Everybody gets a chance to meet the sea during their lifetime. Oo, lahat ay may pagkakataong makapunta sa dagat, be it as someone who waddles in the beach for a vacation, isang pasahero ng barko, manlalakbay, sayantipiko, mangingisda at marino. But the person who truly understand the life the sea brings are the Mariners.
Every seaman who came to work at sea got there either by chance, by choice or by accident. A young boy sees the opportunity to start a maritime career not because it’s his dream, but because of a scholarship giving him a chance to finish college. Hindi nya alam kung anong meron ang buhay dagat pero sinunggaban nya ito dahil sa oportunidad. This is by chance.
Meanwhile, after graduating high school, a lad confidently enrolled in a maritime college because this is what he really wants! Simula pagka-bata, ito na yung gusto nyang gawin paglaki. He has done his research and talked to veteran sailors and these my friend, fuelled his enthusiasm. This is by choice.
“Dami mo nang kursong pinasukan. Mag-seaman ka nalang para ikaw ay tumino at matutong magtrabaho!” Ever heard these lines before? There are seafarers who became seafarers because of someone else’s choice. This (un)fortunately is what I call by accident. This may just be the beginning.
Whichever paths we came from matters less. What lies ahead are the challenges, the blessings and the curse. Every seaman walks through the same cycle. There are highs and lows, riches and poverties, hopes and despair, and long distance love affairs. Tanging marino lang din ang tunay na nakakaunawa sa kapwa marino.
It all starts on his first contract. The moment he steps on board is the time he becomes a seaman. He works for a very long time, sometimes almost a year, because he has plans for the future. Perhaps, he wants to repay his parent’s sacrifice. He’s planning to take an exam. He is building a house or buying something. Or probably he wants to get married. The bottomline, he needs money to run his dreams.
But the high pay on board comes with a price. Ang dating nakasanayan nyang malawak na bakuran sa lupa ay biglang naging maliit na kubiko. The hundreds of people he met everyday turned to just twenty. At ang tanging nakikita nya araw-araw ay barko, langit at dagat. Maswerte sya kung may internet ang barko nya. He keeps himself updated with all things happening in his homeland. He sees his friends and families happily enjoying their lives. Does he gets jealous? Who knows. Tanging marino lang ang nakakaintindi ng kapwa marino.
Natapos ang kontrata nyang siyam na buwan. May pera sya ngayon to roll out his dreams. Ano ba ang ginagawa ng mga seaman pagka-baba?
Kelangan matanggal lahat ng stress sa pamamagitan ng bakasyon. Kasama ang buong pamilya at barka ay pupunta sa beach or restaurant para kumain. It’s “normal” for us. It’s our way of making up for our lost time while working. But reality always like to kick in. May trainings na kelangan kuhanin. Medical dapat ipasa. At opisina na tumawatag para ikay sumampa na! Gustong mag-extend ni Dudong Seaman sa bakasyon but his wallet (and his wife) says otherwise. So with a heavy heart, gumising siya ng maaga para hindi nya makita ang malungkot na pag-iyak ng kanyang anak sa pagluwas nya sa Maynila. This part of reality is what crunches every warrior’s heart no matter how strong he thinks he is.
Then the cycle is set in motion. Again he is back at sea aiming to save up to provide for his family’s necessities. Gusto nyang matapos agad ang kontrata pero hindi nya namamalayan na tumatanda na pala sya. He sees his kids growing up through social media. He was not there when his first born arrived. He didn’t witness the very first words his child made nor the first courageous steps. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and debuts most of them happened while he was on board. But what can he do? He can only cry and miss them so much.
Not An Easy Life
A seaman’s life is not to be jealous with. Big houses, new cars, exclusive vacations and high end gadgets are not the measure of success. Sa likod ng mga bagay na iyan ay ang paghihirap ng mga Marino. Kahit malakas ang alon ay nagtatrabaho pa rin si Dudong Seaman. Kahit walang tulog ay kelangan siya lalo sa oras ng emergency. At kahit may sakit dapat niyang gampanan ang kanyang tungkulin bilang Marino. Walang holidays, Saturdays at Sundays. Anytime maaaring tawagin ang kanyang presensya sa trabaho.
During the toughest times, he can only dreamed of starting a business so he could stop sailing and live with his family for the rest of his life. A life with his family- that is what most seamen dreamed of. Kung may trabaho lamang siya sa Pinas na nagbibigay ng magandang sweldo, hindi na sya dapat mangibang bansa.
To the Seafarers’ wives, support your Seaman and encourage him with his life goals especially when he is on board. Be a good steward of his hard earned dollars. Save, invest and start a business as early as possible. Huwag mo na syang pakawalan. Huwag mo nang hayaang lumayo pa sya sa inyo kung alam mong kaya nyo namang mamuhay sa Pinas ng maayos at marangal.
To the Seafarer’s children, tell your father how much you love them. Iwasan nyong magpabili ng kung anu-ano para magpa-impress sa mga kaibigan nyo. Kumustahin nyo sila at ikwento nyo ang nangyari sa school. Mag-aral kang maigi and tell them your achievements. Tell them your secrets too. He likes to hear those things at ito rin ang nagbibigay sa kanya ng saya. It brings you closer to them. Most importantly, huwag kayong makalimot na palalalahan siyang “Mag-ingat” araw-araw. We are not certain of our future and a simple, “Pa, mag-ingat ka sa trabaho” will echo in his heart to act safe, stay safe, and be safe all the time.
And to my fellow seafarers, hanggat may dagat, may barko. But don’t think that sailing is forever. Our life belongs to our family at home no matter how far we travel. Save your dollars and spend it wisely. Do you still remember the times when you can’t even buy milk for your child dahil naubos ang ipon mo? Naaalala mo pa ba nung sinabi sayo ng anak mo na, “Pa, nagugutom ako” pero wala kang maibigay na pagkain dahil wala kang pera? But the worst thing that could happen is when dangers overtake us on board. I don’t need to explain that as we all know the risk associated with our work.
To all the seafarers out there, keep safe my brothers and…
May the winds be on your favor.