FOREWORD: My experience on board the USS Blue Ridge last 2007 was courtesy of the US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, whom I now consider as a friend. Allow me to relate the backstory first.
During the morning prior to my USS Blue Ridge tour, the US Navy were doing some socio-civic work at Barangay Bawing National High School, about 30 kms from downtown General Santos.
My boss, City Mayor Jun Acharon, was touring Ambassador Kenney around that school and I was documenting their actions through my Canon camera. Both walked very fast while negotiating the rough and rocky terrain of the hillside campus grounds and I who was in formal leather shoes, was trying so hard to catch up with them.
Finally, while they were climbing up the path to one of the school buildings, I was already a few feet ahead of them, walking backwards and training my camera lens on their every move when I miscalculated the height of one step when I was about to go up. Next thing I knew, I was tripping and falling to the hard, rocky ground. below My first instinct was to protect my Canon camera by raising both my arms and letting my elbows and knees take all my weight as I hit the ground!
It was the most embarrassing moment in my career as the mayor’s secretary, what with all the members of the media and bigwigs in government all shocked to see me down on my fours on the white dusty grounds of Bawing HS, in front of the US Ambassador!
And the pain!!!! It was excruciating but was nothing however, compared to the indignity of falling. And redfaced as I was, all I could hear were the somehow worried voice of the Ambassador as she tried to help me get up, “Oh dear! Are you ok? Are you ok?”
Although my bruised joints were hurting, I still managed to feebly say, “I am ok Ma’am. Just a few scratches.”
But still she insisted, “Are you sure? We have lots of American doctors here…..” And it was not until Mayor Jun assured her that I was ok did she leave me to the care of a doctor who dabbed some burning antiseptic on my bruised knees which are now visible through my torn jeans. Oh God! I was one big clumsy fat dork!
However, as a consolation, I managed to get my photo taken with the gracious Ambassador by her staff. Take note that I am smiling here despite the pain from my bruised knees. I just treated it as part of a day’s work since I got to earn my battle scars in the process and had a precious photo op with Ambassador Kenney. 😀
Anyway, back to my original story….
This is US Ambassador Kristie Kenney’s invitation card for moi to her “reception onboard the USS Blue Ridge” which I received a week prior to the arrival of the navy ship (read account here). Military personnel were asked to wear “Summer White/Class B” while civilians like me – “Smart casual”.
The confirmation or reply form which must be faxed to the US Embassy. “Vehicular details” were required for invitees bringing their transport. There was also an advisory for guests to wear FLAT-SOLED shoes “due to uneven surfaces onboard”.
Above is the invitation card which much be presented at the gate to the reception area at the Makar wharf.
Photo above shows US Ambassador Kristie Kenney greeting her guests on board the USS Blue Ridge including Mayor Jun Acharon (extreme left), and (from right) Sarangani Governor Migs Dominguez, South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes, and Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio of the 1st District of South Cotabato. While all this was happening, I was busy munching on the canapes and sushi and cold cuts offered to me by navy personnel serving as waiters. (Burp!) Music was provided by the US 7th Fleet Band which played mostly jazz tunes that night.
US 7th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Doug Crowder offers a toast while I was trying to balance my glass of Coke light on my left hand and my heavy Canon EOS 300D on my right to take this shot. I guess I was the only one with a camera around.
The Gen. Santos City Government Choir performing their well-applauded pieces at the upper deck where the party continued. Here, the ambience was less stuffy and our movements were more spontaneous.
My boss and I also managed to approach my new friend Ambassador Kristie Kenney again who still remembered me and told the mayor that I am a very hard-working secretary. Of course, despite my color, I blushed. 🙂
She also signed our photo (which I had developed earlier) together and wrote: To Avel, A great citizen, Kristie Kenney.
As the night progressed, people started wandering around the deck….. with some stealing souvenirs shot beside the parked helicopter in front of the bridge.
Above picture shows another group of guests who escaped from the cocktails to have their picture taken below the turret.