Boholano coast guard Ensign Ralph Barajan who has been credited for helping save the lives of 62 people from a sinking passenger ship in 2019 was honored with the Exceptional Bravery at Sea award by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), making him the first Filipino to receive the accolade.
The IMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), was supposed to confer the recognition to Barajan in London last year but he instead received the award at the Department of Foreign Affairs office in Pasay City on Wednesday due to the persisting pandemic.
Barajan, while off-duty, facilitated the safe disembarkation of his fellow passengers of the ill-fated vessel MV Siargo Princess which sank in waters off Cebu in November, 2019.
The international award was handed over to Barajan by DFA Assistant Secretary Igor G. Bailen and John Francis S. Herrera of the DFA – Maritime and Oceans Affairs Office.
Barajan for his part said he felt honored for having been given the award.
“Mapasalamaton ta kay na-recognize ta sa IMO…honored ta na nakahatag ta og recognition sa atoang country, labina kay kita ang kina unhang Filipino na nahatagan ani,” said Barajan.
The Bohol native was among only two other recipients of the award for 2020. The two others were Brazil nationals Marcio Santos Teixeira and Fabio Rodrigues Alves de Abreu, members of the São Paulo Pilots, who were recognized for averting a major oil spill event at the Terminal Almirante Barroso in São Sebastião Port.
According to the IMO, it established the annual award “for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.”
While awarded for bravery, Barajan admitted that it was not “fearlessness” that prompted him to do what many have deemed to be a heroic act.
He said it was his commitment to service as a PCG officer that drove him to ensure that everyone onboard the sinking vessel were brought to safety.
“Dili na tinuod na wala tay kahadlok. Nahadlok g’yud ta kaayo pero lahi man gud ng tawag sa serbisyo, mao awhag ra pud nako sa mga kauban nako na barugan nato ang atong gipanumpa na mo serbisyo,” he added.
In November 2019, Barajan on board MV Siargao Princess travelled from Loon, Bohol to Sibonga, Cebu where he was supposed to report for duty as an officer of PCG Southern Cebu.
He would not make it to work that day however as the ship was pummeled by large waves and strong winds causing the vessel to eventually take in water and sink.
As the MV Siargo Princess started to sink, Barajan immediately called for PCG assistance and while waiting for rescue operatives, instructed passengers to stay calm and guided them in safely jumping off the vessel.
He then bound life jackets together for passengers to hold on to and to keep them from straying from the group.
Barajan’s initiative and quick-thinking were credited for the safety of all the passengers and crew members of the vessel during the sea mishap. ( R. Tutas)