MV Doña Paz

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MV Doña Paz
Doña Paz berthed at Tacloban port in 1984
NameHimeyuri Maru
OwnerRKK Line
Port of registryKagoshima
BuilderOnomichi Dockyard
Yard number118
LaunchedApril 25, 1963
Out of serviceDecember 20, 1987
FateSold to Sulpicio Lines
NameDon Sulpicio
OwnerSulpicio Lines
Port of registryManila
RenamedDoña Paz in 1981
RefitAfter a fire onboard June 5, 1979
IdentificationIMO number5415822
FateCaught fire and sank after a collision with the MT Vector on December 20, 1987
Notes4,385 people died in the sinking and only 26 survived making it the worst ship sinking in peacetime maritime history
General characteristics
TypePassenger ferry
Length93.1 m (305 ft)
Beam13.6 m (45 ft)
Speed18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Capacity1,518 passengers

MV Doña Paz was a Japanese-built and Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after it collided with the oil tanker Vector on December 20, 1987. Built by Onomichi Zosen of Hiroshima, Japan, the ship was launched on April 25, 1963 as the Himeyuri Maru with a passenger capacity of 608. In October 1975, the Himeyuri Maru was bought by Sulpicio Lines and renamed the Don Sulpicio. After a fire on board in June 1979, the ship was refurbished and renamed Doña Paz.

Traveling from Leyte Island to the Philippine capital, Manila, the vessel was seriously overcrowded, with at least 2,000 passengers not listed on the manifest. It has also been claimed that the ship did not have a radio and that the life jackets were locked away. However, official blame was directed at the tanker Vector, which collided with the Doña Paz and was found to be unseaworthy and to be operating without a license, a lookout, or a qualified master. With an estimated death toll of 4,385 people and only 26 survivors, it remains the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.[1][2]

Service history[edit]

Doña Paz was built in 1963 by Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan. It was originally named the Himeyuri Maru.[3] During the time she travelled Japanese waters, she had a passenger capacity of 608.[4] In October 1975, she was sold to Sulpicio Lines, a Filipino operator of a fleet of passenger ferries, and was renamed Don Sulpicio. She served the Manila to Cebu sector as her primary route.[4] The vessel became one of the company's two flagship vessels, the other one being the Doña Ana (later renamed Doña Marilyn).

On June 5, 1979, the vessel was gutted by fire on her usual Manila-Cebu journey. All 1,164 aboard were rescued but the vessel was beached and declared a constructive total loss. The wreck was repurchased from the underwriters by Sulpicio Lines, and repaired. Structural changes were made and she returned to service under the new name Doña Paz.[5]

As the MV Philippine Princess had already become the flagship of Sulpicio Lines serving the Manila-Cebu sector, the Doña Paz was reassigned to serve the Manila–Tacloban route, with the return trip having a stop in Catbalogan. Sulpicio Lines operated the Doña Paz on this route, making voyages twice a week, until the time of her sinking.[6][7]

1987 collision with MT Vector [edit]

On December 20, 1987, at 06:30, Philippine Standard Time, Doña Paz departed from Tacloban, Leyte, for Manila,[6][8] with a stopover at Catbalogan, Samar.[9] Commanded by Captain Eusebio Nazareno,[10] the vessel was due in Manila at 04:00 the next day. It was reported that it last made radio contact at about 20:00.[8] However, subsequent reports indicated that Doña Paz did not have a radio.[11][12]

At about 22:30, the ferry was at Dumali Point, along the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque.[8] A survivor later said that the weather at sea that night was clear, but the sea was choppy.[9] While most of the passengers slept, Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker en route from Bataan to Masbate. Vector was carrying 1.05 million L (8,800 US bbl) or 1,041 tonnes (1,148 short tons) of gasoline and other petroleum products owned by Caltex Philippines.[6]

Upon collision, Vector's cargo ignited and caused a fire on the ship that spread onto Doña Paz. Survivors recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, causing panic on the vessel.[8] One of them, Paquito Osabel, recounted that the flames spread rapidly throughout the ship, and that the sea all around the ship was itself on fire.[8][9]

Another survivor, Philippine Constabulary corporal Luthgardo Niedo, claimed that the lights aboard had gone out minutes after the collision, that there were not any life vests to be found on Doña Paz, and that the crewmen were running around in panic with the other passengers, and none of the crew gave any orders or made any attempt to organize the passengers.[9] It was later said that the life jacket lockers had been locked up.[12]

The survivors were forced to jump off the ship and swim among charred bodies in flaming waters around the ship, with some using suitcases as makeshift flotation devices.[13] Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision. Vector sank within four hours.[12] Both ships sank in about 545 meters (1,788 ft) of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait.[14]


Officers and the captain of a passing inter-island ship, MS Don Claudio, witnessed the explosion of the two ships and, after an hour, found the survivors of Doña Paz. The officers of Don Claudio threw a net for the survivors to climb onto. Only 26 survivors were retrieved from the water: 24 of them were passengers from Doña Paz, while the other 2 were crewmen from Vector's 13-man crew.[9][15]

A 25th survivor from Doña Paz, Valeriana Duma, was not originally accounted for by officials. She later revealed herself through the GMA Network program Wish Ko Lang! in 2012. At 14, she was the second-youngest passenger of Doña Paz to survive.[16] Often forgotten, one of the originally known survivors of the Doña Paz was a four-year-old boy, who has never been named. He was the youngest survivor.[17]

None of the crew of Doña Paz survived. Most of the survivors sustained burns from jumping into the flaming waters.[8] Doctors and nurses aboard the rescue vessel tended to their injuries. It reportedly took eight hours before Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to initiate search-and-rescue operations.[12]

Investigation of the causes of the incident[edit]

According to the initial investigation conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, only one apprentice member of the crew of Doña Paz was monitoring the ship's bridge when the accident occurred.[18] Other officers were either drinking beer or watching television in the crew's recreation quarters.[19] The ship's captain was watching a movie on his Betamax machine in his cabin.[20] A similar testimony was given by one of the survivors, Luthgardo Niedo, wherein he stated that a fellow constabulary soldier informed him of "an ongoing party with laughter and loud music" on the ship's bridge with the captain as one of the attendees.[21] The Marine Board of Inquiry of the Philippine Coast Guard, chaired by Capt. Dario Fajardo, carried out a fact-finding mission of the sinking and gave its report to Congress on February 29, 1988.[22]

The Coalition of Samar and Leyte Organizations (CSLO) made an investigative team composed of professionals and police members from the provinces of Leyte and Samar. Their volunteer members aimed to gather information on the ship's journey and passengers. Among the documents that they sought were duplicate tickets given to the passengers.[23] CLSO was officially recognized by the Philippine government to be able to provide assistance to the MV Doña Paz's victims' relatives.[24]

Survivors claimed that it was possible that Doña Paz may have carried as many as 4,000 passengers.[4][13] The signs that they considered were that they saw passengers sleeping along corridors, on the boat decks, and on bunks with three or four people on them.[13]


In the initial announcement made by Sulpicio Lines, the official passenger manifest of Doña Paz recorded 1,493 passengers and 59 crew members aboard.[4][13] According to Sulpicio Lines, the ferry was able to carry 1,424 passengers.[8] A revised manifest released on December 23, 1987, showed 1,583 passengers and 58 crew members on Doña Paz, with 675 persons boarding the ferry in Tacloban, and 908 coming aboard in Catbalogan.[14] However, an anonymous official of Sulpicio Lines told UPI that, since it was the Christmas season, tickets were usually purchased illegally aboard the ship at a cheaper rate, and those passengers were not listed on the manifest.[4] The same official added that holders of complimentary tickets and non-paying children younger than the age of four were not listed on the manifest.[4][25]

Of the 21 bodies that had been recovered and identified as passengers on the ship five days after the accident, only one of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest. Of the 26 passengers who survived, only five were listed on the manifest.[26]

On December 28, 1987, Representative Raul Daza of Northern Samar claimed that at least 2,000 passengers aboard Doña Paz were not on the ship's manifest.[27] He based that number on a list of names furnished by relatives and friends of missing people believed aboard the ferry, the names having been compiled by radio and television stations in Tacloban.[27] The names of these 2,000-plus missing passengers were published in pages 29 to 31 of the December 29, 1987, edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. At least 79 public school teachers perished in the collision.[28]

During February 1988 the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation stated, on the basis of interviews with relatives, that there were at least 3,099 passengers and 59 crew on board, giving 3,134 on-board fatalities.[29] During January 1999 a presidential task force report estimated, on the basis of court records and more than 4,100 settlement claims, that there were 4,342 passengers.[30] Subtracting the 26 surviving passengers, and adding 58 crew, gives 4,374 on-board fatalities. Adding the 11 dead from the Vector crew, the total becomes 4,385, almost three times the design load.[5]

Reactions and aftermath[edit]

President Corazon Aquino described the accident as "a national tragedy of harrowing proportions...[the Filipino people's] sadness is all the more painful because the tragedy struck with the approach of Christmas".[31] Pope John Paul II, Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom conveyed their official messages of condolence.[32] Given the estimated death toll, Time magazine and others have termed the sinking of Doña Paz "the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster of the 20th century".[5][33]

Sulpicio Lines announced three days after the accident that Doña Paz was insured for 25,000,000 (US$751,977 in 2023 dollars), and it was willing to indemnify the survivors the amount of 20,000 (US$646 in 2023 dollars) for each victim.[34] Days later, hundreds of the victims' kin staged a mass rally at Rizal Park, demanding that the ship owners likewise indemnify the families of those not listed on the manifest, as well as to give a full accounting of the missing.[25]

Nonetheless, the Board of Marine Inquiry eventually exculpated Sulpicio Lines of fault in the accident.[15] Subsequent inquiries revealed that Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master.[12] During 1999 the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that it was the owners of Vector who were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision.[6][15]

Some of the claims pursued against either Sulpicio Lines or the owners of Vector, such as those filed by the Cañezal family (who lost two members) and the Macasas family (who lost three members) were adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which found that even the families of victims whose names did not appear on the official manifest were entitled to indemnity.[6][15] Caltex Philippines, which had chartered Vector, was likewise cleared of financial liability.[6]


MV Doña Paz
  1. Moris Apura, 37, of Borongan, Eastern Samar[35]
  2. Renato Asisturga, 19
  3. Aludia Bacsal, 18, of Can-avid, Eastern Samar[36][37]
  4. Salvador Bacsal, 44, of Can-avid, Eastern Samar[36][37]
  5. Almario Balanay, 44, of Borongan, Eastern Samar[38]
  6. Generoso Batola, 29, of Borongan, Eastern Samar[35]
  7. Jose Cabrieto, 29, of Catbalogan/Calbiga, Western Samar[35][39]
  8. Samuel Carillo, 27
  9. Severino Carrion, 25
  10. Zosimo de la Rama, 21[40]
  11. Dominador Depayo, 23
  12. Valeriana Duma, 14 (second-youngest survivor), of Catubig, Northern Samar[16]
  13. Alejandro Estuita, 21
  14. Arnel Galang, 18
  15. Mario Leganda, 25
  16. Armando Lomungue/Lominuque, 28
  17. Constancio Mabag, 21
  18. Gilbert Mabutol, 15
  19. Francisco Minggote
  20. Luthgardo Niedo, 26[36]
  21. Panfilo Olalia, 34
  22. Eugenio Orot, 27
  23. Paquito Ozabel, 42
  24. Sofronio "Puyok" Sabuco, 44, of Calbiga, Western Samar[35]
  25. Pedro Sorema, 17
MT Vector
  1. Quartermaster Franklin/Francisco Bornillo, 26[41][42]
  2. Second Mate Reynaldo Tarife, 41[41]


A memorial honoring the victims of Doña Paz is at the Pieta Park in Catbalogan. Located at adjacent to St. Bartholomew Church and Saint Mary's College of Catbalogan, the park now serves as a public space for families and friends of the victims.[43]


The wreck of Doña Paz was located in April 2019 by the RV Petrel, with video footage later released on December 19. It lies upright at a depth of 500 meters (1,600 ft). The wreck of the Vector was found lying 2,200 meters (7,200 ft) away in the same state. Both wrecks are in good condition.[44]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ferry collides with oil tanker near Manila - HISTORY". April 1, 2019. Archived from the original on April 1, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ "7 of the World's Deadliest Shipwrecks". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  3. ^ R.B.Haworth (2006). "Search results for "5415822"". Miramar Ship Index. Wellington, New Zealand. Archived from the original on April 8, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Acosta, Omar; Veridiano, Dave & Ronquillo, Marlen (December 23, 1987). "Doña Paz Overloaded; Inquiry Set". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  5. ^ a b c Hooke, Norman. Maritime Casualties, 1963–1996. Lloyd's of London Press, 1997
  6. ^ a b c d e f Caltex Philippines v. Sulpicio Lines, 374 Phil. 325 (Supreme Court of the Philippines September 30, 1999).
  7. ^ "MSNBC World News/Asia Pacific". NBC News. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Associated Press (December 21, 1987). "1,500 Are Feared Lost as Two Ships Collide and Sink Near Philippines". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Tanker Rams Ferry, 1,500 Feared Dead". Philippine Daily Inquirer. December 22, 1987.
  10. ^ "Ex-Doña Paz skipper testifies in inquiry". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. January 28, 1988. p. 8. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  11. ^ John Lancaster, Engineering catastrophes: causes and effects of major accidents. Woodhead Publishing, 2005, 3rd. ed., p. 71.
  12. ^ a b c d e Det Norske Veritas. "Annex 1: Passenger Vessel Evacuation Descriptions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2018. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d Coronel, Sheila (December 22, 1987). "Searchers Find No Trace of 1,500 From 2 Ships Sunk in Philippines". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Acosta, Omar; Veridiano, Dave & Lirio, Gerry (December 24, 1987). "238 Bodies Washed Ashore in Mindoro". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  15. ^ a b c d Vector Shipping Corp. v. Macasa (Supreme Court of the Philippines July 21, 2008), Text.
  16. ^ a b "MV Dona Paz survivor reunites with family after 25 years on 'Wish Ko Lang'". GMA News. GMA Network. May 12, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2020. Valeriana [Duma] survived using a life jacket given by her employer, but her survival was never recorded by the authorities. If it had been, she would have been the youngest of the few survivors.
  17. ^ Nevada Daily Mail, "4-year-old survivor found floating in sea"
  18. ^ "Coast Guard Says: Dona Paz Officers Not at Their Posts". Philippine Daily Inquirer. December 25, 1987.
  19. ^ Associated Press (December 25, 1987). "Officers Were Not at Posts, Ship Disaster Survivor Says". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  20. ^ "Dona Paz officers were not at posts". Archived from the original on July 14, 2012 – via
  21. ^ De Guzman, Nicai (December 20, 2018). "Hell at Sea: Remembering the Tragedy of the MV Doña Paz". Esquire Magazine. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  22. ^ "Doña Paz collision report due Feb. 29". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. February 7, 1988. p. 8. Retrieved January 16, 2023.
  23. ^ "Group To Gather Own Evidence On Collision". Manila Standard. December 31, 1987. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  24. ^ Vergara, Ricky B. (January 28, 1988). "Dona Paz Relatives Assail Gov't, Ship Firm Over Aid". Manila Standard. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  25. ^ a b "Bodies of 133 Found From Ferry Disaster, The Filipinos Report". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 27, 1987. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  26. ^ "300 More Charred Victims Retrieved". Philippine Daily Inquirer. December 26, 1987.
  27. ^ a b Ed Perpena & Dave Veridiano (December 29, 1987). "2,000 on Ship Not on Manifest". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  28. ^ Ordoñez, Lynette (January 10, 1988). "Missing tutors' kin to get due". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. p. 1. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  29. ^ "3,159 people were on 'Dona Paz'". Lloyd's List. February 24, 1988.
  30. ^ "Official 'Dona Paz' toll exceeds 4,300". Lloyd's List. January 26, 1989.
  31. ^ Crosette, Barbara (December 23, 1987). "It's Gloom And Glitter For Manila". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  32. ^ Agence France Presse & Associated Press (December 24, 1987). "Pope, Takeshita Send Condolences". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  33. ^ Howard Chua Eo & Nelly Sindayen (January 4, 1988). "The Philippines Off Mindoro, a Night to Remember". Time. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  34. ^ Agence France Presse (December 23, 1987). "Sulpicio Willing to Pay Victims". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  35. ^ a b c d "Aid to survivors". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. January 21, 1988. p. 8. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  36. ^ a b c Ramos, Rogelio (January 27, 1988). "More than 3,000 boarded Doña Paz". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. p. 8. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  37. ^ a b Ramos, Rogelio (January 29, 1988). "Survivor: 4,000 on board 'Paz'". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. p. 8. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  38. ^ Ramos, Rogelio; Del Rosario, Luz (January 30, 1988). "Another witness blames Doña Paz". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. p. 6. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  39. ^ Delos Santos, Bong (January 14, 1988). "2 more Paz survivors testify". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. p. 8. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  40. ^ Gabieta, Joey (December 20, 2012). "Doña Paz victims waiting for justice 25 years after". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Barugo, Leyte. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  41. ^ a b "Victims' kin fear whitewash". Manila Standard. Standard Publications, Inc. December 28, 1987. p. 8. Retrieved June 6, 2020. The Coast Guard said they believed the two survivors of the tanker, identified as Second Mate Reynaldo Tarife and Quartermaster Francisco Burnillo [sic], may be holding the key to the circumstances...
  42. ^ Callo, Kathleen (December 20, 1988). "Sea voyage: Risky business". Manila Standard. Manila Standard News, Inc. p. 4. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  43. ^ "DECEMBER 20 WAS THE MV DOÑA PAZ TRAGEDY LAST 1987". Official Website of the City Government of Catbalogan. Archived from the original on July 26, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  44. ^ Schlosser, Kurt (December 19, 2019). "Paul Allen's research vessel surveys wreckage of 'Asia's Titanic' — 1987 ferry sinking killed 4,300". GeekWire. GeekWire, LLC. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  45. ^ "Davao Titanic debuts today". Mindanao Times. August 25, 2009. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  46. ^ "Asia's Titanic". National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009.

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