The Filipino Monkey story apparently involves a guy -or guys- who do the radio version of trolling and spamming:
Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.
“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”
And the Monkey has stamina.
“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said. “But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”
Furthermore, Hoffman said radio signals have a way of traveling long distances in that area. “Under certain weather conditions I could hear Bahrain from the Strait of Hormuz.”
Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, could not say if the voice belonged to the heckler.
“It”s an international circuit and we’ve said all along there were other ships and shore stations in the area,” he said.
The report above says the phenomenon has been reported as being around since the 1980s, and suggests it could be a deranged veteran from the heyday of the US bases in Clark and Subic. But the Navy Times seems to have gotten its facts wrong (see gCaptain.com link below).
Or, we ought to consider this, it could be a deranged Filipino, too. As the famous comedy_-_filipino_sex 1.mp3 audio file put it, a “Filipino pancit-eating mother hamper” (not work safe, not for kids, click the link at your own peril!) was the creation, more likely than not, of a Filipino, too.
In The Filipino Monkey Strikes Again (and again and again…), gCaptain.com gives the lowdown on what is, apparently, one of the occupational hazards for Filipinos manning the merchant vessels of the world:
First of all any seaman, military or commercial, can tell you their is no heckler know as the “Filipino Monkey”. Rather it’s a phrase that’s been uttered by thousands of mariners for decades. This harassing radio call with racial origins is made over the radio when a sailor hears the distinct accent of a Filipino mariner on the VHF radio. Why is it said? Mostly out of boredom but also for the simple reason that it is sure to get a heated response.
It also happens to be the bane of every Watch Officer’s existence; a joke that is no longer funny but refuses to die.
gCaptain then links to another blog, Tim’s Times, which gives a Filipino account of the practice:
The two tone alarm has gone again and this time it’s a pan pan from La Coruna Radio, other side of the Bay of Biscay. You wouldn’t mind so much if it was just the official users of VHF and MF radio that you had to contend with, but oh no there is every manner of animal sound, and jungle noise on the VHF from people who should not be on the radio, let alone a ship. One moron was calling out, “Gorilla from Manila, and Filipino monkey” my watchman who is from Manila laughed and said that it is often Indian’s who call this out to provoke a response from Filipinos, who say “Indian I can’t see you but I can smell you”. So childish and these guys are in charge of ships, frightening, and these days it is all being recorded, so you must be dealing with stupidity, says a lot for the profession…
Going back to gCaptain, he points to the US origins of the taunt (immortalized by Hollywood, as the audio file I linked to above, shows):
Initially I was shocked that a Navy ship, or any ship, could not have known the taunt was a joke. This is seamanship 101. I clearly remember having the taunt whispered in my ear by an upperclassmen during my plebe year that the Naval Academy and by the time I received my officers license I had heard it hundreds of time. How could the officers of the cruiser Port Royal not know this was a common joke? I’m admitting still confused but after hearing the audio file I must say it doesn’t sound like the typical ‘Filipino Monkey’ taunt.
Another blog, Cyborg’s Contemplative Corner, has this story:
My boyfriend S is as true blue a sailor as you can get, and there’s no greater joy for him than to pour over nautical maps and write captain’s logs. He would insist on keeping the radio on, tuned to the unencrypted frequency used by sailors to casually communicate with each other.
It was the first day of our voyage and on our radio channel we had picked up the conversation between two Pakistani sailors on different cargo ships who randomly contacted each other and then proceeding to chat. This was particularly interesting to me as I was the only one on our boat who understood Urdu so I listened intently as they spoke of their ships, where they were going, what food they got on the ships, what cargo they carried and so on.
And then suddenly, unexpectedly, it happened.
There was no mistaking what was being yelled –
“Filipino monkey! Filipino monkey!”
And so it went on five or six times more, before the sailors could recover from their conversation being so rudely interrupted.
And then one of the Pakistanis retorted
“You bastard, I’m not Filipino, I’m Pakistani”
But there was no stopping this fellow. On and on he went.
“Filipino monkey! Filipino monkey!”
The Pakistanis then resorted to the most gentlemanly course open to them and proceed to cuss the hell out of this fellow in the choicest Punjabi expletives. S had noticed the drone of this anonymous radio user (and how the conversation had switched from Urdu to English) and came down.
S: “What’s going on? Who’s screaming?
TM: “I have no idea. He just randomly barged into their conversation and started abusing”
S: “That’s weird. I’m sure I’ve heard this same guy on this radio frequency say this before as well.”
That incident kept repeating for the next two days that we were close enough to Piraeus. Invariably, at some point during the day, the two Pakistanis would use the radio to chat and the anonymous guy would barge in and constantly chant “Filipino monkey”. The guy was not only batshit crazy, but he seemed to get no sleep at all. For no matter what time of the day the Pakistanis chose to chat, sure enough, within minutes our abuser would appear and start insulting them.
This would then blow out into a full scale insult war with the Pakistanis responding with choice words in Punjabi. As we sailed closer to Santorini, the exchanges became less frequent and then stopped altogether. However, as we approached Piraeus on our way back, sure enough, our sailor tormentor was back in action, this time harassing two Indian sailors. The modus operandi was the same – the sailors would start using the open channel to chat and then within minutes the man would begin his incessant drone of “Filipino monkey” in an extremely annoying sing-song voice. The sailors responded with swears, the man did the same, and then it just was a trade off of a volley of abuses.
I haven’t been back in Greece after this trip, but every time S goes home and sails, he brings back stories of the “Filipino Monkey” man, still his up to his insane ways, polluting the pristine airwaves of the Aegean with his racist nonsense. However, S and I always thought the man was a local phenomenon, probably some Greek man with intense resentment for the fact that modern cargo ships predominantly draw their crew from the Philippines.
What’s peculiar is that Filipino seamen have, apparently, been living with this monkey business for years, and have turned it into a game, and nothing more.
Equally, and even more, peculiar, is how the whole thing not only seized the headlines, but, as Scott Macleod of Time’s Middle East blog asks, Did “Filipino Monkey” Almost Cause WWIII?
There may be a serious problem here. Has the Bush administration’s demonization of Iran so pervaded the U.S. government that the judgement of vital decision-makers is becoming dangerously clouded? So when a possible practical joker issues a threat to a warship, you have a Strangelovian military chain of command from Bahrain to Washington racing to insist that the crazy, murderous mullahs in Tehran are at it again. By the Pentagon’s own account, one of the warships very nearly took out at least one of the Iranian vessels but the order to fire was prevented at the last minute when the speedboats turned away. It goes without saying that an armed clash like that between two long-time adversaries could have ignited a much larger confrontation. Bush recently warned that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have raised the specter of World War III and he has not ruled out a U.S. military strike on Iran to degrade its uranium-enrichment facility.
In due course, I hope that we establish who issued the verbal threat to blow up the U.S. ships. Was it “Filipino Monkey”? An imitator? If the Pentagon had better proof that it was an Iranian, we would have seen it by now. Incidentally, the Iranians always denied making the threat, and accused the U.S. of hyping a routine ship-to-ship interaction in international waters into a fabricated confrontation. “This is an ordinary occurrence, which happens every now and then for both sides,” Iranian Foreign Minister spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said immediately afterwards…
If “Filipino Monkey” or somebody of that ilk turns out to be the culprit, it means that the Pentagon either can’t tell the difference between a prank and a threat, or that it’s too busy confronting Iran to bother trying to do so. Either way, it’s another reason to worry.
On an unrelated note, for reference purposes, here’s the House of Representatives Committee Report 1653 on the Garci Tapes: