MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff welcomed citizens from the Quezon City barangay of Blue Ridge ‘B,’ Mar. 17, for a ship tour while pier side in Manila, Philippines.
This was a unique experience for Blue Ridge’s crew as well as the barangay members, with the two having a shared heritage through their namesake – the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A barangay is the smallest local government unit in the Philippines, led by an elected captain and several councilors. Barangay Blue Ridge ‘B’ has a population of 1,701 (as of 2015) and is located in Quezon City, part of Metro Manila.
Barangay citizens and members of the local government toured the ship and experienced what a day in the life of U.S. Navy Sailor is like, with visits to the ship’s cafeteria, foc’sle, flight deck, and bridge. A diverse group of Sailors escorted them around the ship, with Sailors from various ranks speaking on operations in each location.
Sessan Castro-Lee, the barangay captain, wanted to give her fellow barangay residents a chance to meet a group of people they already consider to be family through their shared name.
“This is a big honor for us,” she said following the tour. “Not just getting the chance to see the ship but seeing all the crew and being welcomed so warmly. We really feel like we are part of the ship’s legacy.”
Upon hearing USS Blue Ridge was visiting Manila, Castro-Lee was able to arrange the visit by working through the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.
“I didn’t expect to get such a welcoming response on such short notice. This has been such an amazing experience for us all,” said Castro-Lee. “Next time the Blue Ridge comes to Manila, we would love to welcome the crew just as we were welcomed today. We want to give the Sailors here a chance to see what our Blue Ridge is like as well.”
For Chief Culinary Specialist Ron Lanuza, a Manila native and one of the USS Blue Ridge tour guides, the chance to give back to a local community was something that cannot be overstated.
“Being from the Philippines, I know how important the people here feel the U.S. Navy is to the region, so we always want to give back,” he said. “Finding out that we have a local community that shares our name made the opportunity even more important for us. I think they really enjoyed the tour, and hopefully we will be back soon so we can meet again.”
Blue Ridge recently completed a nearly 2-year extended dry-dock selected restricted availability period and numerous certifications, to ensure she remains ready to provide security in the Indo-Pacific region. Blue Ridge is commanded by Capt. Eric Anduze and serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.