USMC soldiers during the balut eating challenge on October 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Orchie Bobis, 3rd MBDe)

Japanese and U.S. service members participating in Kamandag 3 exercise were challenged to conquer their fears away when they were dared by their Filipino counterparts to eat “balut”, the duck egg embryo that is considered exotic street food in the country and is eaten from the shell.

Around 50 officers of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) braved the surprise challenge of eating 100 balut eggs during early dinner time at the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBDe) in Barangay Tiniguiban, Monday.

Lieutenant Orchie Bobis, spokesperson of the 3MBDe, said they posted the challenge to their American and Japanese service member counterparts so they could experience balut, a popular Filipino street food that looks like common hard-boiled egg on the outside but has more inside.

Check the expression on this Japanese soldier’s face while doing the balut challenge. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Orchie Bobis, 3rd MBDe)

“Bumili kami ng 100 balut eggs para sa kanila at sinabayan namin silang kumain. May mga nasuka, grabe ang diri nila sa balut. Sabi nila ‘it’s hard to sip the pee of the chick inside’. It’s part of establishing camaraderie with them, we want them to get to know one of our famous street foods so they would get to know Filipinos and our food culture more,” Bobis said.

“We made them try the balut kasi covered ng shell at malinis talaga. Pero gross daw kasi parang dina-dissect pa bago kainin,” she added.

Bobis said although they find it strange or even disgusting, U.S. and Japan forces took the balut eating challenge as an exciting prospect for their adventurous spirits while in Palawan to participate in Kamandag 3 that also introduces them to new culture and traditions.

Bobis said the balut egg has become a symbol of friendship too among Kamandag 3 participating forces, especially because there is a good story to tell when they go back home.

If an American or Japanese soldier accepts a balut egg from a Filipino and eats it, Bobis said it means their friendship is sealed.

“They laughed while braving the surprise challenge — ‘yong mga junior Marines, no choice but to take the challenge even till third time [kumain ng balut]. Reklamo talaga sila, pero take and take, sa bandang huli okay naman. It would be a good memory they can tell their other friends about our food culture. Eating the egg means tinatanggap din nila ng buo ang pagkakaibigan,” Bobis said.

Lt. Orchie Bobis (2nd from left) during the boodle fight with American and Japanese soldiers at the 3rd MBDe headquarters.

She said the foreign forces also loved the “boodle fight”, the Filipino soldiers’ way of eating meals together in one long table without cutleries.

Bobis said many of the Japanese and U.S. service members have not tried the military practice of putting all food in the middle of the table and eating together using just their hands.

“Sobrang tuwa din nila sa boodle fight, may iba kasi na first time nilang gawin ‘yon. Grabeng tuwa rin nila sa pagpapa-picture sa buong baboy na nilitson,” she said.

Kamandag is the acronym for the “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat” Filipino phrase. It also means “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the U.S. and Philippine militaries with the participation of Japan.

It is the first to include U.S. and Philippine low-altitude air defense and threat reaction training.

Kamandag activities represent an increase in military capability and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and demonstrate the ability to forward deploy forces in the event of a crisis or natural disaster.