GI Joe: A Real American Hero

I have been mistaken for this guy a lot since I've been here

By Adam Preston, KF9, Philippines

The Filipinos are a very generous people.  So generous, in fact, that if they don’t know your name, they will even give you a name – and that name is Joe.  I am greeted in this way no less than 3 or 4 times in a day, coming from men and women both young and old: “Hey Joe!”

As many guide books will tell you, in many parts of the Philippines foreigners especially males of Caucasian decent (read: white dudes) will be greeted as “Joe” referring to the GIs (American soldiers) who had a presence here through World War II.

“Finally, Filipinos have a unique greeting for male (and sometimes female) Westerners: ‘Hey Joe!’ (‘Hey Kano!’ is a less used variation). Both are hangovers from Word War II when the country was overrun by GI Joes or American soldiers (‘kano’ comes form Americano’) and are used ad nauseam.  Of course, if your name’s Joe, you’ll feel pretty special.  If not, you may start to feel like a clown set especially to give the locals a laugh.”

“Philippines”, Lonely Planet, p. 63, Edition 8, 2009

What is interesting about this experience isn’t just that this moniker dates back more than 50 years, but it is  how it is often said, the utter exuberance in which the greeting is delivered.  When waiting for my tricycle and I hear someone shout “Hey Joe!”, oddly, I don’t feel insulted.  When I look over at the guy saying this, he is looking right at me with a big smile on his face.   He seems to be genuinely glad to see me.  I politely turn and wave and reciprocate in the only way that I know how: “Hey buddy”, I respond.

Adam Preston is a Kiva Fellow working with ASKI in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. He answers to both the name his mother gave him and also now to Joe.  To get involved click here.

<< Fellows Updates