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elmer gozun cato
elmer g cato VEGETIUS ONCE wrote: Si vis pacem, para bellum.   If you wish for peace, prepare for war. As a diplomat, I am a peacemaker. While I remain true to this responsibility, I believe that this should not prevent me from learning the art of war. Somehow, war and peace go together. How can one appreciate peace if he has no idea about war?

And so almost every other weekend for the past three years, I take on a different persona, replacing coat and tie with camouflage uniforms; my laptop with a replica M4 assault rifle; the skyscrapers of Manhattan with the hills of Connecticut or New Jersey, and become Shogun, overlord of Filforce, one of the biggest groups of so-called airsoft warriors here in the United States.

Airsoft warriors what? For those encountering it for the first time, airsoft is basically a sport or recreational pastime in which players don military uniforms to participate in the simulation of military- or law enforcement-style combat using replica weapons that shoot plastic pellets. It is very much like playing hide and seek or baril-barilan using gas-powered or battery-operated, realistic looking toy guns. As a sport for the big boys, airsoft provides a different kind of rush for those who play it–something that first-timers would look forward to doing again and again.

Airsoft traces its roots to Asia where the sport has been played since the late seventies, but it is also fast becoming popular in Europe and the United States. In the Philippines alone, airsoft players number in the thousands. The United States is no exception with a growing number of players, including Filipinos, getting hooked into the sport.

I established Filforce three years ago primarily to share the Philippine airsoft experience with other teams here in the United States, particularly the East Coast. Having played the sport in the Philippines as part of the Angeles-based Semper Fidelis, I started seeking out other Filipino airsoft enthusiasts in the tri-state area shortly after I was assigned in New York in 2004. From an original group of seven, Filforce has grown by leaps and bounds with as many as 80 members in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia.

Our membership base is predominantly Filipino and Filipino-American, but we also have members who are of Chinese, Guyanese, Nigerian, Korean, Thai, and Laotian descent. They include diplomats, former military and police personnel, and health, information technology, and art professionals, as well as students.

Filforce draws its inspiration from the secret society Katipunan that led the Philippine revolution against Spain in 1896. Like the Katipuneros of old, Filforce is made up of men and women who are bound by a creed that requires members to exhibit a strong sense of kinship or Kapatiran; great courage or Katapangan; loyalty or Katapatan; and dignity and honor or Karangalan.

Filforce's Katipunan roots are evident in its team logo, which was derived from the personal red-and-white standard of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio. The Filforce flag features an enhanced version of Bonifacio's sun symbol to represent the East—Asia where most Filforce members trace their ethnic roots, and the East Coast where team members are now based—that shines over a black background to symbolize the threatening unknown.

Filforce had its baptism of fire on 29 January 2005, when we played against a local squad in Long Island, and had since seen action in New York, Connecticut , New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The team has also been making a name for itself and is now being supported by airsoft retailers such as Evike, Airsoftone, and Krukspec.

Last year, Filforce helped win Operation Independent Will in New Jersey to end the four-part series with a final score of three wins against one loss. It ended 2006 by defeating the top two teams in the Northeast during the Tolcom Team Challenge.

Just this May, Filforce successfully mounted Balikatan 2007-01: Operation Sulu Storm–its first major event that was participated in by more than 100 players. In the coming weeks, we will stage Balikatan 2007-02: Operation Basilan Fury. More events are also being lined up to address the growing clamor for airsoft action among us big boys.

All I can say is that airsoft will continue to attract not only us big boys but men and even women of all ages, because it brings out the warrior in each and every one of us.

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[About the author. Elmer Gozun Cato is a Kapampangan journalist turned diplomat known for his advocacy of responsible and responsive journalism in a media career that spans more than 15 years. He first made a name for himself in 1983 when as a 16-year old college freshman became a cub reporter for the crusading newspaper Ang Pahayagang Malaya during the martial law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos. At 21, he became one of the youngest newspaper publishers in the Philippines when he founded the Angeles Sun in 1988. His journalist experience included stints as correspondent and desk editor in various local, national, regional, and international news organizations, including the Manila Chronicle, the Philippine Daily Globe, Reuters, and GMA News. In 1991, he became one of the first Kapampangan journalists to go overseas when he became a reporter for the Saudi Gazette in Jeddah. In 1997, he became Executive Editor of the Indonesian Observer in Jakarta. He later published K, the Kapampangan Magazine. In 1998, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after placing eighth in the Foreign Service Officers Examination. He served in various capacities most prominent of which were as special assistant to two former Secretaries of Foreign Affairs—Domingo L. Siazon Jr. and Vice President Teofisto T. Guingona Jr.; as spokesman and later officer in charge of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement; and later as head of the Regional Consular Office of the DFA in Clark Field. He has been based in New York since 2003 where he serves as Second Secretary with the Philippine Mission to the United Nations.]

-Posted: 10:48 AM 7/19/07 | More of this author on eK!
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