SAN DIEGO - The crown jewel of the Philippine Navy is on its way to the Philippines.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) was acquired from the US Coast Guard in 2012 and underwent renovations and testing for the past year.
The 378-foot long battleship is equipped with twin diesel engines and a cannon. It also has the comforts of home -- with Filipino cooking on board and balikbayan boxes full of gifts from the Filipino community in South Carolina where the ship departed from last month.
It is the second ship the US has given to the Philippines in the past two years as the Philippine military continues to upgrade its fleet.
Upon receiving it, President Aquino asked that the ship be named after a Filipino naval hero. A research team later named the ship after World War II hero Commodore Ramon Alcaraz who passed away four years ago.
The Alcaraz family, now based in Southern California, recently came to visit the ship.
"I'm so happy, I don't know, I'm so happy. My husband is smiling up there," said the late commodore's widow, Concepcion.
The vessel will patrol the seas surrounding the Philippines including the West Philippine Sea where the Philippines and China are caught in a territorial dispute.
"Hindi lang Spratly kundi sa buong lugar ng Pilipinas kung saan na kailangan ng presence ng malaking barko," explained Captain Ernesto Baldovino.
The ship will leave San Diego on Friday, taking a three-week journey to the Philippines with brief stops in Hawaii and Guam.
When it arrives in Subic, it will get a new paint job before it is commissioned and activated for duty.