Coast Guard promotes officer for saving lives, averting disaster

By Calvin Cordova

CEBU CITY--The Philippine Coast Guard-Central Visayas (PCG) on Wednesday at its 52nd founding anniversary celebration feted a young officer whose heroic acts during a sea mishap saved many lives.

Philippine Coast Guard (MANILA BULLETIN) Philippine Coast Guard (MANILA BULLETIN)

Ralph Barajan, 30, received a Medal of Distinguished Conduct, the second-highest heroism award that can be bestowed upon Coast Guard personnel.

On top of the award, Barajan was also promoted to Petty Officer 2nd class (P02).

"It is very overwhelming. I didn't expect these recognitions. At the time, what I expected was death and I am just so happy to be in this situation now," said Barajan.

It was last November 7 when the MV Siargao Princess carrying Barajan and 53 other passengers sank off Sibonga town, southern Cebu after the vessel encountered huge waves.

Chaos and panic gripped the passengers but Barajan stayed composed and helped everyone on the vessel survive what could been a fatal accident.

Barajan was a Seaman First Class (SN1) at the time after his promotion for PO3 was put on hold.

"My promotion for PO3 was conditional. I had to finish schooling for it to be permanent but I failed to finish it due to time constraints and I was reverted back to …SN1. I filed a petition PO3 officer and it was only a few days after the incident that it was approved," Barajan said.

For his brave action, he received commendations from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas and the local government of Bohol.

Barajan's superiors also heaped praises on him.

“A hero is not just six-feet tall, masculine. Heroes could also be ordinary people doing  extraordinary in…extraordinary , and I think that definition fits the newly promoted PO 2nd Barajan," said Commodore William Isaga, chief of the Coast Guard Staff.

Isaga said what Barajan showed was something that the whole PCG should be proud of.

"I couldn't help but shed tears. I am so happy that, of all people, a Coast Guard officer was the ill-fated ship. It made me so proud to be a Coast Guard,” Isaga added.

With the award, Isaga said Barajan is now eligible to apply to become a Coast Guard official without taking an examination. He only needs to undergo a one-year training course given that he has a baccalaureate degree.

Barajan, who is assigned to Coast Guard Station-Southern Cebu based in Oslob town, southern Cebu, is a registered nurse.

PCG-7 commander Commodore Ronnie Gil Gavan said their legal department is working on the requisites so that the highest form of award, the Medal of Valor, will be awarded to Barajan.

Gavan said the anniversary celebration focused on Barajan because he symbolizes what a Coast Guatrd officer should be.

“We are basically lifesavers. We would like to inspire others that being a Coast Guard officer is more than just a profession. It is a vocation that requires selfless service to others,” Gavan said.

Barajan admitted that the immense attention he is receiving still overwhelms him.

"It's kind of uncomfortable. I'm feeling the pressure but at the same it is challenging. I hope I will be able to live up to expectations and inspire my fellow Coast Guard officers to continue to work hard especially in saving lives," he said.