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5 Things I learned (including anti-LGBTQIA lessons) after two years in ROTC

With the push for ROTC to be made mandatory again, here are some points on why it should be opposed (aside from it being anti-LGBTQIA).

Photo by Bao Menglong from

I first entered college in Cotabato City in the latter part of the 1990s, and like all assigned-male-at-birth students at that time, I did not have any choice but to enroll in the then-legally-mandated two-year Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). This was (THANKFULLY, to be completely honest) eventually made non-essential with the Republic Act 9163 (“National Service Training Program Act of 2001”) – meaning, ROTC as a pre-requisite for graduation was no longer required.

Now… with all the push for ROTC to be made mandatory again, let me share some points that stayed with me after my ROTC exposure.

1. ROTC didn’t teach me (and I’m sure my batch mates) country-saving shit (Excuse the word!).

I remember being taught to carry a rifle. To qualify: a wooden rifle. A cracked wooden rifle, at that. We used this while marching, or… to do tricks while grandstanding (as you would when you’re holding a baton), though the tricks taught us were just-as-limited, anyway. That was the only equipment we were made to handle (I remember in high school, for Citizens Army Training or CAT, we were also made to handle a saber, though mostly only to provide VIPs a way to enter venues in a grand manner).

This insistence that after ROTC the young will already be able to defend their country is, seriously, blind. Because yeah, you think we can do that… with those broken wooden rifles?

2. Students can – and do – find ways NOT to waste time standing under the sun, waiting to be ordered to do nothing but march, march, march.

At least in our school at that time, LGBTQIA students were “forced” to NOT be seen. So the moment you identified as LGBTQIA, or if someone told on you for being LGBTQIA, the ROTC officials “hid” you. So that you automatically become part of the platoons that are there but aren’t there – e.g. office personnel, medics, PWDs, et cetera.

There were conyo students who did NOT want to waste time being cooked alive, too (though this is to be expected). And they were able to get medical certificates excusing them from the (useless) activities like those incessant marching under the sun. So they, too, were dumped with the office personnel, medics, PWDs, et cetera.

And yeah, there were those who allegedly paid to no longer make appearances.

3. In my experience, ROTC did NOT promote gender equality. It worsened the inequality, in fact.

In defending why he’s insisting on making ROTC mandatory again, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa kept insisting that it promotes gender equality, particularly with his push to include women and LGBTQIA people in the trainings.

I’m gay… and I am saying this bluntly: ROTC did NOT teach or promote gender equality. In my experience, it promoted inequality… as militarized moves always do.

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Some examples?

  • We were segregated into the “pink platoon”, to start. With gays and transgender women seen as “not as good as” those who self-identified as straight/heterosexual, and so we were segregated and then made to march in front of everyone as a way to elicit laughters (because we swayed our hips when we walked, sashayed, et cetera).
  • We were made to do the interior decorating of the office because, hey, that’s what gay and trans people apparently do.
  • And when those military people arrived for the tactical inspection, LGBTQIA students were actually told to not wear their ROTC uniforms, and – instead – hide, or stay at the benches and be cheerleaders for those on the ground (supposedly the hets).

4. ROTC turned us into each other’s enemies.

Not satisfied with segregating those who openly self-identified as LGBTQIA, the ROTC officers of that school in Cotabato City at that time I was there actually made the out-and-open gays and trans people go from platoon to platoon, and start identifying other students they know, or suspect to be also LGBTQIA. We were basically used to ruin lives (considering the impact of LGBTQIA discrimination).

5. ROTC tried turning us gays into pimps.

In my second year in college (and thereby second year surviving ROTC), I remember being called by the battalion commander then. I was with others who’d vouch. At first I thought we were called so he can be angry at us – i.e. as part of the student publication, we wrote about the issues students raised against ROTC. But – here’s the surprise – that man (whose name now escapes me) actually wanted our “help”. He said that with the tactical inspection about to happen, he wanted to make sure that the guests arriving from Metro Manila would have a memorable stay in Cotabato City. To do this, he wanted to get our “contacts”.

To contextualize: That same semester, we interviewed “tuition fee girls”, or female students who sold sex to earn enough to pay their tuition. And that man in camouflage wanted their names.

Militarization, in itself and by itself, isn’t the solution to the world’s problems. If someone yells: “But we need to protect ourselves from those who have military power!”, I’d say… “Okay, fine!”. But then you start focusing on who wields the power among those who push for militarization, and your resolve to oppose it just strengthens. Ni hindi nga maayos ang hazing sa Philippine Military Academy (PMA) eh

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