Living Abroad

Unprecedented, unrealistic depiction of Filipinos as jihadists in ‘Act of Valor’


SAN FRANCISCO, California—It has been almost two months since the film, “Act of Valor”, showed in movie houses across America, posting top revenues in it’s first few weeks.  The title alone was the perfect come-on for flag waving patriots. In addition, the movie featured bold military maneuvers with real Navy Seals in action, all but guaranteeing it would be a box office hit.  But, hold on. The brave soldiers are no actors and the script by Kurt Johnstad (of “300”) was seriously flawed. Purportedly based on real Navy Seal experience while not claiming to be a documentary, it was a all a web of fiction that used, named and depicted Filipinos as the terrorists.

Filipinos, of all people. Really? Filipinos as terrorists? Why, they were just recently voted one of the “least rude” people in the world.  Of course, one can be gentle and polite but still be a terrorist but Filipino terrorism that traverses continents and oceans is a big, big stretch of the imagination.

Johnstad’s script had the Seals going from Asia to the Middle East and Mexico, tracking and preventing these terrorists from wreaking havoc on Americans on American soil, employing ultra sophisticated weapons and immense logistics and backed by the most powerful military in the world.  They had everything from nuclear submarines to helicopters able to lift speedboats in un-maneuverable waterways to high-tech gear and super drones. They threw all their might into their mission to track and squash a band of Filipino jihadists under the command of a Chechnyan commando.

From start to finish, the storyline seemed to weave its tale around the premise that the source of this potent jihadist movement against America emanated from the Philippines. In one of the first scenes, the American ambassador along with his son studying at the “international School” in Manila (filmed in Ceylon with Ceylonese children and smattering of white kids) along with dozens of young students excitedly surround a “sorbetes” truck before they are blown up into smithereens. And just before the explosion, there’s one lone long-haired school security guard manning his post and stupidly looking alarmed at a suspicious-looking scar-faced foreigner driving the ice cream truck and luring the children in who then briskly walks away from the truck before it explodes.

In another scene, a private jet is landing somewhere in the Middle East. The passengers, mostly Muslim men as identified by their headscarves which look like a shemagh or Keffiyeh/kufiha are disembarking from the plane and dropping prostrate (sujud) in prayer right at the airstrip while a Navy Seal hidden from hundreds of yards away with his binoculars identifies unequivocally that 16 of the passengers are Filipinos. “Definitely Filipinos,” he says. Wow. Them must be super powerful binoculars to be able to distinguish ethnic differences from that long a distance. Amazing.

In-between scenes, the movie builds up on the role of the Filipino “jihadists” by having the Chechniyan commando do his inspirational talk in Tagalog. “Pamilya tayo, ” he affirms their oneness and singular objective to destroy America.

Finally, the story leads to a “barrio” of “Filipino” terrorists. Filipino because their dialogue is in Tagalog even though it appears they are living in shanties close to the Mexican-US border where a scientist is perfecting the undetectable bombs to be worn by a jihadist across the border.  Alas, they are caught in the dead of night before they can sow destruction in U.S. soil.  A Rambo-style gun battle ensues and the terrorists are, of course, no match. They are quickly decimated and disposed of but not before a  “Filipina” threatens to blow herself up with a bomb, egged on by the Chechnyan commando Abu Shabal, saying,  “Do it! You will see your God soon.” What?

And you ask, “Did I just see Filipinos being painted as enemies of freedom and democracy? The Philippines? The only Christian nation in Asia, where every five Filipino has a relative or friend living in America, conniving with terrorists to wreak havoc in the land of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, their favorite movie stars? Where only 70 years ago, Filipino and American soldiers fought side by side to fight the invading imperial army? The rivers and rivulets of blood that spilled in the Battle of Bataan and during the Death March still vivid in the minds of our parents and grand-parents? Life might be hard in some of the hinterlands in Mindanao but I think Filipinos normally stay local with a kidnapping here and there and the occasional skirmish with the military.  But to tie-up with terrorists to kill innocent victims here in America, the land of their dreams, is beyond what even the most virulently anti-American Filipino is likely to go.
Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times has this to say:  “Act of Valor” is said to be based on real SEAL situations, but the script by Kurt Johnstad (“300″) couldn’t be more generic as it unearths a global plot that threatens to make, you guessed it, “9/11 look like a walk in the park.”

To voice your opinion to stop profiling Filipinos as jihadist in American movies, you might want to consider signing the petition at:

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Noel

    The problem is the movie has given Filipinos a bad name.  Some fanatics or racists in the US and other countries might make it harder now for Filipinos to travel.

    Why don’t we produce a movie about the American-Filipino War wherein many innocent Filipinos were massacred?  And why don’t we also produce a movie about Chinese attacking us in the Philippines to incite nationalism among Filipinos.  Well, no local producer would gamble on spending such money to produce.

  • watot

    I watched the movie, full of flaws and inconsistencies. No wonder despite so sophisticated and advanced, their intel sucks haha!

  • Guest Ako

    guys, what’s the fuzz all about? it’s just a movie? like any story, there has to be a villain? why not filipinos? will it give filipinos a bad name? does portraying vietamese, thais, chinese, koreans, arabs, americans, russians, or any other nation or nationality any different? let’s not be too onion-skinned. just as the same way the whites do not raise a howl whenever they are portrayed as phedophiles. reacting like this is the same as the catholic church reacting to the publication of harry potter, which in the end made them only look ridiculous to the world.

  • Andres Bonifacio

    Why Filipinos…because even if they insult us…we just smile! They don’t want to insult the real terrorist Muslims! Why didnt they depict the terrorist as Indonesians which is truer to reality! In other words, they afraid of the muslims, arabs, etc…but Filipinos? you can insult them all you want! LOL!

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos