TAGAYTAY, Philippines — The American soldiers take with them knives actually used in combat and leave their Philippine counterparts valuable gear such as compasses and canteens.

During Balikatan in the Philippines this year, bartering gave U.S. and Philippine servicemembers a rare opportunity to get to know each other and forge friendships through personal items.

They traded MP armbands, patches and entire uniforms “as a goodwill gesture,” said Staff Sgt. Rubin Fergerson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 58th Military Police unit.

MPs from Scoffield Barracks, Hawaii, and National Guardsmen from Guam joined Philippine Marines in guarding and patrolling humanitarian projects in remote villages during Balikatan.

They had a lot of time to talk and get to know each other, working side by side for long days in oppressive heat.

“You learn a lot about their culture,” Fergerson said.

Sgt. Humberto Perez traded an entire battle dress uniform for a Philippine BDU, which he plans to keep as a memory of his time there.

He said Balikatan has been a great experience for him as a soldier and as a person. “I really like it,” he said. “You meet a lot of new friends.”

The Americans said they also were glad to offer some material support to the Philippine marines. Fergerson recalled a Philippine gunnery sergeant wearing a pair of dilapidated 12-year-old boots. Many others lacked important and simple items such as compasses.

But the Americans didn’t walk away empty-handed.

Besides friendship items like patches and hats, many received knives Philippine soldiers said had been used in hand-to-hand combat with terrorist groups — including one, said Spc. Joshua Phillips, taken from a member of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the southern Philippines.

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