For his “exceptional bravery at sea,” Probationary Ensign Ralph Ofalla Barajan, the Boholano officer of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who rescued 62 passengers of a sinking fastcraft in the waters off Sibunga, Cebu last November 7, 2019, will be honored by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, which is conferred annually by the London-based IMO, is a unique international recognition for individuals who performed acts of exceptional bravery or displaying outstanding courage at sea, to the point of risking their own lives just to ensure the safety of other lives at sea or to prevent or mitigate marine environmental damage.
Barajan, a native of Maribojoc town, was one of the passengers of the ill-fated MV Siargao Princess which sailed on November 7, 2019 from Catagbacan Port in Loon, Bohol. But before the fastcraft vessel could reach its destination in Sibonga, Cebu, it was pummelled by big waves and strong winds, and eventually sank.
As the vessel began to sink, Barajan who was off-duty at that time, followed his instincts and stuck to his training as a Coast Guard officer and as a nurse. He instructed passengers to stay calm and guided them in safely jumping off the sinking vessel one by one, telling the captain to abandon ship, and then tying life jackets in groups when all of the 52 passengers and 10 crewmen were floating at sea and waiting for rescuers to arriveAll of the vessel’s passengers survived and they credited Barajan as the one who guided them to safety, hailing the 32-year old Coast Guard officer as their savior and hero.
PCG Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said of Barajan’s heroic acts as an “exceptional display of courage, determination and presence of mind which led to the successful rescue of 62 victims.”
“There were no fatalities in the sea mishap because Barajan swiftly acted to make sure everyone survived,” the PCG commandant said in statement in reaction to the IMO’s conferment of the award to Barajan.
Aside from the international recognition from the IMO, efforts are also underway to award Barajan with the Medal of Valor, the highest military honor.
Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Manuel Lagdameo, the one who submitted Barajan’s nomination for the IMO award, said that the IMO panel of judges, unanimously voted to confer the award to the Boholano Coast Guard officer.
The IMO award will be given to Barajan during the PCG’s celebration of its 119th Founding Anniversary tomorrow, October 14, 2010. (KB, RT)