RICHMOND, Va. –
When Spc. Michael Delos Trinos thinks about his Filipino heritage, what comes to mind first is the food and the importance of family.
“Filipino food is where it's at,” Delos Trinos said. A first generation Filipino American, Delos Trinos is currently assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division. He recently completed Basic Combat Training, or BCT, and plans to start Officer Candidate School later this year. His favorite Filipino food is lechon, a roasted suckling pig usually stuffed with spices and seasonings and cooked over an open flame which results in a flavorful offering of crispy-skinned pork.
"It’s delicious!" Delos Trinos said. "Picture bacon but better!"
The traditional Filipino style of eating is called kamayan, which means “by hand.” With kamayan, Delos Trinos explained, foods are presented on large banana leaves, usually with rice as a base. This food display is often huge, covering a whole table. The meal often includes pinakbet Tagalog, usually with vegetables like eggplant and a protein, like shrimp or fish.
“We also put grilled pork on there," Delos Trinos said. "We usually put everything in there and eat it like one giant piece.”
While furthering his education at the University of Maryland, Delos Trinos was an active participant in the school’s Filipino Club. There, he and other students celebrated Filipino culture by learning and practicing dances like the Tinikling, a traditional Philippine folk dance that involves the use of bamboo poles and multiple dancers.
“The Tinikling is my favorite cultural dance that represents my heritage," Delos Trinos said. "The dance requires coordination, rhythm and concentration, as you must be in sync with others to perform it."
Delos Trinos said that much of Filipino culture, including events like Tinikling and kamayan, are family-focused.
"We’re very family-oriented," he said, explaining that a visit to his house would mean being greeted with immediate hospitality.
“I also love it when I go to other Filipino households,” Delos Trinos said. “The grandmothers and moms are always making sure I am taken care of, asking if I ate enough, am I comfortable, if I want to watch television. I am in heaven!”
The comradery he’s found in the Filipino American community is similar to what he’s found in the Virginia Army National Guard.
“It’s the comradery and the sense of family that you can always rely on,” he said. "In the National Guard, we’re always taking care of others, we lift each other up. We live to serve others.”
Growing up, he says he always wanted to serve in the military. His grandfather was part of the Philippine Army, and his brother served in the U.S. Navy. He participated in JROTC in high school, then went on to earn both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at UMD. After that, it was finally time to commit to military service.
"I wanted to do the OCS program because I wanted to build upon my leadership skills and balance my civilian job with the military," he said. "I don’t get a lot of leadership opportunities in the civilian world, so I am still growing into it.”
Once he decided to join, he said he met with recruiters from multiple branches, trying to find the right fit for him. He had a previous injury that required some extra work on the part of his recruiters. When he reached out to the Virginia Army National Guard, the recruiters there provided immediate assistance. Then, he learned about the benefits of National Guard service, including the Student Loan Repayment Program, or SLRP, which helps students tackle their debt.
“Educate yourself and learn about all the great things the National Guard has to offer,” he said. In addition to the SLRP, Delos Trinos says he’ll be using a VA home loan and plans to use tuition assistance benefits to earn another degree.
In addition to the benefits, Delos Trinos said he’s found an incredible military family in the Virginia National Guard.
“I would not have met all the great people I am close with today if I had not gone through this experience.” he said. "I'm just grateful that the Virginia Army National Guard has given me this opportunity. It’s about honor, integrity and patriotism. I want to play my role and make sure everyone is safe. My family has done a lot for me and I want to repay them by serving and making them proud. I want to do my part to protect the place I love."
Delos Trinos said once he completes OCS, he’d like to branch military intelligence, cyber or into the adjutant general corps.