The first batch of stranded seamen from the Visayas and Mindanao are finally going home.
Culture Spotlight

Seafarers grounded in Manila by COVID-19 finally sail home

After patiently waiting through tests and quarantine restrictions, these stranded men and women are on their way to their loved ones. BY CES ORENA DRILON
ANCX | Apr 26 2020

Stranded ship crew and cruise personnel from the Visayas and Mindanao will finally be able to go home and be reunited with their families. The first batch of 391 seamen are leaving tonight aboard a 2GO ship dubbed by the DOTr (Department of Transportation) as “Malasakit Voyage.” The vessel will stop at five ports, two in the Visayas and three in Mindanao.

The long journey of stranded seafarers from the Visayas and Mindanao is almost at its end with the first ‘Malasakit Voyage’ sailing tonight.

Among those headed home is Ian Ceasar Frias who worked at the ill-fated Diamond Princess. He was afflicted with COVID-19 after his repatriation in late February. He has since recovered and has even donated his plasma twice to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to help treat critically-ill patients. Stranded by the Luzon lockdown, Frias has been waiting in a hotel since mid-March for his passage home. Frias could not contain his joy that the day had finally come. “Excited po ako, masaya, nung sinabi ko nga sa mga anak ko na makakauwi na ko, sarap sa feeling kasi sila din masaya,” he says.

Ian Ceasar Frias gets tested prior to departure.

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All departing seamen were made to undergo rapid tests at the Magsaysay Maritime Corporation offices, prior to embarking on their journey. The key to their departure was the relaxation of stringent rules to their homecoming by their respective LGUs and the maritime industry convincing government that ferrying them on inter island vessels rather than chartering mercy flights was a more practical solution.

The seafarers being tested at the Magsaysay Maritime lobby prior to boarding the 2GO interisland ferry.

The first port call will be Cebu where 303 passengers will disembark, 232 from Cebu and 71 from Bohol. Next will be Dumaguete where 30 passengers from various parts of Negros Oriental will get off. The port of Ozamis is the third stop with nine seamen, followed by Iligan with 14 and finally Zambaonga with 35 seafarers disembarking.

Seamen awaiting results of their rapid tests.

Doris Magsaysay-Ho of Magsaysay Maritime whose manning agency is sending home 140 in this first batch is pleased that a sustainable solution was reached. “My heart goes out to the seafarers for their courage, patience, and resilience,” she says.

Another vessel sails tomorrow afternoon bringing home seafarers who hail from Bacolod, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro.