By Roy Mabasa
Several residents of Barangay Blue Ridge B in Quezon City had the time of their lives when they were given the rare opportunity to tour the visiting United States 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in Manila.
The 7thFleet staff welcomed the residents of Barangay Blue Ridge B led by Barangay Chairman Sessan Castro-Lee and several other barangay officials for a ship tour on March 17.
“This is a big honor for us. Not just getting the chance to see the ship but seeing all the crew and being welcomed so warmly. We really feel like we are part of the ship’s legacy,” Castro-Lee said.
Castro-Lee said their luck began when she learned recently that the USS Blue Ridge was visiting Manila. Immediately, she contacted the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines to arrange the visit.
“I didn’t expect to get such a welcoming response on such short notice. This has been such an amazing experience for us all,” she said.
Both USS Blue Ridge and Barangay Blue Ridge B share a namesake, taken from the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian Mountains range in the eastern United States.
Barangay Blue Ridge B residents toured the ship together with USS Blue Ridge crewmembers, winding through small corridors and climbing up and down ladder wells throughout the ship.
USS Blue Ridge Filipino-American Chief Culinary Specialist Ron Lanuza explained to the visitors how the command ship feeds its more than 1,000 crewmembers and 7th Fleet Staff.
“Being from the Philippines, I know how important the people here feel [that] the U.S. Navy is to the region, so we always want to give back,” Lanuza said. “Finding out that we have a local community that shares our name made the opportunity even more important for us. I think they really enjoyed the tour, and hopefully, we will be back soon so we can meet again.”
Lanuza is one of more than 150 Filipino-American personnel on the USS Blue Ridge, making the port call in Manila a welcome return for many.
The Blue Ridge B residents were also led to the bridge, the ship’s command and control station, by Chief Charles L. Ludwig, the Public Affairs Officer for the USS Blue Ridge, who explained how watch standers supervise the ship’s movement and navigation.
The USS Blue Ridge is the second-oldest ship in the U.S. Navy’s fleet that still features analog controls for speed and navigation.
They were then ushered to the deck, where Seaman Silvia Bohorquez, 7th Fleet’s first female search and rescue swimmer, demonstrated how to use rescue equipment, while Ludwig explained how the helicopters on board provide resupply, transport, and search and rescue support.
The Blue Ridge B residents also visited the forecastle, or fo’c’sle, in which the ship’s anchoring gear is housed, and passed through the ship’s version of “main street,” a corridor where a barbershop, bank, and post office operates.
According to the barangay, the Blue Ridge B community was born in the late 1950s and intended for military veterans The barangay was created in the late 1970s, occupies about 15 hectares, and serves approximately 200 households.
The USS Blue Ridge was in Manila for a port visit from March 13 to 21, 2019.