The Boholano Coast Guard received an award from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body, for saving 62 people in a sinking vessel in 2019, with the award ceremony taking place in Manila instead of London due to a pandemic.
Ensign Ralph Ofalla Barajan, of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), was one of the winners of the IMO 2020 Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, but he was the first Filipino and the first Southeast Asian to have this distinction.
According to report, Barajan was off duty and on his way to report to the PCG substation in Southern Cebu when something happened to MV Siargao Princess where he’s among the passengers.
The vessel was from Catagbacan Port in Loon town, Bohol for Sibonga to Cebu with 55 passengers, including Barajan, and seven crew members on board.
While going to Cebu, the ship encountered huge waves and started to sink. Barajan quickly responded and called PCG stations Bato and Southern Cebu for help.
While waiting for the rescue team, Barajan guided the passengers, distributed lifejackets, and asked people to stay calm and seated to help balance the vessel.
His courage and bravery saved all 62 lives of passengers onboard.
Barajan received a medal and certificate from IMO, which was presented to him by Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs Igor Bailen of the Maritime and Oceans Office of the DFA (MOAO).
John Francis Herrera of the DFA’s MOAO and Rear Admiral Rolando Lizor Punzalan, Chief of the Coast Guard Staff, were present at the award ceremony.
Barajan said he was grateful for the recognition. “It is an honor to give pride to my country by becoming the first Filipino to receive the prestigious IMO Exceptional Bravery at Sea Award,” he said.