DABAWENYO sailor Alex Piala Bacalla was very excited with his first ever sail on the ship Bulk Jupiter as evident on his Facebook posts for the past weeks before the ill-fated vessel sank off Southern Vietnam on January 2.
On his December 8 FB post, Bacalla said that his first mission onboard would be to befriend the ship’s cook. The ship’s cook is Angelito Capindo Roxas, the lone survivor to the tragedy that befell Bulk Jupiter.
The ship was heading toward China from Malaysia, carrying iron ore. Of the 19 all-Filipino crew, only three were found, with only one alive. The retrieved bodies were identified to be that of Captain Ronel Acueza Andrin and his assistant, Jerome Dinoy.
From his FB posts, Bacalla left the Philippines for Thailand on December 8. Then he travelled to Kuantan, Malaysia on December 17 along with some crew of the ship.
Bacalla spent Christmas onboard the ship which was still docked in Kuantan, Malaysia by then. On December 28, Bacalla even posted a picture of durian which he and his shipmates partake while still docked in Malaysia.
Bacalla’s next post was on December 31 at 10:58 a.m. wherein he posted the ship already sailing and encountering huge waves at the sea. He hash-tagged his picture with #Happynewyear#thisiswhatweGot#Godblessus#SAILINGTIME#.
Three more posts with pictures where seen on Bacalla’s Facebook account on New year’s eve showing the crew holding a party and still enjoying themselves until early morning of January 1.
Bacalla’s last FB post was on January 1 at 10:44 a.m. wherein he posted “Nakakahilo na dagat+ Hangover + kulang ng tulog = seasick. Blahhh. Feeling nauseous.”
A friend even asked him online of his whereabouts and he replied “Dri sa ilalom pinas … padulong bagyo sa amoa… vandang vietnam” around 5:30 p.m. That was Bacalla’s last FB post whose favorite quote was “be a world-class seafarer, travel the world for free”.
Bacalla graduated cum laude at the Davao Merchant Marine Academy College of Southern Philippines in 2011 with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation.
The Norwegian ship owner, Bergen-based Gearbulk, said the vessel was 155 nautical miles off Vietnam with a cargo of bauxite when it sent a distress signal that was picked up by the Japanese coast guard.
The Philippine Foreign Affairs said the 623-foot long, 56,000-ton ship sank off the coast of Vung Tau, which is about 59 miles from the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.
Vessels from Liberia, Oman, Singapore and China were helping in the search, the Philippine Foreign Affairs said.
The government has announced it will help the families of the crew in the Philippines.
“We are ready to help in whatever way we can,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. “We just need to know their situation now because we are still to receive updates.”
Coloma added that the Philippine Embassy in Vietnam is still gathering more information about the incident.