MANILA – Despite overwhelming odds, Filipinos have proven exceptionally fighters in defending the nation's freedom be it on the land, air or sea.
One such patriot worth commemorating Monday as the country's observes National Heroes Day is the late Commodore Ramon Abacan Alcaraz, the namesake of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), the second of the three Gregorio Del Pilar offshore patrol vessels acquired from the US Coast Guard (USGC) from 2011 to 2017.
These ships are the retired Hamilton-class cutters that the PN acquired from the USCG to beef up its fleet and consists of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17).
Alcaraz is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1940, the first ever graduating class of what can be considered as the country's premier military school.
After graduation, he served in the Philippine Army for a while before transferring to the Offshore Patrol, the predecessor of the PN.
Shortly after his transfer to the naval service, Alcaraz was appointed as commanding officer of the Q-112 "Abra", a 55 feet stepped-hull torpedo boat with aftward launch torpedo chutes built for the Philippine Commonwealth Government by the British shipbuilding firm John I. Thornycroft & Company.
"Abra" is one of the three "Q-boats" in service in the Philippines when World War II broke out on Dec. 8, 1941 in the Pacific.
Alcaraz and his crew were immediately deployed shortly afterward and scored one of the few victories of the Filipino forces when they shot down three Japanese Zeroes, out of a force of nine, who attacked them while they were on patrol in Manila Bay.
Aside from this, Alcaraz and the "Abra" also helped in the destruction of abandoned Filipino and American merchant ships, bottled up in Manila Bay, and prevented the latter from falling into Japanese hands.
He later became a prisoner of war (POW) when Filipino-American forces surrendered Bataan on April 9, 1942.
Alcaraz was incarcerated in Malolos, Bulacan where the Japanese opened a POW camp.
He eventually became the leader of that facility and gave his best efforts to alleviate the plight of his fellow prisoners.
Alcaraz rejoined the PN during the liberation and was eventually promoted as commodore and appointed to head the Philippine Fleet in 1966.
He retired from active duty in 1970 and settled in the United States.
Alcaraz died on June 25, 2009 and is currently buried in Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the former USGC cutter USS Dallas, was a high endurance cutter commissioned in 1967 at the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans.
She was the sixth ship or boat to bear the name of Alexander J. Dallas, the Secretary of the Treasury under President James Madison (1814–1816).
The ship is one of 12 Hamilton-class cutters built for the USCG.
It weighs 3,250 tons, has a length of 378 feet, a beam of 43 feet and a draft of 15 feet.
Its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.
The ship has a cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days.
It has a complement of 167 officers and men and is armed with a 76mm Oto Melara main gun cannon, a Mark 38 "Bushmaster" autocannon, and numerous .50 caliber machine guns. (PNA)