It’s still so hot in the news: fate of the passengers of M/V Princess of the Stars that sunk in the Philippines at the wake of typhoon Fengshen last Saturday. This was a big ship, carrying more than 800 passengers and crew members and now, all that’s left of it is its bow sticking out of the water after being turned upside down by the typhoon that met with its path. With only 50 people who survived, it is believed that bodies upon bodies are still trapped inside the ship.
I couldn’t reiterate more how devastating this tragedy is and how it feels so close to home. I was born in the Philippines and have been on boat trips all my life. People in the Philippines are dependent on ferries to get around the sprawling archipelago. I have been travelling by ship since I was a baby. My father was from a different island, my mom in another. We would shuttle from island to island when I was small. Later on, while attending school conferences and taking exams in Manila, I used to get into one of these types of ship. It would take 30 long hours to reach Manila.
Imagine what could happen during 30 hours at sea!
I know it is illegal to take out life vests when not in need (of course) but I used to take it out anyway, away from the prying eyes of the ship inspector, wrap it in a towel and make it my pillow during the entire journey.
The cabins and tourist section of the ship is very popular as it provides more privacy. Passengers will have their own rooms with closed doors in cabins and the tourist section consists of partitioned decks. But I always travel economy (aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford luxury) – where it is most likely located in uppermost decks, and most of all, it’s OPEN. No walls or windows, just protective railings on the side of the ship. Whatever happens, I can always jump (with a life vest, of course) out.
The Philippines is a warm country so sleeping in open air is not a big deal.
As I have repeatedly mentioned in this blog, I can’t swim and one of my worst fears is drowning. News articles with photos of bloated dead bodies of passengers “fished” out near the wreck affects me so much. I cry for the relatives of the people I don’t even know, for the children who will never be able to grow up and lead normal lives because of the tragedy.
I can’t imagine having to respond to an emergency situation of a sinking ship, to be trapped while the ship goes down, to see big waves and swallowing all those water. What would be their last thought before they died?
Right now, I am so afraid to take a boat ride from Manila to my hometown whenever I go back to visit my family. (The nearest convenient international airport for me is Manila and my hometown is in the south) Although the ships have gone bigger, probably more high-tech or exciting, the mentality of the businessmen behind these shipping lines did not change. They are still the cunning, greedy creatures who do not care about safety of the passengers. They allowed the ship to sail even with a typhoon arriving, probably even paid the coast guard to give them clearance.
After what happened, I don’t know how these people to be held accountable for can ever sleep at night.