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IN FRATERNAM MEAM
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
THE UNSUNG DOLLAR EARNER OF THE PHILIPPINES
I was talking to a very nice gentleman on the fon while I was at work. He works for a cruise ship under the banner of Norwegian Cruise Lines. He has a position that is equivalent to a Concierge on a stationary hotel on land. There are some passengers who took a cruise and boarded my airline and their suitcases was delayed in catching up with them prior embarking on a cruise to Mexico and other adjoining Islands.

FLASHBACK

My brother in law just graduated from Philippine Maritime Institute (PMI) and during those years, seamanship course is not that popular. He then became an Apprentice Mate with Madrigal Shipping and then became an officer of a commercial ship. My father was so impressed. My brother in law kept on telling my parents that I have to study Nautical science and be a mariner like him. And so I embarked on the journey of being a mariner like my brother in law. There was not much required documents and tarining certificates then. After acquiring my seaman's book, I decided to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood.

My brother in law continued his career and became a good mariner, following his dream and career. He then became a Sea Captain, I continued on to study my Philosophy inside the seminary. He eventually became the Crewing Manager of Wallem Philippines, I continued on to my Novitiate in one of the German seminary in Tagaytay City. My brother in law became a maritime business man, and was very good at it. He put up his own company, a Crewing Agency in the Phils. and was very successful in this endeavour and I continued on to my Theological studies. One month before my ordination, I decided to get married. Am now married for 25 years and have two grown boys both in college, and both decided to be on their own, following the american tradition. i have to make an appointment to see them and tell them i missed them very much.

During the time of my sabbatical leave from the semianry,prior my decision in getting married, my brother in law asked me to work for him and learn the business....and so I did. I have been in close contact with so many seamen...their wives...their parents..their children. I have learned their miseries and loneliness. So we created a newspaper for our own seamen overseas, with informations and stories about the families that our crews have left behind, trying to earn money and build a family back home. We then became high tech and created video summaries of whatis happening back home, featuring some of the families of the seamen onbaord the ship.There was not much requirements to be a seman those times. Until the governement saw potentials in it and so they created the National Seamens Board (NSB). This is a government entity, whose purpose is to oversee the welfare of the seafarers, so they said. Of course, this time, all seafarers has to have their contracts be processed by this agency thru their local crewing agents. Of course, there will be payments on what is called Processing Fee, and other fees involve. There are no fine prints, when the government wants money. And this government agency, required all seafarers to remit 80 percent of their dollar earnings back to the Phils. thru any commercial banks in the Phils. The ship owners pays the 80 percent salary of the seamen thur their local crewing agency,and in turn the agency has to deposit the money to any commercial bank in the PHilippines. This was term Remittances. And this was during the time of Ferdinand Marcos and it was a common knowledge that majority of the commercial banks are run by his cronies, one and foremost is Herminio Desini.

The seamen became the dollar earners of the Phils. It was estimated that during the time of Marcos, almost 65million dollars a year is being remitted by the Pinoy seamen back to the Phils. And so, another bigger government body was created by the government and abolished the National Seaman's Board (NSB) and created the PHilippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which is still in existence up to now. Upon the creation of this board, new requirements have been imposed to all the seamen, they have to undergo trainings and more documentations have to be presented to this board when the contracts of the seafarers will be presented by the respective crewing agency. They (POEA) said to protect the seamen, from whom and from where? We should be thankful that the Pinoy seafarers are given the chance by foreign shipping companies to be employed onboard their ships.

Our seamen and now the Overseas Workers, have been the dollar earners of the country, the heroes that is giving their lives overseas for the much sought after green bucks of the Philippine govrnment.

OBSERVE THIS SCENARIO AT THE NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL ARIPORT.....Our seamen and overseas workers, when they leave the country----all the employees at the airport does not even give then due courtesy to them and does not accord them with politeness. But when they return back from overseas after finishing their contracts, all the employees at the International airport calls them Compadre, Miss, Manang, Amo, Boss, Lakay, Bossing and all. Especially the immigration and the customs people. In a very melodious voices, like the Falsettoin a voice choir, these snakes and venomous vipers will ask the returning heroes " something for the boys, Bossing"then there will be photographers who will take their pictures and then foceably shove it to this home coming workers and demand payment three times the value of the picture, saying "marami ka namang dollars bossing"(you have plenty of dollars, Boss)so the returning heroes will be compelled to pay, until he reaches the final gate and area of the airport. Then a group of opportunity seekers and cut throats, will greet them and offer help to carry their belongings and offer a car service in turn. When you accept this offer, rest assure you will be asked, "how about something for the boys"These vultures prefers dollars,not pesos.

And so when I have spoken to this young man on the fon working his heart out, onboard the ship, with so many nationalities with him, enduring the loneliness in the open seas, missing his family and parents, sometimes missing the celebrations of his family's gatherings like weddings, christenings, christmas and even death and funeral of a close member of the family---- my heart goes out with him. It is so hard to be onboard ship. I have experienced it many times, when I was still working with my brother in law's office. I was the labor arbiter for the Ship owners that my brother in law is under contract with.

Last night when I went to bed, I closed my eyes and said a short prayers for all these seafarers. The lonely souls out there in the open seas. I have prayed for their safe journeys and their loneliness to be filled with joys.

Coming from the heart.....
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:16 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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