The Philippine Navy’s Task Force-62 together with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines saved a family of five who had been floating for over twelve hours at sea near Tawi Tawi Island, located at the southwestern tip of the Sulu Archipelago in the Southern Philippines. The family had left for Sitangkai, an island to the southwest of Tawi Tawi, at four in the morning when their boat capsized due to rough seas.
The Philippine and US military personnel were completing their joint military drills they call "Bayanihan," a Tagalog expression for mutual assistance, that evening when they spotted a man in the sea clinging to floating debris. A US Special Boat Operator rushed outside and without hesitation jumped off into the water and swam for 300 meters without a life jacket to save the man, who was barely conscious from exhaustion.
Once the US sailor reached him, the father of two, unable to speak, and pointed to the general direction where the rest of his family was adrift. Only an hour of daylight remained to find the remaining survivors.
The Philippine-US Navy team quickly joined forces and dropped a rescue boat into the water to search for the remaining family members. The mother, two children, and their grandmother were floating, barely holding on to plastic containers and wood debris, when they were found.
“I am thankful to the sailor who risked his life to save my father,” stated the young boy who is recovering from second-degree burns from the boat's gas spill. The family thanked profusely the joint forces that provided them first aid, clothes, and food before they were brought back to Tawi Tawi, to Bongao City Mayor Jasper Que for custody and care.
“We felt so blessed and thankful to Almighty Allah who gave us this second chance in life,” the father said. The family members have fully recovered and were released from the Bongao Hospital on February 22 to return to their home in Sitangkai.