Anything under the Sun
The Sinking of MV Don Juan (1)
The sinking of MV Don Juan at Tablas Strait on April 22, 1980 (26 years ago) was a 15-minute nightmare for its more than thousand crew and passengers.
The minute before
The night was clear except for some light clouds hovering at the horizon. The sea was calm except for the purring engine of MV Don Juan cruising southward from Manila to Bacolod City.
When the luxury liner was between the Isles of Dos Hermanos and Maestre de Campo, most of its passengers were sleeping or just relaxing on their cots or beds. Some were idly roaming on the decks. Some were gazing at the bright moon above or staring emptily at the misty horizon. Some were still at the dining room, chattering over a bottle of beer or a cup of coffee. Some were playing mahjong inside a cabin. Some were dancing at the disco pad at the upper deck where the ship's seven-man combo was playing "Born to be alive."
The big bang!
At 10:30 pm - Bang! "The loudest noise I've ever heard in my entire life" remarked one of the seven survivors later on. And - a hole enough for six by six truck to pass through appeared at the left front side of the vessel.
Water rushed inside. Passengers ran for life vests and life boats. Pandemonium and hysteria reigned. The ship began to sink. Its radio operator wired Manila and Bacolod: "Tagilid kami (We are tilting). Abandon ship." Fifteen minutes after that big bang, the P19-million liner was at the bottom of the sea - 1,800 feet deep.
On the surface of the sea hundreds of passengers were sinking or floating. Many were dying except for the eerie cries and moans. It was like "a San Juan celebration" recalled one survivor. But that's going ahead of the story.
(To be continued)