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A Peruvian experience on Guam

By Gina T. Reilly

What are the chances one would get to experience being in Peru without the hassle of traveling long hours and paying exorbitant airfare? It rarely happens, unless a Peruvian ship makes a port stop in your part of the world.

On Aug. 16, the Peruvian Navy ship BAP Union (Buque Armada Peruana) docked at the port of Guam Naval Base, where it was moored for four days to showcase Peru. The ship's world tour promoted the South American country as a tourist destination through a traveling museum called Casa Peru set up inside the beautiful ship.

Guam was among the 20 ports in 15 countries on BAP Union’s 10-month itinerary.

When a public invitation to the ship's free tour circulated, my friend Chong Suk Hazzard and I did not pass up the opportunity. We headed to Naval Base Guam’s Visitor Control Center an hour earlier before the first shuttle bus scheduled at 11 a.m. We thought we were early but we were surprised to see people already standing in a long line.

(The tour would have been perfect if it was properly organized. Had the organizers given out numbers, young children and senior citizens could have stayed in their cars while waiting and been spared the scorching heat outside the VCC building. The challenging part was the bus could only ferry 34 passengers every hour.)

We waited for two hours as we didn’t make the first batch. Some opted to leave the queue that went around the VCC building all the way to the Navy Federal Bank facility. By the end of the day, we heard that a number of people went home disappointed because they missed the last bus. But that was just a side story.

A 10-minute bus ride brought us to the pier where the colorful BAP Union— a Navy training ship that is South America’s largest vessel— was docked, adorning the usually dull side of the Victor wharf.

As we embarked on the four-masted barque with a hull composed of 38 steel modules, the Peruvian experience immediately set in. We were greeted by a sailor donning a traditional Peruvian colorful poncho called “mantas.”

The BAP Union has 250 crew and trainees. The sailors, some in red and white long-sleeved uniforms, gave us a warm reception. They showed pride in being part of their country’s army of ambassadors, promoting products such as pisco (the traditional liquor, asparagus, tangerines, paprika, 300 types of chili peppers and 4,000 varieties of potatoes among others.

Peru’s Machu Picchu is the world’s No. 1 tourist spot. Besides being the top destination, Peru is also known for its high-quality aromatic coffee.


The Case Peru exhibit featured some Andean fabrics and hand-woven jewelry in vibrant colors.

The tall ship’s figurehead was made of bronze, featuring symbols of the Inca culture.

Inside, the ship has an auditorium, a library, a computing platform and classrooms for cadets training in astronomic navigation, meteorology, oceanography, hydrography, naval operations and maneuvering.

Of course, a 45-minute tour is not enough to know everything about Peru but we got a satisfying glimpse of its culture. A quick stop at a souvenir shop marked the end of our Peruvian experience.

We’re thankful to the Union for bringing Peru to us. It piqued our interest and curiosity. Some of the guests have put Peru on their list of future travel destinations.

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