A couple of weeks ago, a young man from the southern Philippines appeared on the front page of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s biggest paper.
The headline read, “I’m the Filipino soldier who killed my mom.”
This is the story of how a young Filipino woman became a soldier, a role she says she didn’t realize she wanted until she was about five years old.
She went to school in the United States, then attended a boarding school in Japan.
She graduated in 2008, with a degree in history.
When she came back home, she had a new goal: becoming a pilot.
The next year, she landed a job as a flight instructor in a small Philippine airport, but that didn’t seem to matter.
Her mother, she says, never told her to.
She had already given up on life.
In the years that followed, the mother would never tell her daughter her real name.
That’s when she began the process of coming to terms with her identity.
It’s a story that could happen to anyone.
It’s been over two decades since a Filipino woman was a soldier.
Since then, more than 400 Filipinos have died in combat, more often as result of an accident or an ambush than a direct attack.
But while the number of women serving in combat is increasing, the number who are actually doing the fighting for the country has remained stubbornly low.
When she finally got the chance to come home, the woman, now 24, went to the Philippines Air Force Academy.
After three years of flight school, she got her pilot’s license.
And for two years, she lived in Manila, where she attended college.
In December 2016, she finally had the chance, after a year of training, to come to her native country, the Philippines, and join the military.
In November of this year, after the Philippines Defense Ministry issued a new regulation, allowing women to serve openly, she enlisted.
She was the first woman in the Philippine Air Force to go to the academy, but not the last.
“I was always very excited, but I didn’t think I would be able to be a pilot, because of the stigma,” she told The Associated Press by phone from Manila.
“I didn’t know if I could do it.
I just wanted to do my job.”
After training, the airman’s career began to take off.
“She would go to school and study, and then she would go on to become a pilot,” says the woman’s husband, Juan Jose.
“But I think we had a lot of doubts.”
She did not think that she could be a military spouse.
“We were very proud of her.
But I never thought that she would become a soldier,” says her husband, who is now 30.
“It wasn’t something that she was thinking about, but something that I had to accept.”
The family is now trying to get her back into the military, but she’s not sure if she’ll be able.
I was born in 1965 in the Philippines.
I had been born there, and we had never gone to school.
My mother taught us how to use the phones and how to eat, so that we would have something to eat.
But she told us not to think about it.
It was always about the future.
And I remember the fear of going to school, and not knowing what to do with myself.
And my mother was always telling me, don’t worry.
I am here for the long haul.
The first day I walked into the academy on my first day, I was nervous, I didn