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Filipino Americans Lead the Way at NSA Naples

30 May 2024

From Josephine Schneider

“I was living in Pugo, Philippines, with my grandfather for a time to figure things out,” reminisced Yeoman First Class Johnmark Rivera. This was during a time he was soul-searching. “His (grandfather’s) last words were, ‘Agsubli kan jay U.S. ta isu ayan iti biag mo’ (go back to the U.S. because that's where your life is). I followed his words and joined the Navy.”
“I was living in Pugo, Philippines, with my grandfather for a time to figure things out,” reminisced Yeoman First Class Johnmark Rivera. This was during a time he was soul-searching. “His (grandfather’s) last words were, ‘Agsubli kan jay U.S. ta isu ayan iti biag mo’ (go back to the U.S. because that's where your life is). I followed his words and joined the Navy.” 
Those last words cemented a new beginning for Rivera, sparking a call to serve and a goal to inspire future generations of Sailors. When Rivera joined, he was reluctant that he’d find a sense of community. He later found solace in the familiarity of his culture.  
“At first, I didn't believe I would make strong bonds and friendships in the Navy,” said Rivera. “I’m typically introverted. If I don't know the person, I tend to keep quiet... But some Filipinos reached out to me because they know we can speak the same language.” 
A language that reaches beyond verbal, but one that connects concepts of community and fellowship. Rivera found that and much more at the Filipino-American Association Naples (Fil-Am). It also gave him a chance to break out of his comfort zone and really impact Sailors. 
“My predecessors and I revived Fil-Am from nothing after COVID,” shared Rivera. “Countless hours working together, planning events, and reaching people... I’ve done my best to make our community active and accessible to everyone.” 
Leading Fil-Am Naples today as its president, Rivera and his team are inspired to share the traditional concept of “Bayanihan.” Bayanihan refers to how rural Filipino communities in olden times came together to lift a house when a family needed to move. Much like the traditional lifting of a house symbolizes unity, Rivera and his team aim to uplift community members with Bayanihan- fostering a dynamic culture of unity and collaboration. 
Vice President of Fil-Am Naples, Personnel Specialist Second Class Mari Anne Nicole M. Mundia, who was recently selected for Officer Candidate School, shares the same goal to promote a dynamic culture of unity amongst the NSA Naples community. 
“Bayanihan is something the whole community can adopt. In Filipino culture, Bayanihan embodies teamwork,” explained Mundia. “Everyone comes together as a community to support one another, creating a sense of extended family.” 
Her call to serve came after her parent’s difficult decision to uproot their lives from Manila, Philippines. At the age of 10, Mundia and her parents moved to the United States for better opportunities. 
“I wanted to provide stability for my parents and give back to them,” said Mundia. “I wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.” 
 Working together with Rivera, the two have led Fil-Am Naples to provide service to the local community. 
“With Fil-Am, we fundraise with local charities like Centro Laila and do community service events with the local Filipino church,” explained Rivera. “We donate food, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and whatever else they need.” 
The two have also worked alongside other Fil-Am members to invite Sailors from all over Europe to come to Naples.  
"Last year, Sailors flew in from Rota and Sigonella to join us for this event,” Mundia mentioned. “Again, this June, we'll be hosting a Filipino-American Olympics where teams can compete in both American sports and classic Filipino street games.” 
The Fil-Am Association here in Naples provides an invaluable community for Sailors away from home. Rivera reflects on what the last words from his grandfather means to him. 
“We have to get out of our comfort zone to find ourselves,” said Rivera. “With Fil-Am, I want people to have Bayanihan-- to know you’re not alone in that journey. No matter what race you are, we are one community here at NSA Naples.”  
This May, NSA Naples celebrates the achievements and perseverance of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Their contribution and dedication to our nation in service to the United States has carved a bright legacy of honor and commitment, leading to a stronger Navy and United States. 
NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia. 
For more news about NSA Naples and the Sailors who serve onboard the installation, please follow us on Instagram @NSANaples and Facebook at 

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