In this file photo, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) operates in the South China Sea in May 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)

MANILA, Philippines - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge arrived in Manila for a goodwill port visit March 7.

This port visit gives embarked Marines, 7th Fleet staff and Blue Ridge Sailors an opportunity to experience Manila's unique culture and provide Sailors with several community service events.

For more than 30 years, Blue Ridge has maintained a presence in Southeast Asia region strengthening allied ties through community service projects and conducting joint military exercises, including the Republic of the Philippines.

Blue Ridge Commanding Officer, Capt. Will Pennington said, "Port calls in Manila are a demonstration of the continuing friendship between our two nations, and are a tremendous opportunity for the crew to experience the warm and friendly Filipino culture. Our partnership and alliance is long standing and mutually beneficial. We are looking forward to community service events, sporting games, and subject matter expert exchanges with our Philippine Navy counterparts."

Aboard Blue Ridge, there is a large percentage of Filipino Sailors who are getting the chance to reconnect with family and friends for the first time in many years.

This is the first time I'm returning to the Philippines in more than five years," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Sukarno Ikbala. "I'm very excited to take part in the events planned with the community and spending some quality time with my family that lives here."