A diverse force: SJAFB honors Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kylie Barrow
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affiars

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE, N.C. - May is recognized as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and the 4th Fighter Wing celebrates the heritage and culture of these Airmen.

One of the 4 FW’s AAPI Airmen is Senior Airman Warren Mangabat, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base honor guardsman.

Mangabat is originally from Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He and his two younger siblings were raised by his single mother, who worked hard to put him into a private school. Mangabat stated it was not a good or safe area, but fondly recalled bonding moments with his little brother.

“We didn't have any running water so whenever it would rain, we would take a shower,” said Mangabat. “We also had one of those plastic kiddie pools to take a bath in. That's one of those bonding memories I have with my brother, the kind where it wasn’t a fun time, but in a nostalgic way it was.”

When Magabat was seven, he, his mother and younger siblings moved in with his grandparents to what he referred to as the farm country of the Philippines, which had ponds, fields, woods and rice paddies, filled with wildlife.

“There was this one time when my brother and I were climbing a banana tree and I was grabbing bananas, throwing them down at my brother,” said Mangabat. “Across from us there was another banana tree that ended up having some monkeys in them and they started throwing bananas at us.”

Soon after, Mangabat’s mother met a man from America while he was in the Philippines on a mission trip with his church. They ended up falling in love and the man who would become Mangabat’s stepfather wanted to bring them back to his home in Washington state. He and his family moved to the United States when he was just 12-years-old.

Mangabat said he found it challenging to learn English and it was a barrier to integrating into the culture he found himself in.

“When I first came to the U.S. I did not speak English,” said Mangabat. “English is interpreted in multiple ways and is a very confusing and complex language to learn.”

However, Mangabat stated that the language barrier was the only barrier he really dealt with coming to the U.S. He said the Asian culture where he lived in Washington was large and welcoming.
A lot of the people who migrated there became fishermen and they bonded around fishing and food. Mangabat also had cousins and other family who were already living in Washington who helped him become accustomed to his new home.

Mangabat spoke of his stepfather fondly and said he was an important mentor who taught him how to sing and play the piano. He found his passion for arts and recieved a scholarship in high school, but he decided to take a different route.

In 2018, Mangabat joined the U.S. Air Force, where he met his wife and is now expecting a daughter in July of 2022. When he is not in honor guard, Mangabat’s normal day to day duty in the Air Force is as an aircrew flight equipment journeymen.

Mangabat said he plans on visiting his home back in the Philippines to introduce his wife and daughter to his family and let his wife experience the culture of where he came from.

Mangbabat mentioned it was surreal to think about how different his life could be if his family never moved to the U.S.

“The opportunities I got here, I would never have had in the Philippines,” said Mangabat. “I would have never discovered my love for the many talents I have and I wouldn't have been able to discover so many different passions.”