AnthropoloGifs – 2. THE U.S. NAVY ELDERS IN THE TOWN OF DOLLARS, PHILIPPINES

The retirees of the U.S. Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Branch 127 in Nabua are holding their elections of officers. Mr. Bachiller is intently refusing his being nominated to presidency, citing his health as the main reason. But his “shipmates” tell him that they now all have disabilities. The elders of FRA Branch 127 are men from Nabua who have become American citizens and who have chosen to spend the rest of their retirement life in the Philippines, their “motherland,” after having served for many years in the U.S., their “mothership.” This agricultural town has become known as the “Town of Dollars” because of the participation of its men in the U.S. Navy since recruitment officially began in 1901, during the American occupation of the Philippines. Mr. Moreno adds, “We are old now. 83, 85, 86…,” he calls up these ages as he points to his fellow shipmates around him. He looks at his younger friends, “You’re lucky if you’re able to reach that age. You could die earlier, and we’d have to bring you to the cemetery.” Everybody laughs in response. The elders of the FRA Branch 127 are keenly aware that as the last U.S. military bases in the Philippines were closed in 1991 which ended the recruitment of Filipinos to the American Navy, they are now the last of their kind. Uncle William, the outgoing president gives Mr. Bachiller words of encouragement to help set aside what he calls “premature fear.” They should focus on serving this unique and respected community. Until they are able to gather, the elders of FRA Branch 127 treasure friendships, bid farewells to those called upon by their Supreme Commander, share common adventures in the navy, and dance in unison with their friends and “ladies” (wives), to the tune of the Bicolano folk song, “kudut-kudutan.”

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