Oro kid Martin now a US Navy sailor

The young Martin Sampang with his family

“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” ― Albert Einstein

This truism of the world's greatest scientific genius lights the path of a 29-year-old Fil-American who hailed from Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao Philippines and now resides with his family in Norfolk, Virginia.

Martin Sampaga is with the US Navy, assigned aboard the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). At first he thought he was the only Filipino born aboard the ship but a month after, he was surprised to meet Filipino-American sailors who are also “Bisdak” (Bisayang Dako or Visayan born in English).

These fellow Bisdaks came from Cebu, Davao and Camiguin provinces. “But I am the only Kagay-anon. Serving the US Navy is not just for me serving only the Stars and Stripes, but around the world as well, serving nations that believe in democracy and that includes the Sun and the Stars, the Philippines,” Martin told me.

I asked if it was a decision he made when he was already in the US but it seems that he nurtured dreams of being in the military. Martin said he was fascinated with his neighbors at P.N Roa Subdivision who passed and entered the Philippine Military Academy. His neighbors are all with the military.

Growing up
“How can I forget the Aguhob brothers who were accepted into the Philippine Military Academy? Looking at their photos, I told myself I'll be in the military someday. I just don't know when and where,” Martin said.

Martin did make it to the military but in the US, not Philippine military. When he's finished with his work, he spends time remembering his times growing up in Cagayan de Oro.

“I love music so much. Unfortunately, I'm not a singer,” he said. Martin counts as his favorites 1990's rock legends like Nirvana, Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Limp Bizkit.

“When I feel like I wanted to relax, I want to hear classic songs. I became a fan of FM radio station in CDO 95.7 Mellow Touch. I listen to that station when I go to bed and wake up in the middle of the night feeling so loved that I cannot sleep back at all,” he said.

Martin said he left Cagayan de Oro eight years ago and the first few years adjusting to life in the US was tough as he never got to listen to his favorite songs. “I'm glad we have Youtube,” he said.

He said he missed those years growing up in Cagayan de Oro and mentioned such places as Limketkai and Gaisano Malls and SM City Cagayan de Oro. Even in his youth, Martin displayed a strong sense of responsibility.

“We were still students back during those days, so we understand those were not yet the best time to go find places for a nightlife. Not just because we were young, but considering the allowances we received from our parents, we believe their faith and investment in us shouldn't be wasted,” Martin said.

He finished his elementary grades at the Sacred of Jesus Montessori School in 1998 and high school in Liceo De Cagayan in 2003. “I had two years of college at the same university, but I had to drop out when I moved here in the States,” Martin said.

Martin returned to Cagayan de Oro in 2007 and 2011 but he considers 2011 as the most memorable as he attended his best friend's wedding. “I was fortunate to be chosen as his best man and I was delighted to meet his wife from Metro Manila,” Martin said.

His best friend from high school, Harry Cu, is a devoted member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Harry lives in Cagayan de Oro with his wife Violet Ramos-Cu where he moved in after both he and Martin graduated from high school.

“It was my first time to attend an INC wedding and I also visited my relatives in Bukidnon province. I also saw my friends in high school gainfully employed and we sampled Cagayan de Oro's nightlife and it's one of the best.

Martin is the son of Nenetta and Carlo Sampaga. “My mother is an Ilokana from Ilocos del Sur but was raised in Valencia, Bukidnon province. My father is Carlo Sampaga, from Mobo, Masbate,” he said.

His father Carlo used to work at the National Housing Authority (NHA). When asked about his plans in the next five years, Martin sees himself still serving in the US Navy.

“Elevated/promoted to higher rank. I want to see my sister graduate from nursing school, she decided to enroll herself at University of Las Vegas, I would be more happy when she finished. I pray to God for the good health of my parents. I also pray to see my relatives and friends back there in Cagayan de Oro and to attend a family reunion,” Martin said.


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