PH warship arrives in Australia: Scenes when it crossed the equator
MANILA, Philippines – The country's biggest ship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, has arrived in Australia to participate in war games that began Monday, August 25, and last until September 12.
A photo from the Philippine Navy shows the 40-year-old refurbished Hamilton-class cutter docked alongside Australian war ships HMAS Stuart and HMAS Sydney at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. It sailed from the Philippines on August 17 and arrived on August 23.
Alcaraz's voyage to Australia is so far its longest operational deployment overseas. It is also the first time it is crossing the equator since it was commissioned as a Philippine Navy ship in 2013.
It meant going through the "exhausting" Crossing the Equator Ceremony, a fun tradition among sailors that dates back thousands of years. When BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrived in the country last year, a number of traditions including a sail past were also observed.
"The feeling of fulfilment prevailed over exhaustion. We have just achieved what I consider as an important milestone of being a navy. We are now certified shellbacks," read the account of Ensign John Windy Abing.
The poor state of the Philippine Navy means many of the sailors remain a Pollywog, a term for those who have not crossed the imaginary line separating the northern and southern hemispheres. Those who have are called Shellback.
Out of the total 165 navy personnel onboard BRP Alcaraz, 105 were pollywogs.
Legend has it that King Neptune, the Roman sea god, boards ships that cross the equator to test the seaworthiness of the sailors. Pollywogs, therefore, should prepare to appear before King Neptune before they become true blue sailors.
Following tradition, the Pollywogs wore their uniforms inside out to differentiate them from the Shellbacks. They toured the engine room and the gun deck before the elaborate ceremony actually began, where King Neptune's royal scribe Davy Jones appeared before them to discuss "charges" brought against them by the Shellbacks.
King Neptune, played by the commanding officer of the ship Captain Ernesto Baldovino, ordered the shellbacks to punish the pollywogs. Blindfolded, they got a haircut, flour make-up, and mayonnaise shampoo. They crawled through the deck and bathed in dirty water.
Baldovino later declared everyone as shellbacks and they celebrated through a boodle fight.
The Philippines is one of 12 countries that will participate in the "Kakadu 2014," one of the largest international maritime exercise that happens every 2 years.
Also among the first activities of the Filipino sailors was a visit to Australian war ship HMAS Stuart, where they exchanged ball caps with their Australian counterparts.
One of the weakest in Asia, the Philippine Navy is upgrading capabilities and training of personnel to have a "minimum credible defense" posture in the wake of escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Two new frigates, a third Hamilton-Class cutter, and two Strategic Sealift Vessels are among those in the pipeline. (READ: State of PH Navy modernization: 'Golden Days will return)
This is only the 2nd time that the Philippines is participating in the exercises. The Navy joined in 1999 and only sent personnel as observers in the following exercises.
The other countries that will send ships and aircraft this year are Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan and Australia. Seven others, including China, are sending personnel as observers.
Earlier in March, Alcaraz's twin ship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar also sailed to Indonesia to participate in the "Komodo" naval exercises that was participated in by 16 countries. – Rappler.com