The myth of the Filipino Mafia

Anyone who has ever served in the Navy has heard the term “Filipino Mafia” at least once in their career. So what is this mafia really? Well the answer to that question, depends on who you ask.  Some may say:

It’s a bunch of Filipino Chiefs and Master Chiefs who stick to themselves, and hook each other up.

Oh, It’s supply/engineering department. Those dudes only look out for each other.

It’s those CS’s that run the galley and make Chief in 5 years.

Those brown, Asian-ish looking people who sit together on the messdecks and don’t share their lumpia with anyone.


What do all of those statements have in common? The perception of a secret society of Asians providing unfair favors and advantages to one another. In fact the amazingly legit resource, “Urban Dictionary” describes the term as:

Filipino Mafia is a workplace setting, predominantly supervised by Filipinos, who treat Filipinos preferentially.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I completely blame those who have come into contact with this “mafia”  for having such a perception. Anyone walking down the halls of a ship can spot a couple of Filipinos chatting away in hushed whispers in a language that sounds akin to that of the “Ewoks” from Star Wars. Those who are non-Filipinos that happen to unwittingly approach said group will be met with one of the following reactions:

  1. Immediate stone-cold silence.
  2. Like turning on the lights in a roach infested kitchen, they scurry away, leaving you questioning your sanity as to whether they were even there in the first place.
  3. Continuation of Tagalog conversation now with the addition of furtive glances and laughter (If you ever get the feeling that some people might be talking about you, then I promise you, they are).

If you ask any Filipino serving in the military about this phenomenon you will get a genuinely astonished look on their face, followed by something along the lines of,

Man, I don’t know what you are talking about…….?!


So, where is the disconnect? Is there really a Mafia, or not? Are Filipino’s just that sheisty after all?  Well as a Filipina and “member” of this Mafia, I can explain.

It’s not personal, nor is it even a purposeful act of discriminating against others. It is an aspect of our culture, which unless you grew up in a Pinoy (Filipino) household or had Filipino friends yourself, you cannot really ever understand. So here I am to fill you in:

Blood is the glue that bonds us

Growing up, I was raised in many different countries. I didn’t even learn to write in English until I was 8. In our household, English, Spanish and Portuguese were regularly spoken, however the cultural values shared by us were 100% Filipino.

The adults spoke Tagalog among themselves and we all ate traditional Filipino foods. Anyone who ever gets to visit the Philippines, especially Manila, can say that the country is heavily influenced by American culture, however it is still vastly different from the culture of America itself. One big example is the concept of family. In a stereotypical American house-hold, you have a Mom, Dad, and maybe a sister or brother living as one unit. That’s it.

You may visit Grandma and Grandpa a couple times a year, and you may even get to see some of your cousins at the big Thanksgiving reunion, but for the most part you don’t necessarily live close by or within the same state. This concept is foreign to Filipinos.

Much like many Hispanic families (The Philippines was colonized by Spain for over 400 years and so share many many similarities) we have large extended families and the “worth” of a sibling and cousin can almost be interchangeable between family members.

It’s very rare to find a Filipino family that doesn’t have at least 2 generations living under the same roof.  There was even a time when I lived with 8 of my cousins at once and we were all treated like brother and sister (I was the middle-kid, aka weirdo). I was raised by my Aunts, Grandmother, Uncles and even older Cousins.

Bitches still dig my haircut

The needs of the family is placed above our own needs

This concept places the importance of ensuring the well being of the family as opposed to the individual. In typical American families, children pursue their careers based around their own personal ambitions and desires. Their success is measured in their personal achievements. In Filipino families, children pursue the type of careers that provide the most stability and consistent source of income for their entire family.

This is why the stereotypical image of Filipinos working overseas is that of Nurses, or Engineers, or in my case, Military. Being in the Navy was a way for the Filipino man/woman to provide a steady source of income to his family, as well as medical benefits and a chance to be naturalized in the United States. This is also why a majority of Filipino workers (OFW) work overseas and provide for their families back in the Philippines.

Our community IS our family

Part of the aspect of Filipino culture that gets most misinterpreted as favoritism is that of Kabayan which translates into “Countryman”. Before enlisting into the Navy, I probably could have counted how many other Filipinos I had met within the US with my right hand. Once I actually got into the Navy, that changed almost overnight. During boot-camp I made friends with a girl in my division who was a Filipina. We were both very homesick, and bonded through our shared culture and stories about how we used to both get smacked for “answering back” with chinelas.

Once I got to my first training school in San Diego, I made another set of friends who were Filipino as well. We didn’t necessarily stick together, in fact we were all part of different “social circles”, however we did make regular trips to the holy grail of Pinoy food, Jollibee in National City, often. Food is an important aspect of Pinoy culture and we saw it as a way to reconnect with our heritage. If you ever go to a  Filipino party not only will you waddle out of there from the amount of food eaten, but you’ll probably be bringing at least 2 plates home with you.

It’s that serious

When I arrived to my first ship I realized there were a large number of Filipinos working on board. We all came from many different backgrounds. Some joined just to gain their green cards, other higher ranking members had joined back when the US used to be based out of Subic Bay.

Did I get special treatment for being a Filipina? Not really–at least not in a tangible way. After all, I did not get the memo before enlisting and had made the mistake of working in a non-engineering/non-logistics field (I am being sarcastic, sort of). The Navy is one of the most equal-opportunity  working environments. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it genuinely favors merit and hard work, over networking or race.

Granted, I was able to get certain repair parts a lot faster for our broken gear than other divisions. But that had more to do with my genuine, sometimes desperate, attempts to build a rapport with different people on the boat. After all, we ate, slept and worked together so I saw them all as family–even the ones that I would have drowned in the river if they had been my children.

So, next time you see your friendly neighborhood Filipino, strike up a conversation by just saying hello. Don’t be intimidated by our culture. We are not exclusionary in anyway, in fact, we take delight in your god-awful attempts to say hello in Tagalog. Just don’t over do it or else some Pinoys may think you are attempting to mock their accents.  That’s all it takes. There really is no mystery.



  1. I don’t think the term has much meaning any more. When I enlisted in the 1970s, it did. It’s changed for two reasons. 1) Then, most were born and raised in the PI, with fewer having connections to the US before enlisting. Now, most are 2nd and 3rd generation Americans, with a smaller percentage being native-born Filipinos. 2) Until the ’70s, Filipinos were restricted to very few ratings (jobs) and most worked in the Galley.

    So they had a separate national identity to start with, and then- due to restrictions- had a distinct identity within the Navy.

    I never really liked the choice of the word “Mafia” since that brotherhood was a positive force in the Navy (friends told me they’d married into it), and Filipino cultural influence in the Navy was strong.


    • HI and thanks for the comment! You are absolutely. Today unfortunately, when you hear the Mafia term it is always attached to some form of negative connotation. While I was on a boat out of Japan, we had a “mafia” to an extent, but the ship was also so diverse that I feel the only one’s who ever really referred to us as Mafia were the kind of people who just ostracized themselves in general.


  2. Great article! You hit almost all the spots, most especially the food and having a ‘togo’ before you leave a Pinoy household. Definitely going to share this to my ‘family’ here in Maryland area. This article made me smile and made me proud to be Pinoy! Rah!


    • Thanks Im glad you like it. The worst thing you could ever say when you are offered leftovers is “no, thanks”!


      • When you are offered leftovers to go and you said ‘no’ is like saying I did not like your food. For courtesy, please say ‘YES’. 🙂


    • HI! To answer your question. I would have to say to both but in varying degrees. I was born in the US and serve my country as an American citizen. I returned to the US at 18 and before that had always dreamed of living in the USA. However as for allegiance to the community, I dont even think I could use that is the right word to describe it. Filipino heritage is in my blood and was how I was raised. I am actually 3rd generation and mixed race so most people dont even realize that I am one of them. I certainly am trying to reconnect with my heritage but that definitely doesnt dimish my allegiance to ‘Merica!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like your Article and I am a Disabled Vietnam Veteran a Marine and as such I thank you for your service,But the is no such place as,”,Merica” That would be like me calling the Philippines the,”ppines”I live here in the Philippines by choice and am respectful of your Country.


    • I can probably answer that for her, we are Filipino heritage but we are proud Americans and if needed always ready to die for the U.S.A. Have a nice day Shipmate.!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • John are you really asking our allegiance??? We all voluntarily signed that dotted line…if you’re in the military , you should know what it means…right????? I WILL GIVE MY LIFE FOR THIS COUNTRY!!! Im proudly serving the United States Navy for 16 years and for you to ask for my loyalty or any of my fellow PINOY Service member, I think you should ask your self first. How many years you have put in, are you gonna be a lifer????? Most of the Filipino-American Service member dedicated almost half of their lives to this great Nation (20 to 30 years) while some of you only did 4 to 6 years , just getting your benefits and you’re out. For me, the reason why we have this relationships with other Filipino’s its because we can relate with each other. We all worked hard to be in this spot and for us helping each other to achieve our goal legally, I think its not a crime.. so Mr. John, we’re not racist, we entertain all nations, and like what she said, don’t be intimidated, stop by the galley, supply room, engine room or even the Chief’s Mess. Just don’t be a d..k and we’ll give you some lumpia and pansit …..OKEY?????

      @Boss ERIC……..we are trying to keep the spirits and the tradition alive. We still have the Old School MAFIA who always puts us in check.


      • I might have put only 5 years of my life in the military..that doesn’t mean my loyalty is not as fervent as yours…I separated due to an injury i sustained while in service…I did not join because of the benefits..I joined in order to pay my dues to this country and because I’m really grateful what this country have given to me and to the rest of my family..if this is how you gauge loyalty, then I’m not going say anything anymore. I’ll leave you to your thoughts.this is just a blog but you’re taking this to the next level…..iisa lang ang nakikita ko, kayabangan ang umiiral..


        • Bakit ako ang kinakalaban mo bro????
          Bakit mo nasabing kayabangan ang pina-iiral ko dito? Kung sa palagay mo ang kumontra sa mga taong nag iisip ng ganito tungkol sa ating lahi ay kayabangan ay siguro nga mayabang ako!!!
          Kabayan basahin mo munang mabuti ang sinabi ko bago mo ako husgahan!
          If you where separated because of Service related injury….I SALUTE YOU BRO!!!!! GOD SPEED AND HOPEFULLY YOU’RE DOING FINE NOW!
          You better believe it…Im taking this to the next level. When it comes to people looking at me and my fellow PINOYS, like we don’t deserve what this great nation has to offer, just because i wasn’t born here and I have a different color of skin!!! Siguro nga mayabang ako.

          CHINOY o JAPOY ka ba kabayan??


      • Mel,
        Please speak for yourself only. Just because someone stayed in the military for their whole life does not mean he/she is a patriot. While it is a big sacrifice for anyone to spend that much time serving not everyone has the same intent. Some truly love to serve, others stayed n because of the stability and benefits for themselves and their family, others stayed because they don’t know what to do in the outside world, others stayed because it is hard to find a job that pays as well, while others stayed just because thay are plain lazy, and countless other intentions/ reasons that I cannot list all. Im a realist and I accept the fact that people, regardless of race will show some degree of favoritism towards their kind, and in some instances it is illegal. Please be real here… I’ve done 6 years in the Navy, though it is not a lot it is enough to see the reality of things. And to whom ever wondered about filipino mafia yes it does exist in both possitive and negative conotation… And yes there are also Mexicans, Blacks, Whites, other Asian mafias in the Military.


        • Steve,
          So you’re one of those people who just did their 6 years in the military, took all the benefits that they can grab and left. Now lets be realistic here Steve. You did not like the Navy or the Navy kicked you out…who knows??? or else you’re still be in.Im hoping that you’re really successful in life right now. The way you describe the service members sounds like your making 6 figures or more. Bashing them like you did is really smart of you. At least when I talk about somebody I’m defending them…Now please speak for yourself…


          • Mel,
            I think you are taking it a little personal. I do not have anything against the Navy. I actually love it. In fact, I think the Navy have treated me and my family pretty well. But to let you know I take great interest in human social behaviors and I’ve observed, documented, and interviewed many sailors from the highest echelon to the lowest rank seamen. Maybe one day when I retired I will put all of that into writing. I served for 6 years five of which were at sea and about one year in sum spent at different A schools, and as soon as my contract ended I separated/ honorably discharged. I was quite tempted to re-enlist since I’m up for shore duty and the E-5 pay/ BAH was great but the reason I chose to separate is none of anyone’s business. No I do not make 6 figures and I am enjoying the benefits of the GI Bill. I love going to school and I will not hesitate to admit that one of the reasons I joined was so I can go to college. It is not the only reason why but certainly is a large part of it. To make it clear I don’t think I’ve bashed anyone but simply stating what is true. The military in general, and the Navy specifically, consists of many constituents of society; who joined for many different reasons, and thus for those same reasons decided to stay. There is nothing wrong with that and I’m not here to judge. While we are at it please let me ask you a question. Lets say there are two sailors that died in the line of duty in the same mission. One was a 12 years Chief who voluntarily chose to go on the mission knowing he’d be in harm’s way, and the other a 2 year fireman who got “voluntold”. Who do you think have paid more for his country???? Does it matter that the chief joined because he came from a long line of military servicemen and he is proud to where is uniform while the fireman joined because he wanted to get away from gang violence and poverty???? My point is please don’t look down on people who may not have served as long as you did, and question their intentions. It doesn’t matter because ultimately they both paid the same amount. If you believe otherwise than I have nothing else to say.


      • Whooah… Slow your roll. I did 10 years and to me you came into this country. Why? thats right because the USA is better than your country … You’re now an American so act like one don’t insult other Anericans. We stick together! And you came to our country so you have no right to insult an AMERICAN born on our soil. I’m by far the least racist person you’ll meet but becoming a citizen doesn’t give you the right to insult anybody!


    • John, don’t ever asked that question again SHIPMATE! And don’t ever, ever, question our allegiance to our great country. I started serving our great country as a Filipino citizen working alongside with the US Marines in combat. Mind you, defending the flag that I can’t even claim as mine. Read the history book on how “WE” the 1st Generation of Filipino Americans joined the US Navy from the Philippines; we are the only country in the world that can joined the US Armed forces not having a US citizenship nor immigrant of the US. I will sacrifice my life for old glory in the defense of all the Americans, ALL AMERICANS. Out here shipmate and I hope that answers your questions!


  3. I’m an IT practitioner working for a well-known company in New Zealand and our Kiwi counterparts also use the phrase ‘Filipino mafia’ as well (there are 5 of us Pinoys working on the same floor). While we talk like the Ewoks in Star Wars, as you put it, our workmates commend us for showing the following, among others:
    (1) the sense of community shown every lunch time when we gather together and share each other’s food (baon or otherwise); and
    (2) support for one another – being that we are away from our relatives, the 5 of is are the closest we have to a family.

    And it’s actually nice when some of our fellow Kiwis greet us a ‘good morning’ in Tagalog – as well as curse in Tagalog as well (thrown in jest, of course).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I served in the Navy in the early 80’s and I worked in the galley with my shipmates from the Philipines.I learned a lot from them about the art of cooking and about their culture.I think that it is great that they take care of each other like they do.I wish that my own culture would be as unified as they are.


  5. …very interesting article..highlighting one of the few misunderstood traits of our filipino culture…we sort of converge into the wee hours of the night in those seemingly dark corners of the galley or CPO Mess, as if discussing clandestine plans for the next inport period and sounding like coded dit-dats language of the ewoks (?! if only to mask our “Mafia” ways like a secret society aboard the best warships of Uncle Sam… well, the so called “Filipino Mafia” worked out so well for the most part when expediting repair parts to get our aircraft flying again since the expedited parts procured from Mainland USA takes months to go across the oceans, yet our Filipino Mafia pipeline becomes a fast track conduit to get our readinesss back again… how many times have we relied on the FM to convince a pinoy aviation Structural mechanic to manufacture “locally” a 3k to 6k PSI hydraulic or fuel lines or metal brackets or tubings and lines just because the “Awaiting Parts” sign has been there forever… we “converge” more because of that feeling of homesickness and sense of pinoy camaraderie; even when hearing those same homeboy stories a hundred times… just our way of social coping mechanism that, at times, become misunderstood just because an outsider have never grasp the truth of it all being a pinoy, unless you are finally married into one pinay…then, you the KANO doesn’t get bothered by that sight of “Filipino Mafia” gatherings anymore… !!! …the the power of the GILI-GILI at the CHiefs Mess finally transcends all cultural barriers as everyone finally take their dip into that “separate serving tray” by the food alley that doesn’t even show up officially on the MENU, but just because our CPO Cook detail is a young pinoy worthy of cooking the occassional adobo & pancit & lumpia tandem recipe.. !!! ahoy there sailor na pinoy !!! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When I first came in the navy in the mid 1980s, one of my first class petty officers was tellin me how he was one of the handful selected to join the navy out of his group from hundreds of applicants. The military was getting top sailors from an allied country, and that is why they seemed to do so well. Take the top five percent of the enlisted guys regardless of nationality and they will do better than the average Joe. The difference is the Filipinos stand out because they looked and sounded different and hung out with sailors of similar backgrounds.


  7. VERY nice article, Amanda! 🙂 I, like Eric, served beginning in the very early 70’s. I am an American of mixed blood, PH and Portuguese. Born here, I only speak English. My Boot Camp company had 10 PH enlistees, designated at the time to be Mess Specs. I interacted quite well with them, probably mainly sparring in Karate with a couple of Black Belts. I saw no issue worthy of mention while in Boot Camp.

    My career traversed from ET School thru NESEP (College) to NFO Flight Training and onwards to a P-3C Aviation Squadron. What I did see in my first squadron worthy of mention was the following. My roommate on deployment to Okinawa was a Black officer (also NESEP). He periodically visited the E Barracks to check the morale of his enlisted Brothers. So, as a former E-5, this Naive Ensign decided to visit the Barracks and walked around saying hello to some of the Pinoys,.. trying to develop some rapport with them.

    I no sooner got back to the squadron when I found myself standing TALL in the Skipper’s office. One of the Pinoy Chiefs took umbrage with my visit and went running to the CO. The Chief asked if I was a SPY sent to check on the Pinoys. I explained to the CO what I was doing and got my ASS chewed ROYALLY. My CO reinitialized my attitude that I had NO business differentiating by ethnic background.

    His guidance wasnt nearly as impactfull to me as was the back stabbing the Chief pulled on me. If he had an issue, he could have just as easily confronted me. Having been both an E and an O, I was ready to go out behind the barn and resolve the issue. He learned very quickly to stay the F*ck out of my way for the remainder of his time in the squadron. AND, needless to say, I never made another Morale visit to the Barracks… Except to check on my Aircrew members… which is, in fact, a MUCH more cohesive bond.

    The Navy taught me to take care of my people. I practiced that as I promoted thru CDR… and similarly during my last two decades in Silicon Valley. I remember specifically getting chewed out by a LCR Dept Head during my 2nd next deployment for defending my 18 yr old AOAN at Captain’s Mast. I very enthusiastically pointed out his SUPERB performance on the crew… in defense of a totally BS charge of violating Crew Rest. As the Mast wrapped up and I was walking away, the Admin DH chastised me… “Why in the Hell did you use s Silver Bullet to defend that kid.” I reiterated his outstanding crew performance…and I followed up to say, IF NOT ME, WHO???!!!

    In general, my observations of the PH groups (Maint, Personnel, Admin, Disbursing), I never had any issues. As a former E, I had already learned never to F*ck with your DK or your HM 🙂 Oh, I heard they changed the names… The Pay people, the Medical people… and maybe they call MS folks Chefs now 🙂

    Anyway, very nice article. BTW, three of my Cousins are retired Chiefs (one converted from USAF).



  8. So while it’s illegal for American citizens to take up arms for other Countries or be a Mercenary. It’s quite alright for the USA to hire them. Not just from P.I. but from several other countries. We hand them citizenship for their service. Whatttt?


    • Your way out of line sir!!! What makes you think that we’re mercenary ??? Do you even know the difference between a mercenary and a service member??? OOOOOHHHHH Boy I wanna meet you know DOG,,,oh I mean Mr Daug!!! Do you have any educational background??? I think this is the best time to use your Post 911 GI Bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      • A mercenary is a person who fights under another country’s flag or a group for profit.

        Economic or Prize.

        She even said it in her post. Money medical citizenship.


      • Mercenary takes Oath’s too???? Please educate me, cant wait!!
        Telling you its not too late,,,, There’s a lot of good schools out there!!


        • Exactly what oath does a Mercenary take. You mean the swearing to uphold the Constitution and obey the orders etc.?

          Words….only words that have to be repeated by the non citizen to get in.

          As for taking long to google? Apparently I already knew the meaning. Obviously you did not


      • Thank you very much Mr Doug for the information. So, what you’re saying that mercenary swears in too???? Again, please explain more!!! Enlighten me with your great knowledge about this….PLEEEEAAAASSSEEE!!!!


      • pare Mel thank you for your service, on Dougs earlier statement, he was just pointing out one possible reason which is mababaw, that non citizen who sign up for the navy are being given citizenship or green card as a “token” for the mere fact that they volunteered to do so. Without of course the intention of that is the only reason why non citizen sign up for it. His direction is towards the govt, not towards the sailor, It does opened up a degree for misinterpretation if you dont read carefully. He has no ill reason to point that as a negative thing towards people who are willing to sacrifice their life to protect the US.


    • Doug,
      Yeah thats kinda how it works. Service for citizinship. Makes sense to me, but i dont see where you are getting this mercenary thing from. Technically a mercenary is a professional soldier of fortune, who is willing to fight for the highest bidder, regardless of nation or nationality. There are private american merc groups comprised of us military vet i.e. blackwater. Mercenarys do not join a standing army of a nation and pledge allegiance to said nation. Im frankly shocked, given your own experience of service, that you would say that pledge is “just words”. I served with some inspiring, dedicated, honourable men and women from the phillipines as well, did you not? Whats your ethnic heritage?


    • Doug wants an Armed Forces of nonimmigrants. Roger. Did you ask Native Americans if they have enough volunteers?

      My grandfather EARNED his citizenship fighting under the US flag (the Philippines was a US territory much like Guam) during WW2. I EARNED mine while serving as an FMF corpsman during GWOT. I love my country and would die fighting for the American way of life.

      My children will be BORN as Americans much like you were BORN as an American. If you do not like that fact about MY country then feel free to leave.


      • Ram,

        Yes I know the Filipinos fought and died against the Japanese for America. They got screwed afterwards by America.

        Then America did nothing to rebuild the Philippines after the war. We were too busy rebuilding the enemy’s Countries.

        We abandoned the Filipinos to years of dictatorship under the guise of freedom and independence.

        We have citizens in our territories who can join the military and fight and die for the American way of life, but can’t vote for the President of the United States. They do not have representations in Congress to help in the decision making of this Country.

        But someone from another Country can join our military, get citizenship and then has full rights of that citizenship?

        WOW? Maybe I should leave since your upholding your oath to defend my rights or those you oppose in view.


        • To reiterate my point, who is not from another country here?

          Immigration has long been an integral part of America’s success story. People from all over the world–the brightest minds, the best athletes, the most successful entrepreneurs–they all want to come here in pursuit of the American dream. This adds to America’s advantage. This is how I see it.

          Another possible perspective… “They terk arr jerrbs!!” Choices.

          I did not say that you should leave. My point was, as Americans, our laws let us choose whether to stay here or not. North Koreans do not have the same option. Choices.


  9. When I was in the Navy, I had many Filipinos that I was friends with. While I did witness a “mafia” type atmosphere, as you’ve written, it wasn’t exclusive. I was never one to shy away from taking to anyone. Because of this, I had many great hook ups to get things I needed. Never once was I turned away or treated bad. I was never asked to give anything in return for needing something either. I’ve been to a few family events and always had a great time and never shown any disrespect. I think this story is pretty much spot on.


    • i read all the reply. thank you so much. Im in the army and at least , knowing how my fellow Filipinos are doing helps me smile. thank you so much


  10. Dear Mel,

    If you can understand this? Please re-read your own postings.

    I do feel sorry for you that my words seem to bother you so much. I must’ve hit a real close to the truth nerve of yours.


    • First of all Im not your DEAR Mr. Doug.( Im really taking it litterally huh:-) Im just asking you to explain more. I just want to hear it from an expert,,,thats all!!! I do not have any knowledge when it comes to this matter.
      You know what really bothers me is that Im willing to take a bullet for you…..shipmate…..will you the same for me??????
      Its sad that you think of us like that.


      • This the last timebI reply on this subject.
        Thank you for wanting to take a bullet for me. I hope you never do. Combat is never good. I do not know you or your background. I’m going to assume your a sailor in the U.S. Navy. Were you a citizen when you signed up or a non-citizen?

        As for me being an expert? Never said or claimed that. I simply stated a fact. What I am is a United States Marine Vet who was medically discharged for taking that so-called bullet? I saw combat in 3 different locations as a grunt. I am a Navy brat of a 37 year Master Chief who loved his Navy. I worked for the Navy for several years after leaving the Corps.
        I now work as a Military Photojournalist and am with Marines, Sailors, and Airmen several times per month.
        I am no expert, but I do have eyes, ears, and a brain that still works occasionally.

        Good night Mel


        • Doug,
          I see where you’re coming from and I appreciate your sacrifice. I think the question you raised is totally legitimate. I believe the wording can be phrased a little differently as to lessen the possibility of offending some people. However, it is not necessary nor possible to please everyone. I am no journalist nor an expert in filipino affairs, but I do possess a genuine interest in journalism, history, and social behaviors. I am an amateur at best, but like you I do have eyes that see and ears that hear. Mr. Mel probably felt a little offended because like you said, you probably struck a chord so close to him. He is probably defending no one else but himself. It is no doubt that filipinos servicemen and women have contributed greatly to the arm forces and to this country. Rightfully so, they’ve earned their place in this society and are entitled to all the rights as an Americans. However, history should be unbiased and true. To say that the Filipinos that joined the Navy out of the Philippines were not (hired soldiers/mercenaries) is incorrect nor is it right to consider them as true American Navy Sailors. Things are not always black and white. The American society in general, and the Navy in specific were not always color blind. Policies were carried out by enlisting filipinos into the Navy were mainly to serve the Navy’s interest not the Filipino’s. Men were needed to do jobs many Americans did not want such as cooking, janitorial and supplies. Filipinos were limited to some ratings because there were distrust in their allegiance. Of the many filipinos who signed up, the Navy only picked the top few percents. The reasons why so many filipinos (First Generation) joined is more likely due to economics not patriotism. The dictatorship regime of Ferdinand Marcos though credited with much of the Philippines infrastructure had also left the country poverty stricken. It is for this reason that many filipinos served in the US Navy to support their family, which more than often meant supporting their extended family also. Overtime, their feelings and allegiance may have changed, but initially I strongly believe it was all due to economics. Like I said, I am no expert so please correct me if something I said is incorrect. This is a blog and I believe everyone’s opinions should be heard and given equal respect, and nothing should be taken personally.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It is wrong to say that Filipino’s are hired to served in the military as cooks as one of your blogger is suggesting nor about there patriotism it’s about they color of there skin at that time and this is true to other colored people. My father served in the Philippine scouts during the early 1900 under the US Army and I was fourth in our family to do so and I’m proud that I did and if ask to serve again no hesitation at all.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mr Manuel Ceralde,
            If you are referring to me as that blogger who suggest the (first generation Filipinos/ enlistee in the Philippines) were hired soldiers then I think you may have misread what I am trying to say. This matter is highly sensitive and I do not believe there is a clear wrong or right. The Philippines was and still is an independent nation so therefore her citizens have the patriotic duty to serve only the Philippines. If Filipinos (citizens of the Philippines) serve in another country’s armed forces it cannot be considered patriotic duty because they have no patriotic obligations to do so. Anyone with an understanding of governance wouldn’t tell you otherwise. Now if a Filipino choose to rid his allegiance of the Philippines and swear his allegiance to the US (a process that can take years at the time) and become a citizen/ permanent resident (American Filipino) of the US then that duty becomes patriotic because now he is serving his country. Let me make it clear that one’s allegiance cannot be changed instantly nor can be split between two independent nations. You may disagree with me Mr. Manuel Ceralde but please make a case and convince me otherwise. Even you yourself admit that there were Racism in the Navy/ Army at the time your father served as Scout in the US Army, and due to racism there is no doubt as to the subjugation of colored people to certain jobs/ ratings. You can ask any of the old timer and they will tell you that at the time colored people were limited only to a number of ratings.


  11. I married a Filipina almost 45 years ago. She helped me through 20 years in the Navy and then again when I joined Military Sealift Command. My first ship was on the east coast. My best friend was from the Philippines and we would eat with other Filipinos at what was referred to as the Filipino table in the dining area. Mostly American food was served, but a couple of the Filipino cooks would always have a Filipino dish or 2 that could be requested by anyone (although mostly Filipinos asked for them)
    I’ve heard the term Filipino Mafia used when I was active duty Navy, but didn’t hear it in Military Sealift (even though most of the crews were former Navy).
    Things change.


  12. I served mid to late 90s in aviation. Worked for a lot of filipinos, and alongside many. Heard of the mafia, but never saw it. What I did see, was what we called the “Homeboy Network”. One LPO was not so great with the troubleshooting, but was one hell of a sheet metal man (AMS1). By sweet talking in Tagalog, he got to walk in and use the AIMD shop to make our stuff. When we needed to resort to comshaw, another AMS1 (different squadron at this time) could negotiate in network. I never saw an issue with this, I was the designated comshaw of the smoke pit for our shop.
    And the food? On a supply ship, we managed to land more than a few tuna one day. But what to do with it? Tell the Filipino cooks that if we get a tuna dinner, they keep the rest. Good stuff. We had to work the weekend, and to make it more bearable, the LPO (yup, filipino) brought in a whole bunch of stuff, and whipped up a fusion PH – AMERICAN breakfast.


    • William D,
      …and those were the good ol Filipino Mafia days … Mythical as it may… Twas one legendary part of my airdale career myself …lol


  13. What people don’t get about the “mafia” is they groom and mentor each other within the group. They expect them to pull their weight and not bring shame to their community. If you don’t pull your weight no one will “hook” you up. The perception is that they get special treatment and get better evals etc.. but its not favoritism, but proper mentorship and high expectations from their pinoy leaders and peers, which many other people don’t get because they don’t stick together. If a white sailor checks on board, there isn’t a group of white Chiefs or First classes that take them aside and tell them all the things they need to know to be successfull. There also is no pressure on that white seamen from the white PO1’s and CPOs to perform because he needs to live up to a certain standard. The Filipino seamen do feel the pressure, and they have all the answers to any question within their community.

    I am an immigrant and just like many Filipinos I work in a supply rating, and never had any problem bonding with them, working with them, because I understand the struggle, and I share many values like family, religion, and a greater sense of purpose for the sacrifices we make.

    Great article.


    • Alex,
      …somehow you were able to decipher those kind of our coping behaviors such as converging with one another …yes it was indeed some form of “mentor ship” as I look back at other “elderly Pinoy sailors” back then in my time starting in 1974.. And am always glad being on the shadow of the other “old timers ” as they make some headways in giving us heads up on how to fit in and learn basic semanship very quick …perhaps because of such a thing as a “Filipino mafia” concept perpetrated by many of us , not for clandestine activities, but more so for assimilating as fast as we can …since failing in Boot camp was never an option simply because “home” was thousand miles away …and in my naive mind… I don’t have enough money earned yet to make my way back home , if I everr fail in Boot camp … I laugh at it now that I come to think of it ..thanks for the mythical “Filipino mafia”


    • Thank you for enjoying. I just want to dispel the misunderstandings about the Pinoy community and show everyone how welcoming we are.


      • I love this article, makes me proud to be Pinoy!! Thank you so much for sharing! Growing up, I was a Navy brat, and my Dad served for 22 years. My Husband is about to retire as CPO serving 23 years. Our little Navy Brat, loves all things Navy and hopes to follow in their footsteps. Lol, it’s funny how many Uncles and Aunties we have that came from the Filipino Mafia. 😆


  14. Interesting article and great perspective. The Filipino Mafia is usually only used when situations occur in which there is a perception that Filipinos favor their own over others.

    Here are two actual examples from a Chief who has been in Japan for a decade. In the early 2000s the bases in Japan were, for lack of a better word, overrun with Filipinos. There were strict rules about who could live on base, who can work on base, etc. Because it was so close to Japan, many Filipinos sought Japan out for their duty stations and essentially homesteaded there. What would happen is a “sister” or “nephew” or other supposed family member would come to visit and then never leave. Because of the nature of the place at the time, most of the employees who worked on base were Filipino dependents. Overtime they would use their contacts to hire on these unauthorized family members in positions that would otherwise go to other service member’s spouses or dependents. I spoke with one of the base CMCs who was there at the time and he said the situation was out of hand because houses that were suitable for 4 military family members would have 8 or 9 people living in them, most of which were never actually supposed to be there. There was also rampant abuse, and lacking enforcement, of the base policies on visitors and escorting non dependents on base.

    Leadership had to address the problem but could not just begin targeting Filipinos. So CNFJ developed and enforced the Continuous Overseas Tour (COT) program. Anyone stationed in Japan in the past few years may remember having to formally request to take follow on orders to another command in Japan. When a request was submitted they would review the number of years the service member spent in Japan and how many family members were with them. Many of them were sent back to Japan.

    That was one specific instance where it was an actual problem. There are still hook ups, especially through Japan bases. You will see people on base who are not spouses and too old to normally be dependents, but they’ve been hooked up with a job at one of the restaurants on base and thus are authorized to be on base. Remember that these jobs take away from actual spouses looking for employment while their spouses serve. There are also some minor instances, like during Black Friday sales, where merchandise is set aside for friends of the NEX staff, who are Filipino in many cases, so that not everyone has to wait in line late at night, etc. not major problems, but the Mafia is still alive and it includes spouses.


    • I work at NEX and we can get fired if we do something like that. I know people (Filipinos and non Filipinos) who got fired already. Big NEX like Japan, Virginia, Hawaii etc have a strong and strict Loss Prevention Dept. Lots and lots of cameras! My loss prevention friend would tease me if I passed my exam, because he can see me in one of their TVs hiding a book and studying when there’s no customer. And military families are always the priority for these jobs.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great article btw. I was a sonar tech on the USS Ford out of Everett. I actually loved doing my galley service mainly for the gili-gili and the chance to make great friends in the Pinoy “mafia” who later on always hooked us up on the midwatch with goodies to help keep us awake after not sleeping for days.


  16. Filipino mafia is a group of pnoy sailors converging in one section of a ship or a place inside the base chit chatting anything, could be work or liberty and it’s a myth, good article.


  17. I’ve served 30 years… YES!!! We do take care our Filipino shipmates in anyway. We do counsel and teach our shipmates whenever we see them on the Mess Decks. We counseled and taught them how to work hard, follow orders, and get promoted to higher rank/s CPO, COMMISIONED OFFICERS. That’s the reason why most of those who listened from us Filipino Leaders became succesful leaders in the Navy. Most of the Admirals and Captains in the Navy they owed a lot from CPO FILIPINO Community… WE TRAINED THE JUNIOR OFFICERS TO BE SUCCESSFUL on their promotions and pursue their ambitions to run this GREAT AMERICAN NAVY. If I’ll be called in to served again… I WILL DO IT AGAIN.


  18. I served the U.S. Army for 8 years as a Filipino American. I felt that cultures bonded together for comfort and safety. I experienced a little racism and bullying when I served. But luckily, I had my Filipino buddies, my California crew, and a cool Sargeant Major(married a pinay lady) to turn to when I felt those things. They were like my so called mafia. Thanks to those guys for having my back.


  19. Interesting article, I read it all and also all the comments up to this point. Interesting, thought-provoking discussions so far.

    My paternal grandfather was born in Hawaii when his father (my great-grandfather) went there to work in the sugarcane fields. He retroactively became a U.S. citizen when Hawaii became a state in 1959. (I guess that makes me 3rd generation American?)

    I have never served but always wanted to (but unfortunately can’t due to medical disqualification…maybe Trump will change the requirements? ….the closest I have done is volunteering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary), but I am very connected as a Navy brat. My dad retired from the service after putting in 20 years and still works for them as a contractor. My younger brother is currently serving. I have other relatives who are also in the Navy (and stereotypically, I also have relatives who are working as nurses haha).

    Anyways, I randomly found this article by doing a simple google search of “Filipino Mafia” to read up more about it to see if it really exists, because I have heard about it before. I was curious to see if it still exists, because like Eric said in the first post (March 4, 2016 at 9:44 pm), more and more Filipinos serving in the U.S. Navy are 2nd and 3rd generation, etc. These later generations are more Americanized (obviously) and consequently maybe aren’t as “converging” with their fellow Filipino servicemen (especially the older/senior old-school types). In fact, I had the impression that Filipino-Americans (as in those who were born-and-raised in the U.S.) can’t fully enjoy the benefits of the “Mafia” unless he/she knew how to speak Tagalog. I hear it’s changing/evolving though since there are probably more Fil-Ams in the service than Philippine born-and-raised Filipinos. On the outside we look the same, but we’re quite different and have no problems differentiating each other.

    You can’t really generalize Filipinos and lump them into one group though sinbce we are a very diverse community. Just like the aforementioned mix of Filipinos and Fil-Ams in the service, there are also subgroups in the Filipino community as well (due to regionalism I guess). For example, my dad is Visayan and gravitated more with the Filipinos who came from a region in the Philippines that spoke Bisaya/Cebuano (but they could still hang out with the other Filipinos since they knew Tagalog also, being the national language and all….) It wasn’t due to discrimination or hating the Filipino groups though, it’s just that they could relate to each other better through their common language, etc.

    Just like others here, I also got “triggered” (for lack of better terminology) when someone questioned the allegiance of Filipino service members in the U.S. military. I mean like, really? Unless someone can bring up a news article of a Filipino service member committing treasonous acts then I’ll continue to shake my head here in disappointment. Sure, many do it for the benefits (but this isn’t exclusive to the Filipino community) and there’s of course a lot of sacrifices/collateral involved.

    In many ways, Filipino society is still recovering from the shadows of its not-so-long-ago colonial past….that says a lot about Filipino service members who are able to look past that and proudly commit their lives to the U.S. military. Thanks to all for your service!


  20. Mafia does exist. It’s a camaraderie in all sense of the word. Pinoy Mafia, Hispanic Mafia, AfroAm Mafia, Cali Mafia, Red Neck Mafia, etc. No one can deny it.

    The primary reasons Pinoy Mafia stands out is

    (1) the unique Pinoy look – not Japanese-Chinese-Korean – Vietnamese look, most other Asians are lighter skinned and much taller

    (2) the Tagalog language, Taglish (Tagalog English), the Filipino accent and most specifically the pronunciations of the letters F, V, Z and “th”. They are simply not in the Filipino alphabet

    (3) deep rooted mentoring as if the lowliest member is a disease if not working towards promotion or at least personal improvement

    As for the Pinoy enlistees from1901 …they are US Nationals since Philippines was a US territory but reverted back to Filipino citizenship because the Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935.

    As for Pinoy enlistees from the Phils, 1946-1992, they are mainly US Sailors but could not be an immigrant nor a US citizen unless they marry a US citizen.

    This was made possible by an act allowing Filipinos who are not immigrants nor US citizens to enlist in the US Navy through the US Philippines Military Base Agreement of 1947.

    For Pinoy Sailors completing enlistment contracts, they end up jumping ship, some marrying Americans, while the rest stay in for retirement and returns to the Philippines with lots of savings.

    Along the way, regular Filipino immigrants and their children enlisted in the US by choice not by economics. Some are Navy brats while some want a job security.

    Either way, they are only limited to steward jobs tending to the galleys, ships store, barber shop or laundry. Pinoys and other minorities were only allowed to enter other occupational ratings in 1974 after Adm Elmo Zumwalt pressed for the historic change that opened doors to minorities

    Legend has it that Xumwalts mess cooks and staff were pinoy college grads and he realized talents of minorities are not fully utilized and developed so he instituted changes that forever cements his legacy.

    I came in 1985 and retired in 2008. Proud to be mentored by the Pinoy Mafia and proud to have mentored a few.

    It’s actually a dying breed. Different generation. Different breed. Different times.


  21. You’ve said the right word Dee, it’s not mafia, it’s mentorship, I myself served from 1986-2009, was guided by good petty officers and chiefs on my younger years and did the same thing to my subordinates after making it through ranks, some of them are MCPO’s, SCPO’s, JO’s and i’m proud to have mentored them, if there’s a recall and be recalled i’ll be glad to do it again.


  22. This has been a very enlightening read. Some of the comments as well. As a black American retired Army vet, I have never heard of a Filipino Mafia until a Filipino friend of mine from the gym told me about it. The article really opened my eyes to the culture of Filipinos and of the history. Being married to a Panamanian, I see the similarities in the family dynamic where cousins, aunties, and other family member live under one roof and everyone contributes to the family. Again, very good read and thank you for the insight in the Filipino culture.


  23. 20 years. 20 years. Coast to coast, 4 yrs of ship board in yoko (03-07) time with USMC, OIF/OEF-volunteered, stationed in 3 overseas duty stations. The mafia is very real. On my ship, we had an HM3 that’s half Filipino. She informed us of the MAFIA having a separate space only for other Filipino. They had gambling, BOMBA, a larder of Pinoy food. Phillipinos get to yoko and they never leave and fly AS MANY of their extended family to live there and claim them as dependents. We ran out of rice in the commissary, and there was damn near a revolt.

    This same female got invited to a Phil-am basketball game. Come to find out, the Phil-am community had a basketball league only other Phillipinos could play in. She reported it- good for her. And her treatment from the other pinoys was mad noticeable. She was blacklisted for reporting “racism” and preferential treatment.

    I have pals in the locker. I hear all the dirt. And the pinoy chiefs could get away with murder, then discipline a blue shirt (if not pinoy) for the same thing. We had THREE Phillipino chiefs busted for DUI. What happened- crickets.

    I had orders to a ship that I requested (an LHA in Va.) got penciled in and found out a month later my orders were kanked and given to an HM1 pharmacy tech that couldn’t make chief bc he had no sea time/warfare desig. Are there cool Phillipinos, of course, but even the cool ones will inform you the mafia does exist.

    Anyone wanna guess the nationality? I could go on…… it’s real. Just don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining.

    D.Edwards HM1(SW/FMF)


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