How presence of mind saved 53 lives

Published November 11, 2019, 6:18 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Calvin Cordova 

CEBU CITY — “I didn’t want to see someone die in front of me.”

Seaman First Class (SB1) Ralph Barajan had this in mind when he single-handedly saved 53 passengers from a sinking fast craft last Thursday some five nautical miles off the shore of Sibonga town in Southern Cebu. (Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)
Seaman First Class (SN1) Ralph Barajan had this in mind when he single-handedly saved 53 passengers from a sinking fast craft last Thursday some five nautical miles off the shore of Sibonga town in Southern Cebu. (Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)

Seaman First Class (SN1) Ralph Barajan had this in mind when he single-handedly saved 53 passengers from a sinking fast craft last Thursday some five nautical miles off the shore of Sibonga town in Southern Cebu.

“At that the time, I also started to feel weak. There was chaos and everyone was panicking already. I just stayed focused and composed because I didn’t want to see someone die in front of me,” Barajan said in Filipino when he was presented to reporters at the Philippine Coast Guard-Central Visayas Headquarters on Monday.

M/V Siargao Princess came from Loon, Bohol and was supposed to dock in Sibonga when it encountered huge waves.

“It was around 9:30 a.m. when huge waves started battering the vessel. The vessel started to take in water from the front portion. I asked all the passengers to calm down because they were already panicking and there were no crew guiding them,” said Barajan.

As the front portion of the vessel started to submerge, Barajan directed all the passengers to transfer to the rear area while helping them put on their life jackets.

“There were children who wore life jackets that were for adults so I asked the crew to provide them with the appropriate vests,” said Barajan.

The vessel had seven crew members on board at the time.

As the vessel continued to tilt, Barajan decided to go to the upper deck to check why the skipper has not yet ordered “abandon ship.”

“I was already frustrated but the captain said it was still manageable but I knew it was not. I went down to check on the passengers and went back to the upper deck again to talk to the captain. There was already a commotion. I even shouted at the skipper for not declaring an abandon ship,” said Barajan.

When the skipper finally told passengers to abandon ship, Barajan assisted the passengers to transfer to the life rafts.

“There was one old woman who refused to jump off the ship. She was clinging to me. I lost my balance when I was hit by the door when the vessel was battered again by huge waves,” said Barajan.

Sensing danger, Barajan was forced to strike the old woman’s hand so she would let go.

“I kind of punched her hand for her to let go because the boat was already sinking. I was the last one to jump and got nearly swallowed by the water when the vessel sank,” he said.

While waiting for rescuers, Barajan said he tied the life rafts altogether so that no one will be swept away by strong current.

“The waves were so huge that they rolled over us. I told the passengers not to panic, taught them how to breath properly when waves were already all over us,” he said.

No one died during the incident and it was because of Barajan’s heroics, according to most of the passengers who were safely brought to Pier 1 in Cebu City by the rescuing vessel from PCG.

“It was a rare heroic act by Barajan. He guided the passengers, he guided the crew, he was even the one who insisted that the ship should already be abandoned. We are very thankful to him, the situation could have gotten worse if not for his heroics,” said Lt. Jr. Grade Michael John Encina, information officer of the PCG 7.

Barajan is set to receive a commendation and that may include promotion.

“The national headquarters will provide the necessary awards that could be given to him. He will be commended for such heroic act,” said Encina.

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas has already commended Barajan.

“I’d be happy if there will be awards that will be given but I am happier that all of us were able to survive,” said Barajan.

The 30-year-old Barajan is a native of La Paz, Cortes, Bohol. He is a registered nurse who joined the Coast Guard seven years ago. Barajan is married to a nurse. The couple has a five-month-old daughter.

“I passed the nursing board exam in 2010 but I couldn’t find a job then so I decided to join the Coast Guard,” said Barajan, who is assigned as vessel safety inspector at the Coast Guard Station-Southern Cebu, which is based in Oslob town, Southern Cebu.

Barajan is not new to receiving awards as he is a recipient of the “Coast Guard Personnel of the Year” award in 2017.

 
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