DINALUPIHAN, Bataan: The officers and staff of the Ticonderoga guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens spent the day before Christmas distributing gifts to indigent children and a friendly basketball match with local players here.
The cruiser arrived at the Alava Pier in the Subic Bay Freeport Monday afternoon after over two weeks of humanitarian operation in Tacloban, Leyte in the aftermath of killer Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Around 40 of the 340-crew gave toys, food items, ball for basketball and other presents to the children at the Dinalupihan Civic Center.
Not only the kids enjoyed the gift- giving but even the American sailors when the children kissed their hands after receiving their presents.
“Thank you to the officers and men of USS Cowpens, especially to our townmate Jeruel Simsuangco, for making the Christmas of children a happy one,” Mayor Gila Garcia of Dinalupihan said.
Simsuangco is the senior chief of the American cruiser who has been with the US Navy for 17 years. He is from barangay Burgos in Dinalupihan.
“Never in my wildest dreams had I thought that I’ll be here with my ship,” Simsuangco said. He last visited his town only once since he left 20 years ago.
Former Councilor Noli Soriano of Dinalupihan, event coordinator, said the ship crew decided to spend their holiday in the former American Naval Base, now the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, after serving in Leyte.
Cruiser’s Command Master Chief Gabriel Keeton said being in Dinalupihan gave them the rare chance of seeing more parts of the Philippines after two weeks of stay in Tacloban in Leyte.
“Our ship is the first American ship and the last ship in Tacloban,” the master chief said.
Keeton said they were sent to Tacloban as part of the US aid mission after Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck.
C. Sheerin, a lady officer, said there are 40 officers and 300 men in the cruiser with 20 of them Filipinos.
“We are happy to be here after ‘Operation Damayan’ in Tacloban,” she said.