Anthony was assigned to be a photographer, taking pictures of VPN’s Sailing Vessel 286 – Le Quy Don, during that exchange program. It was his first time meeting and talking to Vietnamese people. Since then, the Filipino officer has been determined to visit Vietnam at least once in his lifetime.

Participants to the fifth personnel interaction between Vietnamese and Philippine naval forces pose for a joint photo on Song Tu Tay (Southwest Cay) Island

When I met him in the Philippines nearly three years ago, he said he is lucky to have a job that has given him many chances to meet new friends and have new experiences. He told me that he was fascinated by Vietnamese cuisine. He has learned to use chopsticks and enjoyed Vietnamese pho (noodle with beef) and nem ran (fried spring rolls), which he ate with Vietnamese military personnel. He said he could not describe his feelings with words but the Vietnamese troops left good impression on him. They have very good English skills and it was easy for him to talk to them, Anthony added.

Since that event, the Filipino officer has joined other exchange programs between the two navies. However, the event that he remembered the most was the fifth personnel interaction between Vietnamese and Philippine naval forces garrisoned on Song Tu Tay (Southwest Cay) Island and Song Tu Dong (Northeast Cay) Island, respectively, in September 2019. Several days before the program, he received an order from his superiors to join the event instead of his colleague. That is why Anthony Mark Evangelista Gaco said that the meetings between him and Vietnamese officers are “a destiny”.

When I met Anthony Mark Evangelista Gaco again on Southwest Cay Island, he said that he and his teammates were surprised by the islanders’ lives after making a tour around the island. Unlike his first impression of the island, as a small forest located in the middle of an ocean, the life there is really exciting. He saw children playing happily together, listened to the bells of the pagoda, and walked through concrete roads. He said that he could feel the happiness on the faces of islanders and troops. “They are very friendly and hospitable”, he told me.

Although Anthony Mark Evangelista Gaco has not had many opportunities to meet and talk to Vietnamese troops, he was fascinated by Vietnam and its people. Therefore, he hoped that he could visit Vietnam some time, to learn more about the Vietnamese people and culture.

Translated by Trung Thanh