My brother recently posted his thoughts on ROTC. I was actually a cadet officer in my fourth year of high school (and a cadet officer candidate — as member of the Cadet Officer Candidate Corps, or COCC — in my third year).
I could write about this longer, but the fact of the matter is: I hated every minute of it (COCC, Citizens’ Army Training, and Citizens’ Military Training) and still think it was an absolute waste of my time. I joined probably because I was insecure and wanted some affirmation (or to exercise some authority), and I can now assert that my time would have been better spent reading books or playing computer games or listening to music. Or something.
Almost every day of my junior year I would have to greet every cadet officer with a “Sir, good morning, Sir!” or a “Sir, good afternoon, Sir!” I was made to do push-ups every day (either in public or on the urine-slick bathroom floor), I cleaned the commandant’s office, I drank chili pepper-infused water, I ate lunch underneath a table, I had to wear a dress, and I was regularly called “stupid,” “maggot,” “faggot” — all the happy, daily indignities that one had to suffer for the sake of “military discipline” (“the state of subordination under a military command,” involving “the ready subordination of the individual for the good of the group,” or something like that — we had to memorize paragraphs and paragraphs of military handbook stuff as well). Okay, so I was pretty darn fit as well, having to do the dreaded Army dozen regularly. And I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie every Friday — and a buzz cut and black leather shoes the rest of the time — but that was about it. (Thank God physical contact was phased out before I joined, otherwise my ass would have been paddled, that’s for sure.) And to Cecille, the woman who was directly in command: we hated you, we loved you, but it was all Stockholm syndrome at that point.
I was miserable, as you can imagine, but I was determined to finish and not be called a quitter. I finally did finish the year-long program, at some point, learning all about rifle drills and how to assemble and disassemble rifles and whatnot, but there was no heavenly moment of catharsis — all I remember was one of my batchmates, Johnny, weeping, snot running out of his nose, vowing to make his subordinates-to-be suffer like he had done. That, I think, said it all. It was really nothing but a glorified Filipino college fraternity, with the initiates subject to the petty whims of the older “brods,” except that we didn’t drink or lose our virginities to hookers.
A couple more of my batchmates ended up joining the Philippine Military Academy and were shipped out straight to Mindanao. Christopher returned to Los Banos in a coffin. Randolph had an illustrious career at the Academy — and this is simply totally hearsay (although Randolph, if you’re reading this somewhere out there, alive or dead, I don’t give a fuck what you think) — electrocuting POW’s testicles (or it may have been pledges’ testicles, I can’t remember which) with such high voltage that he would blow fuses all throughout the barracks.
But I digress. Being a cadet officer in my fourth year gained me nothing; Randolph gleefully assigned every thug in my year to Military Police, and assigned me as the MP head. All I got for this was lotsa yuks behind my back (and to my face) and a dousing in a steel drum full of stagnant rainwater for my efforts.
By the time I got to college I was already pissed off at the military, and the prospect of compulsory military training (for men only) every single Saturday for two more years was disheartening — especially since I’d heard it all before. And so it went: the endless marching and rifle drills, the pointless lectures on military history and discipline, being yelled at by company leaders who called us “goddamn shitheads” so that we could learn to respect them — all for the service of the nation and eventual battle with the Muslims in the South and the Commies… well, everywhere (more about this some other time, as my involvement in the school paper got me deeper into the left). Some folks who tried to duck out — this poor Jehovah’s Witness, a couple of male models who couldn’t get a buzz cut — ended up not being able to graduate until they got their units.
At some point I wrote a rather critical opinion piece on the military college requirement in the UPLB Perspective, and was later pulled out of my platoon one Saturday for an audience with the commandant at the grandstand. (My friend Edwin was waiting and merely corrected my use of “khaki” — it was “fatigue” — but I understood what my being singled out meant.)
To this day I can’t think of a more profound waste of time in every possible way.