At Balikatan, Fil-Am Navy man fills communication gap

AURORA, Philippines – Unlike most Filipino-Americans his age, Patrick Intal's homecoming came with a mission: to serve as a "force multiplier" during the 2017 Balikatan exercises in the Philippines.

Intal was among the 2,600 or so US troops who came over to the Philippines as part of the yearly joint exercises of the two countries' militaries.

In Casiguran town, host to one of the grander disaster response exercises, Intal was instructor for the day, teaching locals the basics of first aid.

"It's really heartwarming. I dunno, I can't explain it. It's really fun, we got a warm welcome. I just want to thank everyone, thank the people, 'yun lang (that's it)," said the 24-year-old, who lived in Makati City until he and his family moved to California when he was 14.

Speaking sometimes-fluent, sometimes-halting Filipino, Intal and other US Navy personnel explained how to properly administer the Heimlich maneuver, how to rescue a drowning person (make sure his head is kept above water), and why tourniquets shouldn't be used on forearms.

Another US Navy man helped Intal interpret and even demonstrate first aid techniques.  

"Kaya kami kinuha dito kasi magiging force multiplier so puwede kami mag-hop sa mga training or kung 'yung ibang mga locals kung kailangan nila ng translator or interpreter (We were brought here as force multipliers so we can hop around during training or help if locals need translators or interpreters)," added Intal, who is a Hospital Corpsman in the US Navy.

"I think it's just an act of kindness. It doesn't matter what country you are, you just gotta help people out. I had an oath to help everyone in need, patients, that's about it," he said of his Balikatan stint.

Intal joined the US Navy as a "stepping stone" to becoming a nurse.

While his relatives know he's in the Philippines for the Balikatan, he isn't sure if he'll get the chance to see them during his visit. The media interview, he quipped, might just be their only chance to see him while he's on Philippine shores.

But if he were to decide, his Balikatan 2017 stint definitely won't be his last. "I'll do more of this as long as I get the chance to," he added. –