1959: A New Flagship Joins the Philippine Navy

February 13, 1959

President Carlos P. Garcia of the Republic of the Philippines issued an executive order designating a new yacht as the flagship (lead ship) of the Philippine Navy. This designation took place not long after the vessel had undergone a two-day series of sea trials. The sea trials were conducted under Philippine Navy Lieutenant Commander Manuel Mandapat, who was the vessel’s first commanding officer. The yacht, which had been launched in October 1958, was built by the Japanese company Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries as a part of Japan’s reparations to the Philippine government for damages and suffering inflicted during World War II.

Just over three weeks after Garcia’s executive order, the vessel was officially commissioned into the Philippine Navy and christened RPS (Republic of the Philippines Ship) Lapu-Lapu in memory of a 16th century Filipino leader and hero. (RPS was eventually replaced by BRP – standing for “Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” the Filipino-language phrase for “Ship of the Republic of the Philippines” – as the prefix for the Philippine Navy’s commissioned ships.)

RPS Lapu-Lapu retained her status as the Philippine Navy’s flagship for nearly three years. For well over a half-century, she served as a yacht for Philippine presidents from Garcia to Benigno Aquino III. One of the first voyages undertaken by RPS Lapu-Lapu was an international trip involving ports of call in South Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Throughout the decades, numerous individuals – ranging from heads of state and government to world-renowned artists such as ballerina Margot Fonteyn and pianist Van Cliburn – were on board the yacht as honored guests.

Along with being used as a yacht for Philippine presidents, the vessel was deployed for various other purposes over the years. She served as a naval troop transport, for example, and took part in several search-and-rescue missions. The vessel has also undergone the following name changes: RPS Roxas (1962-67); RPS The President (1967-71); BRP Ang Pangulo (1971-2009); and BRP Pag-Asa (2009-11). In 2011, she was once more given the name Ang Pangulo (the Filipino-language term for “The President”). After assuming office in 2016, current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had the vessel retired as a presidential yacht. She remains in active service, however, as a ship of the Philippine Navy.

For more information on BRP Ang Pangulo (originally called RPS Lapu-Lapu), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRP_Ang_Pangulo_(AT-25).

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