Bohol’s coast guard hero Ralph Barajan receives maritime award for sea bravery

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Ralph Barajan
Probationary Ensign Ralph Barajan has earned the IMO Award for “exceptional bravery at sea” after saving 62 lives in Cebu waters in November 2019. Photo credits to Ralph’s FB.

Boholano coast guard Ralph Ofalla Barajan is receiving the 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for “exceptional bravery at sea”.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) made the announcement on October 12, that Probationary Ensign (P/Ens) Barajan, who was an off-duty officer during the sea crisis will be receiving the international recognition for showing the heroic deed of saving 62 lives in an ill-fated passenger vessel in Cebu in November 2019.

The coast guard personnel will also be recognized and commended on the celebration of the 119th founding anniversary of the PCG on October 14, 2020.

The coast guard hero from Cortes, Bohol saved 55 passengers and 7 crew members of the MV Siargao Princess which departed from Catagbacan Port in Loon, Bohol en route to Poblacion in Sibonga, Cebu at around 9:30 a.m. of November 7, 2019.

Here is part of the nomination narrative of P/Ens Barajan submitted by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations’s IMO:

“At around 09:30 a.m. of 07 November 2019, MV Siargao Princess departed Catagbacan Port in Loon, Bohol enroute to Poblacion in Sibonga, Cebu with 55 passengers, including P/Ens Barajan and seven crew members.
While underway to port of destination, the MV Siargao Princess encountered big waves approximately two meters high, resulting to flooding inside the vessel.

“P/Ens Barajan, who was calmly sleeping before the incident occurred was awaken by panicking passengers at around 11:05 a.m. He immediately informed Coast Guard Sub-Station Bato and Coast Guard Station Southern Cebu regarding their situation and requested for assistance.

“While waiting for the PCG rescue team, P/Ens Barajan assisted passengers by distributing lifejackets and instructing them stay calm and seated to maintain vessel stability. He also sought the assistance of the crew members for the provision of lifejackets to children onboard.

“Afterwards, P/Ens Barajan looked for the captain and convinced him to declare abandon ship as the best option, given the gravity of the situation. After declaration of abandon ship, P/Ens Barajan guided the passengers in safely jumping off the vessel one by one. He jumped off last after ensuring that no person was left behind. MV Siargao Princess sank in less than ten minutes after it was declared abandon ship.

“While floating on the water and waiting for rescue, P/Ens Barajan tied the lifejackets of passengers and crew members in groups so that everyone remained secured. Said effort allowed the personnel of BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406) to easily locate the victims on the water, thereby contributing to the swift conduct of rescue operations. All passengers and crew members were declared safe aboard BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406).

“While on their way to the nearest port for further assistance, the passengers were surprised to learn that P/Ens Barajan was also a passenger. They thought he was the vessel captain by how he swiftly and confidently led their safe evacuation from the ill-fated vessel.”

PCG Commandant, Admiral George V Ursabia Jr. applauded the heroic effort of Barajan for securing the lives of all the people in the ill-fated ship.

“P/Ens Barajan’s display of courage, determination, and presence of mind which led to the successful rescue of 62 victims, including himself is indeed worthy of emulation and respect for him, his family, and for the PCG – as a perfect demonstration of the Coast Guard service.”

Heroic Filipinos have been commended in various international recognitions, including Filipina nurse Minnie Klepacz who was awarded the British Empire Medal for her work during the COVID-19 epidemic, and Overseas Filipina nurse Kit Torres who was honored with portraits as UK Health Worker hero.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS and WELL WISHES to Boholano coast guard hero Ralph Ofalla Barajan for receiving the 2020 IMO award for “exceptional bravery at sea” after saving 62 lives in an ill-fated passenger vessel in Cebu.

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Alyssa Leyda-Aldemo
Alyssa Leyda-Aldemo was a contributor in the News Letter of her former agency and is currently a content writer on her church's website and social media platform. She is now a full-time housewife who wants to re-ignite her passion for writing.