As the winds of Typhoon Irma whipped in to a frenzy the crew and passengers of MV Pioneer Cebu feared for their future. It was May 16th 1966 and it was to prove a fateful day for most on board. And it was a day that resonated through the decades for Evolution’s owners and instructors.
The unseasonable typhoon drove the boat on to nearby reefs, where it sustained damage it would never recover from. The MV Pioneer Cebu faltered north east from Malapascua before succumbing to the ocean. Some were rescued, many were less fortunate.
The ferry disappeared and left hundreds of relatives stricken with grief, questions unanswered, hearts forever broken.
In August 2012 Evolution’s David and Matt took on one of their most ambitious projects – to locate and be the first to dive a wreck thought to be the lost MV Pioneer Cebu, a project conceived 18 months previously.
The wreck lies in 110m in blue water. It was a long descent through the massive water column but there, resting in the sands, was indeed a stricken ferry. Many dives later and the ferry has slowly released more and more secrets, including a vintage 60s era Mercedes lying in the sand beside the wreck.
Fast forward to 2019 and a new chapter is ready to be written. The Bentain family saw our exploits, as presented on YouTube, and it brought back dark memories for their family.
Soledad Alison Orcajada was just 40 when she boarded the MV Pioneer Cebu in 1966. Like many on board this should have been a regular journey by sea, how millions of Filipinos navigate the archipelago on a daily basis.
After the vessel was lost Soledad was not amongst the listed survivors and there her story ends as far as officialdom is concerned. But of course the story never ends for her children, her grandchildren and now great grandchildren, the generations she left behind.
This May, 53 years later, Soldedad’s relatives and descendants made a pilgrimage to Malapascua. Welcomed by Evolution they came to pay their respects and look for some closure on an open ended nightmare that passes through the generations of their extended family.
Matt and Dannie agreed to dive the Pioneer and place a small memorial to Soledad on the wreck, a symbol to personalise the tragedy, a way to show that the forgotten victims are anything but.
Its a complex and hazardous dive involving multiple tanks and gas mixtures. But this is our specialty at Evolution and it was an honour to be involved.
The divers made the long descent and found a suitable spot for the memorial which lies there now. Meanwhile Soledad’s 2 daughters, her son, some grandkids and great grandchildren gathered on the deck of the Haldane to breathe life in to her memory and connect with her at the site where the Pioneer disappeared, assumed lost forever.
It was an emotional moment not just for the family but also for us here at Evolution. It’s easy to go diving and forget the memories, the people, the victims who’s stories are inexorably linked to the haunted wrecks we visit. But we don’t forget. We honour them and remember them.
So we also dedicate this to the loving memory of Soledad and all those lost on The MV Pioneer Cebu. And the Dona Marylyn. And the Mogami Maru ….