A 21-year-old Filipino fisherman who was stranded in the high seas for nearly two months and was given up for death was flown to the Philippines Wednesday night after he was rescued off the coast of Papua New Guinea by a Japanese fishing vessel.
Rolando Omongos was met by social workers shortly after Air Niugini Flight PX10, which brought him home, landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. He later told reporters that he survived his 56 day ordeal in an eight feet long open boat by drinking rainwater and eating moss growing in his fishing craft, and the fish that sometimes miraculously strayed in his boat.
“I cried non-stop when I was finally rescued. I was too weak to stand up and they had to carry me,” he told reporters.
Rolando recalled that on January 10, he and his 31-year old uncle Reniel Omongos, who was in another small boat, were separated from other fishermen due to a storm, 21 days after setting off from the port of General Santos City. They ran out of fuel on January 15 forcing them to throw into the sea the engine of their respective boats to avoid going under because of the huge waves battering their small crafts.
The young Omongos, who was already emaciated when rescued, tearfully added that his 31-year old uncle, who is from Davao province, had to collect rainwater in a small container so they will have something to drink. He said his uncle died after a month due to hunger and prolonged exposure to the elements.
Rolando said he tied his uncle’s body to his boat but had to let it go a few days later as it started to smell and decompose.
Rolando said that even before his uncle died, he never lost hope and that he prayed hard to God to at least bring home one of them alive. He also said that he lost his voice during the ordeal and he rarely move because of exhaustion.
He added that there are days that he saw several ships pass but apparently nobody saw them until the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel Wakaba Maru came and hauled him from his boat. He was brought by his Japanese rescuers to the island of New Britain where he stayed for a week for medical treatment.
Rolando stayed overnight at the Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking Office in NAIA before he was flown on Thursday to General Santos City where his mother is waiting for his return. He vowed never to set foot on a boat again.
With reports from Cecil Morella, Agence France-Presse