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Gilda Gibo, cabin stewardess of the Costa Concordia, arrives at the NAIA, carrying the life vest she wore during the sinking of the Italian cruise ship.  (Photo by Rudy Santos)


MANILA — There was a loud bang, Nancy Landicho remembers, and then darkness.

As panic spread among the 4,200 passengers aboard the Costa Concordia, Landicho kept her cool.

The 32-year-old bar waitress asked everyone to stay calm.

Together with her fellow crewmembers, she herded the passengers into emergency gathering areas and onto lifeboats.

Landicho reflected on her experience after flying into Manila with 100 other seamen who served on the Concordia.

The rest of the Filipino crew arrived last week.

While at least 11 people died in the sinking off the coast of Tuscany, Italy on Jan. 13, some believe that the toll would have been higher without the training of the 296 Filipino crewmembers onboard.

For Flor Dodona, a 27-year-old assistant waitress from Davao, it was the first time she had set sail on the Concordia.

Still, as the lights went out just after 9:45 p.m. and the ship began to tilt, she immediately shifted to her training.

Dodona ushered passengers into the ship’s third floor restaurant, one of several emergency gathering areas.

She then directed the group to the lifeboats on the deck above.

The crew helped the passengers board and, taking a life raft for themselves, waited until 4 a.m. before they were finally rescued.

Gilda Gido, a 30-year-old cabin stewardess from Malibay, said contrary to reports from CNN that the Filipinos spoke no English, their fluency may have made the difference between life and death.

“We were able to save many foreign passengers, directing them where to go,” Gido said.

Gido is particularly well versed in evacuation procedures.

The sinking of the Concordia is the third time she has survived a maritime accident.

Two years ago, Gido manned a cruise ship filled with 2,000 passengers when the vessel sustained a hole off the coast of Egypt.

Three crewmembers drowned.

In a different incident, Gido’s ship collided with a bulk cargo carrier at the mouth of the Yangtze River in China.

Marlon Roño, head of Magsaysay Maritime Corp., which supplied the Filipino crew to the Concordia, said all of its seafarers are well-trained and are adept swimmers.

Roño’s company supplies 26,000 Filipino seafarers to cargo ships and commercial ships across the globe.

It is estimated a total of 300,000 Filipinos man boats across the globe at any given moment.

Compensation

Roño said all of the 296 crew would still be paid for the three months remaining on their contract onboard the Concordia.

In addition, Costa Crociere, the company that owns the Concordia, has stated it will give full compensation to the Filipino crewmembers, refund their lost belongings and replace their lost cash.

The Philippine Government is also offering its help, including stress debriefing for the crewmembers.

“The government is obliged to give them free counseling to help them recover fast from the traumatic experience,” said Nicon Fameronag, spokesman for the Department of Labor and Employment.

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