, this provided Filipino soldiers with unparalleled combat experience. They are facing rebels that are well armed, well financed, and tough they are also experts in jungle warfare.

Training and Organization

The organization and training pattern of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is similar to that of the United States. Training manuals in basic soldiery were patterned with that of the United States. The difference is in the application of what the soldiers learn in boot camp. The cultural influence has also made some impact in the way Filipino soldiers are trained. During basic training the rigidity of the physical and mental aspect is almost intolerable that only a few make it successfully.

The Philippine Army is a majority in the AFP. This is where most of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is usually selected. It can be opined that the leadership in the AFP is not balanced when it comes to administering the three branches of service the Army, Navy and Air Force. It is the authors’ opinion that there should be a Chief of Staff in every branch of service, in order to have fair administration in the three branch of service.

The Philippine Army is organized primarily to conduct land based military operations. They also have an elite unit known as Scout Rangers, they specialize in guerrilla warfare and they usually operate deep in the jungles of the archipelago.

The Philippine Navy is supposed to be dominant since the archipelago is surrounded by huge bodies of water. The Navy is one of the least in terms of equipment and weaponry to perform the tasks it was intended to operate. Although they lacked combat ships to engage in surface to surface and surface to air defense, they have special or elite units that are effective in counter terrorism campaigns. They have the Philippine Marines and within the Philippine Marines they train Elite force Recon and Scout Snipers. The marines are usually assigned in the warzone down South, they are considered as battle hardened soldiers under the Philippine Navy. The marines are also considered as the most disciplined in the AFP. The Navy also has a Special Warfare Group (SWAG). They are organized to perform covert and special operations. Their operational capability is similar to that of the US Navy Seals.

The Philippine Air force was once considered as the most advance in the South East Asia. Upon the assumption of former President Corazon Aquino to power maintenance and development of the Air Force was neglected. At present the Air force is being upgraded in order for the Philippines to have a credible defense posture, along with the Navy. The development being included is the Air Forces’ capability in conducting rescue and relief operations.

Passion for Duty

Although with limited equipment, Filipino soldiers adapt to the demands of the circumstances they are facing. In Golan, where United Nations stationed troops to prevent clashes between Israel and Syria, the UN outposts in the Syrian side of the border were besieged by Syrian Rebels. The Fijians holding one of the strongholds surrendered their weapons to the rebels because they were ordered by the Indian commander. Filipino soldiers holding two strongholds were ordered to do the same thing. They refused to obey the order, they defended their post until they were low on ammunition and pulled back to a safer post. Their actions manifested that they are doing their duties as soldiers should. And that is, your weapon is a part of you if you lose it by voluntarily giving it up then there is no point in wearing your uniform.

The best attribute of a Filipino soldier is their passionate dedication in performing their duty. Their indoctrination is focused on humility, on self denial, so that they will be able to fully appreciate the sovereignty and peace they are trained to protect.

Political interference

Filipino Soldiers are one of the best fighting units around the world. Domestically, however, it cannot be denied that in terms of promotion and administration there is a political interference which makes the AFP as an institution unstable.

This kind of predicament will only change if the leadership of the Armed Forces is given a freehand in deciding for the succession of their future leaders. Civilians have a different view of the military as compared to those who are in the service. As for Political leaders, their interest is on how strong their influence is on the military. On the other hand the AFPs' interest should be focused on how well they are able to protect the country.


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