Police Lieutenant Ricardo Juhan: A Survivor and a Hero
Every tragedy and misfortune is a reminder of the fragility of life and the heroism of those who put themselves in harm’s way to help others, going out of their comfort zones, inspiring us to appreciate the value of every moment and to strive for more acts of kindness and compassion.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 ferry sets out on a routine voyage in the calm waters en route to Sulu province on the evening of March 29, 2023. Suddenly, it caught fire in the waters of Baluk-Baluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad town of Basilan Province at around 10:40 PM, turning the peaceful voyage into a nightmare of cries and shouts in desperation.
In the midst of chaos and panic, Police Lieutenant Ricardo Bandahala Juhan, a newly appointed commissioned officer of the Philippine National Police Academy MASIDTALAK Class of 2023, exhibited his stability under pressure and the regimental four-cadetship-years of training, most proved crucial at the right time in giving life-saving assistance to drowning passengers of that ill-fated vessel. It was just nineteen days after his graduation and a passenger like the rest, and on his way home to Jolo, Sulu for his academic break.
As the ferry was engulfed by fire, PLt Juhan was awakened by a trapped heat emanating from a strong blaze from the upper deck portions of ferry prompting him to secure a life vest before diving into the deep waters. Braving the dark waters, he noticed three passengers without life vests. Without hesitation, he swam towards them and took off his life jacket to help them stay afloat. Alternately using just one life jacket, PLt Juhan made sure that the survivors remained afloat by giving them life-saving instructions on how to back-float to conserve their energy and encouraging them repetitively to stay calm until help arrives.
“Magsama-sama tayo…kalma lang dapat tayo…pag natatakot lalo tayong manghihina!”
Despite extreme exhaustion and the burns obtained from the blazing fire, including the cold and strong currents of water and the darkness of the night, PLt Juhan remained calm and focused, determined to save as many lives as he could. For four long hours, he held onto the three passengers repeating words of encouragement to muster a strong willingness to survive. He knew that he had put his own life in danger by giving away his life vest, but he did not regret his decision. For him, the safety of others was more important than his own.
Finally, what seemed like an eternity in the waters, the rescue arrived. As they were brought ashore, PLt Juhan immediately administered first aid and CPR, working tirelessly to ensure that every victim was given the emergency medical aid needed to survive. Assisting the rescuers to save other passengers and retrieve floating dead bodies of some passengers, including those of an infant and young toddler.
The selfless actions of PLt Juhan were commended by Chief, PNP PGen Rodolfo Azurin Jr, who praised him for his heroism. “PLt Juhan represents the reliability and the commitment of PNP to serve our people, anytime, anywhere, under any situation. Gamit ang kaniyang tapang at malasakit, pinakita niya na ang pulis ay tunay ngang may malasakit, laging maaasahan at handang tumulong.”
His heroism was also recognized by his alma mater under the leadership of its Director, PMGen Eric Escosio Noble, and the members of the Cadet Corps, for his conspicuous courage during the incident.
PLt Juhan acts of heroism is a testament to the power of selflessness. In times of crisis, one action of an individual can make a stark difference to inspire others to follow in his footsteps. He has proven that the greatest act of heroism may be just one little act of selflessness in most trying times, where help borders on the impossible. His actions not only saved lives but also gave much-needed hope and comfort during the harrowing experience.
As we mourn those who have lost their lives in the tragedy, let us also recognize the test of courage and heroism of PLt Juhan and other rescue workers, who have risked so much to save lives. Their courage and selflessness is, indeed, an inspiration, a serving reminder that despite the darkest moments, there remains an element of goodness in the world.