In commemoration of the late Dr. Riz Oades, 75th birthday (March 27) we are publishing this book report in his memory. This book is used as a text in Asian Studies 460 at San Diego State University. If you have not read it, it is high time you get a copy from the FWC, as this is the most comprehensive book on the lives and activities of Filipinos who served in the US Navy.
by Michael D. Jackson
Living in a naval town in the United States one cant help but notice a large Filipino presence. One wouldnt have an understanding of this phenomenon, unless youve served in the military or have an understanding of the Filipino culture. Initially when I began reading Dr. Riz Oades book, I felt as if I were an outsider because of the obvious culture difference of me being an African-American, but as I read further it gave me a sense of connection. Some of the struggles are similar to those of my culture. I will explore the authors intent for writing the book and highlight some main events and characters.
The first book of its kind, Dr Oades wanted to create a piece of work that draws on the personal life experiences of Filipino US Navy personnel, ranging from an enlisted Seaman to Rear Admiral. Initially, Oades set out to write a biography about the life of Senior Chief Juan Victor Jay Ruiz, but in the process he became fascinated with the Senior Chiefs military and civilian life experiences. In 2005, this fascination leads him to include other servicemen which then evolved into the book, Beyond the Mask. It follows the lives of the Filipino sailors starting at the recruitment stations, Sangley Point Cavite and Subic Bay Naval Stations. His book details experiences ranging from marriage and infidelity to racism and discrimination.
According to Oades, the US Naval bases Sangley Point in Cavite City and Subic Bay Naval Station in Olongapo, Zambales, served as a recruiting station for Filipinos eager to improve their lives and families. Filipinos joined the Navy partly for adventure and mainly for the sought-after American education and citizenship (page 12). The Navy only promised a job class of steward when young Filipino men entered the military, without chance of job class changes. This was just one of the many examples of racism and discrimination faced initially by Filipinos entering the Navy during this time. The author takes the reader on a journey spanning over several wars, decades, and continents to include WWII Vietnam, and Gulf War. The story starts at the above mentioned bases in the Philippines, but seems to end in the USA in the early 2000s.
Jay Ruiz was among many young Filipino men in search of a better life for him and his family left back in the Philippines. So, he enlisted in the navy at Sangley Point Cavite, not knowing that this would take him on a journey lasting over 20 years and reaching a final retirement rank of Senior Chief or B-S. He is married to Ceferina, a sweetheart that he met in the 1960s back home in the Philippines. She also served in the Navy, but not as an enlisted person. She was a commissioned officer because she was a medical doctor that graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. According to the book she made it to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and then transferred to the US Air Force Reserves where her last rank was documented as Colonel. She remained committed to Jay despite his many deployments and allegations of infidelities.
After retiring, Jay used his naval connections to build political alliances. He was a graduate of Southwestern Community College with a degree in leadership. Jay was a key person in the political arena in the Filipino Community in National City. He served as the chairman for Council of Philippine American Organizations of San Diego County (COPAO), an umbrella organization of more than 100 associations from 1987-1995.
He was instrumental in uniting the Filipino community, bringing organization to COPAO, and provided rent free office space for COPAO. Ruiz had high hopes and political aspirations but was discouraged to run for state government.
One of the sailors in the book that was most notable to me and a favorite is Dr. Eleanor Concepcion Connie Mariano who is a physician, the first Filipino-American to reach the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, the first graduate of the Uniformed Services University of Medicine to reach flag officer status and the first woman to be the director of the White House Medical Unit. Mariano was born at the Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite City, Philippines in 1955. Two years later, her parents arrived in the United States. Her father served in the navy as a steward and eventually retired with the rank of Master Chief.
Mariano was the valedictorian of her Mar Vista High School, Imperial Beach, California, and class of 1973. She is a University of California, San Diego Alumna from Revelle College where she graduated with cum laude honors and received her degree in biology at the University of California, San Diego. After her undergraduate studies, Mariano joined the navy in 1977 where she received her medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Medicine in 1981 Bethesda, Maryland. Mariano was nominated to the rank of Rear Admiral by President Bill Clinton and eventually served as the White House Physician for President Clinton and President George W. Bush.
Upon arrival to the White House she would spend time with the Filipino Master-Chiefs, who had direct access to the president. She looked up to these men because she knew that they had paved the way for her and shared a common bond with her because of her father having been a Master-Chief in the past. In 2001, Dr. Mariano retired from the Navy and left the White House to join the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In summary the book increased my knowledge about the US Navy Filipino, especially the 1st generation. They sacrificed their lives during wartime and time with their families while at sea in search of a better life while in the US Navy. This was done with hopes of becoming an American citizen, better education, and financial stability. Even though most of them served as steward their entire career, it paved the way for the next generations to have better opportunities.
Oades, Riz. Beyond The Mask. National City: KCS Publishing, 2005. (1419 East 8th St, National City, 91950. 619-477-3392).
Michael Jackson is a student in Dr. Diriges class, AS 460, Contemporary Issues in Filipino American Communities. He and his Filipina wife Arlene are both Registered Nurses who work at UCSD in the Emergency Department (Michael) and ICU (Arlene). They have a 9 year old daughter, Jazmyne. Michael served as a Marine during the Desert Shield/Storm in the Gulf War.