CHARLESTON, South Carolina—While all of them look forward to returning home to their families in the Philippines, the officers and personnel of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz said they will also miss their kababayans who made life easy for them during their more than one-year stay in the United States.
“The Filipino Community in Charleston made sure the men and women of the Alcaraz were provided with a home away from home while we were here in South Carolina. And for that we will forever be indebted to them,” Capt. Ernesto Baldovino, commanding officer of the Alcaraz said shortly before the vessel left for the Philippines on Monday.
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. also paid tribute to the Filipino Community during his visit to the Alcaraz on Sunday.
“It would have been difficult for our sailors to cope with the extended time away from their loved ones had it not been for our kababayans who were always there ready to extend a helping hand,” Ambassador Cuisia said on the eve of the Alcaraz’s departure for Manila.
According to Captain Baldovino, members of the Filipino Community were always there for the crew since they started arriving in South Carolina in April last year for the turnover of the former US Coast Guard cutter to the Philippine Navy.
Upon learning of the presence of Filipino sailors in Charleston, Captain Baldovino said the Filipino Community immediately opened the doors of their homes and adopted the 88 officers and crew of the Alcaraz who ended up staying in South Carolina for 13 straight months.
Since May, local Filipinos have been visiting the sailors on a regular basis and invite them to their homes during weekends for parties and other occasions or bring them around town during their free time.
Community members also provided the crew with thermal wear for winter and donated books, equipment and other items for the vessel. Filipinos who had retired from the US Navy also went out of their way to help train the Alcaraz crew.
On Sunday, the eve of the ship’s departure for the Philippines, the Filipino Community tendered an emotional farewell lunch for the 82 male and six female officers and crewmembers of the Alcaraz.
“They will surely be missed,” Ben Apostol, a leader of the Filipino community said of Captain Baldovino and his crew. “For more than a year, they were part of us here in South Carolina.”
Several more were at the pier on Monday for another emotional send off the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where the Alcaraz had been docked since it was turned over to the Philippines last year.
Many Filipino Community members were in tears as they waved the Alcaraz goodbye when it finally left South Carolina for the long journey to the Philippines at 10 a.m. on Monday. ###