A young Filipino fisherman has flown home after surviving two months adrift at sea.
Rolando Omongos, aged 21, recounted his astonishing tale of survival when he arrived at Manila airport, three weeks after his rescue by a Japanese fishing vessel in waters off Papua New Guinea (PNG).
“I cried non-stop when I was finally rescued. I was too weak to stand up and they had to carry me,” he told reporters.
He described how he survived on rainwater and moss growing at the hull of his eight foot long boat, finding relief from the blazing sun by dipping himself into the water.
His 31-year-old uncle Reniel Omongos, who was on a second small boat, died after a month.
Rolando lashed the body on to his boat for a few days but later let it sink into the water when it began to smell.
The men had set off on December 21 with other fishermen aboard a fishing ship from General Santos.
The port lies more than 2,000 miles northwest of the PNG island of New Britain, where rescuers later dropped Rolando.
He and his uncle were separated from their mother boat due to a storm on January 10, and they ran out of fuel five days later.
They later threw their boat engines overboard so they would float higher and avoid being swamped by waves.
“No fewer than four vessels would pass us by each day. I would wave at them but they would not stop for us,” Rolando said.
He said the ships and fishing boats apparently failed to see their tiny vessels in the distance.
“I never lost hope. I was always praying,” he added. “I told myself, at least one of us had to get back home.”
When the Japanese fishing vessel Wakaba Maru found him, Rolando was weak and emaciated, having barely survived by eating moss every other day.
He was down to just over 44lbs — a little over three stone — from his original weight of about 130lbs.
The fisherman, who quit school after sixth grade, said he planned to rest after flying home to General Santos, but vowed never to set foot on a boat again.
“Maybe I will go back to school instead,” he added.