USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) transits Manila Bay, March 8. (U.S. Navy/MC2 William Sykes)

MANILA, Philippines - The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), with embarked 3d Marine Division (MARDIV) Marines, departed Manila to continue a patrol in the Indo-Pacific region following a scheduled port visit, March 8.

During the visit, the ship hosted distinguished visitors, including three ambassadors to the Republic of the Philippines, several key Indo-Pacific region military officers, and local leaders for a capabilities brief and a ship tour.

The port visit followed Bonhomme Richard’s participation in exercise Cobra Gold 2018, and provided the crew an opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of the Philippines.

Sailors and Marines were able to explore the surrounding areas through tours sponsored by the ship’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, as well as connect with the people of the Philippines through community relations (COMREL) events.

In support of the two-day COMREL project, coordinated by the ship’s religious ministries department, Navy and Marine Corps volunteers packaged 9,204 boxes of relief supplies for those affected by the eruptions of the Mayon Volcano in the province of Albay.

Mayon Volcano, which initially erupted in January, has displaced an estimated 90,000 people. As a volunteer, Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Lara Morga, a native of Cavite, Philippines, helped package food and other supplies at the Department of Social Welfare and Development warehouse in Manila.

“It’s important [to volunteer] because I feel as Sailors we commit to serve not only the U.S., but also other nations,” said Morga. “It was very fulfilling to represent the U.S. Navy and be a part of the relief effort for the Philippines. I’m glad to finally volunteer again for the country as it’s been almost five years since I last volunteered here.”

Some Sailors were afforded the opportunity to visit with local family and friends during the port call. Yeoman 3rd Class Rica Gomez, a native of Manila, said that this visit was more than just a port call for her, it was an unexpected homecoming experience.

“I’m really grateful to the leaders of Bonhomme Richard for coordinating our visit to Manila,” said Gomez. “I got to visit my home, and it was really awesome to see all of my family and friends again.”

Bonhomme Richard, part of Amphibious Squadron 11, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster.

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Lara Morga packages relief supplies during a community relations project to support evacuees affected by the recent Mayon Volcano eruptions, March 7. (U.S. Navy/MC2 William Sykes)