Hair-raising Episodes at Sea

Sunbathing on a cruise ship
Sunbathing on a cruise ship

Opportunities

Sailing is an amazing job. It affords sailors the rare opportunity to cross wide bodies of water and visit distant lands. While dock on port, they can disembark and talk with the people, enjoy scenic spots, eat food and go shopping.

Ship in the midst of a storm
Ship in the midst of a storm

Dangers

While thrilling, sailing is fraught with dangers. The seas and oceans are subjected to various weather disturbances such as the monsoons, typhoons, storms, tsunamis, ocean surges, tornados, hurricane, etc. and human errors, like ships running aground, ships catching fire and sinking after a collision tragedy, abduction for ransom by pirates at high seas, etc.

Costa Concordia
Costa Concordia

Italian cruise ship ran aground

  • The Filipino seafarer’s mettle would be tested on board the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia when it ran aground on the night of Sunday, January 13, 2012 after hitting a rocky outcrop at about 9:40 p.m. Sat., Jan. 12 as it sailed past the island of Giglio.
  • BBC news listed more than 4000 passengers and crew on board with 28 dead.

Filipino crew helping Costa Concordia passengers ride in life boats.
Filipino crew helping Costa Concordia passengers ride in life boats.

How Filipino crew reacted to disaster

  • When tragedy struck that night, the Filipino sailors maintained their discipline and composure.
  • They decide that the welfare of the passengers, especially children was top priority, according to Inquirer.net
  • Ship steward Eugen Pusyo, in telling his experience to the Manila Bulletin, said “It felt like the Titanic as we were rescuing the passengers. We just threw some children into lifeboats just so they would be saved.”

Filipino members part of Costa Concordia crew
Filipino members part of Costa Concordia crew

Report from a passenger

  • In the midst of pandemonium in the same tragedy, a French passenger reported that the people who extended them succor “were cooks and stewardesses, all Filipinos.
  • They roped themselves together to help us get down to the lifeboats.”
  • Indeed during those trying moments, the accounts of bravery and selflessness shown by the Filipino sailor overflowed.

The sad story of these stowaways is captured in this book.
The sad story of these stowaways is captured in this book.
Like this!
Like this!

2 stowaways discovered on board

  • Here’s another case of maritime tragedy in which Filipino seafarers were likewise portrayed as daring and humane.
  • Writer Scott Malcomson, in his January 1997 news report in the New Yorker, recalled the sad Maersk Dubai incident
  • A crew of Filipino sailor on board Maersk Dubai, a container vessel bearing a Taiwan flag bound for the Port of Halifax, Canada, found themselves in a difficult position one day in March 12,1996 while navigating the Atlantic.
  • While in the performance of duty, one of them, Rodolfo Miguel, discovered two Romanian stowaways Radu Danciu and Petre Sangeorzan in the ship.
  • He reported his findings to their Taiwanese boss.
  • Losing no time, the Taiwanese Officers ordered the pair to be cast overboard in an improvised raft about 70 kms. off the coast of Gibraltar.
  • In a split second, the castaways vanished from view, stunning the unbelieving Miguel and fellow Filipino crew members.

Another stowaway forced to jump overboard

  • 6 days after another Romanian stowaway Gheorghe Mihoc was forced at knife point to jump overboard by Capt. Sheng Hsiu and 4 officers.
  • Mihoc was found hiding in a big container.

The 4th stowaway appeared with a Bible

  • Another strange turn of event added to the harrowing experience of the Pinoy crew.
  • About a week after, Miguel, while alone in the deck, was approached by Nicolae Pasca , with a Bible in one hand.
  • The stranger was another Romanian who appeared weak and hungry from days of hiding under the inner recesses of the ship.
  • He wants to surrender before the Filipino.

The crew decided to keep the matter a secret

  • Miguel then and there made a courageous decision. He would not report the matter to the ship’s officers in sharp contrast to what he did before.
  • With Pasca in tow, Miguel went to look for a safe hiding place for the stowaway.
  • Despite language barrier, Miguel tried all means to let the Romanian understand that he and fellow Filipino crew members are his friends.
  • Miguel did a gamble. He knew pretty well that if the secret would be discovered, his life and job as well as those of his fellow Filipino crew who would help him would be jeopardized.
  • Miguel told all the crew of the new development in the most secret manner.
  • They were helpless in the case of the two Romanians who were thrown overboard earlier, now with resolve they would do everything to save the third stowaway. It could spell disaster for them- jobs, lives or both- but it was the correct thing to do.

Nicolae Pasca was the 'ibon' hidden in the ship in secrecy.
Nicolae Pasca was the 'ibon' hidden in the ship in secrecy.

'Ibon', how the crew kept it alive?

  • To allay suspicion, they called their secret friend in hiding “ibon” (bird).
  • And they would ask, Pinakain mo na ba ang ibon? (Have you fed the bird?) to whosoever was given the task.
  • When the container vessel dropped anchor at Halifax, the 8 Filipino crew jumped ship to report the gruesome incident to authorities.
  • The life of the Romanian “bird” was saved. The Maersk Dubai officers were arrested and extradited to Taiwan, according to Wikipedia.

Justice!
Justice!

Consequencies

  • Consequences hounded the seamen for their exemplary act of saving the life of the Romanian. ]
  • According to the New Yorker, families of concerned sailors received anon threat calls telling them to advise their sailors not to appear in court to give their testimonies.
  • During a hearing in Canada, Miguel in bamboo English declared: “I’m not here to lie. I’m here to stand and to stop the things that happened.”
  • Miguel’s wife has reported to police that 2 persons have tried to abduct her, said the New Yorker.

A touching story of courage

Indeed this is a rare and tragic, yet inspiring and touching story of courage exemplified by Filipino sailors in their struggle to find a decent living. Mabuhay!

TUCP secretary general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera: “A growing number of European and Asian shipping firms is disbanding their multinational crews, and replacing them wholesale with all-Filipino personnel that are younger and more able,” says Herrera. “Foreign employers find Filipino sailors quick learners, and easier to train compared to other nationals. This may be due to their superior instruction here, apart from their ability to understand English,” he adds.

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