What happens when Navy men cross the Equator?

/ 05:58 PM August 25, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — One of the country’s most capable warships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16), has made it to Australia for the Exercise Kakadu 2014.

The ship arrived on Aug. 23 after it sailed from Subic last Aug.17 for the biggest Australian war games that will be participated by 12 countries.


BRP Ramon Alcaraz

BRP Ramon Alcaraz’s (left) docks alongside with HMAS Stuart (center) and HMAS Sydney (right), ships of the Royal Australian Navy at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia upon its arrival Saturday to participate in Exercise Kakadu 2014. Photo from the Navy

Most of the Philippine Navy personnel onboard the warship had to undergo the “ridiculous initiation” called “Crossing the Equator Ceremony.” There were 105 pollywogs out of 165 Navy personnel in the BRP Alcaraz.

“Pollywog is a term which refers to a sailor who has not yet crossed the equator, an imaginary line which divides the earth into northern and southern hemisphere,” explained Exercise Kakadu 2014 public affairs officer Ensign John Windy Abing.


Those who have already crossed the equator are called shellbacks, and a ceremony has to be done in order to be called as such.

“Tradition has it that all sailors crossing the equator for the first time should be prepared to appear before “King Neptune,” a Roman sea god who, according to legend, boards the ship as it crosses the equator line to test the seaworthiness of the sailors,” Abing wrote in his account.

But it doesn’t mean to be properly dressed for the rites. On the contrary, they were subjected to wear something “bizarre” and wear their uniform inside out to be distinguished from shellbacks.

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Navy chaplain, Maj Alejo Simon A Araño III (center) poses for a photo with King Neptune, Captain Ernesto Baldovino, and his royal dignitaries after finishing the initiation. Photo from the Navy

The pollywogs toured the engine room “which was so hot that it could probably boil eggs if you stay there for a long time” and the gun deck for the formal ceremony.

“The ceremony started with the appearance of Davy Jones, King Neptune’s Royal Scribe in an elaborate costume which made him look like a half pirate and a half retard. According to him, he summoned us to appear before King Neptune to answer the charges brought against us by the shellbacks. It was then followed by the grand entrance of King Neptune played by no other than the Commanding Officer of the ship, Capt. Ernesto Baldovino together with his royal dignitaries who all looked more like psychiatric patients than royal with their elaborate costumes made from scraps,” Abing said.

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Davy Jones played by Lt Guillermo appears before the pollywogs at the start of Crossing the Equator ceremony on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo from the Navy

Baldovino, who played King Neptune, ordered the shellbacks to execute the supposed punishment to the pollywogs.

“The punishment consists of series of exercises and passing through stations which involved a royal haircut with free flour make-up and mayonnaise shampoo, crawling through the deck, royal bath in dirty water and a supposed jumping out of the ship,” Abing wrote.


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Shellbacks put flour and sandwich spread on the face of a pollywog during the Crossing the Equator ceremony on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo from the Navy

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Pollywogs perform push-ups as one of their punishments. Photo from the Navy

After they were finally declared as shellbacks, the ceremony ended with a boodle fight.

This was BRP Alcaraz’s first deployment overseas since she was commissioned by the Philippine Navy in 2013.

The Kakadu aims to promote and enhance regional interoperability and cooperation among the participating navies.


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TAGS: BRP Ramon Alcaraz, Features, Global Nation, pollywogs
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