February 7, 2011

The Lure of Reading According to a Handbook for Seafarers

  “Read to Bridge Oceans” (published by  Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation, Inc.)   is a curious book with many things going for it.   
 It is obviously aimed at would-be seafarers and the active ones including their families while giving an ordinary reader a bird’s eye view of a vital sector that keeps the maritime industry going. 

There are around 230,000 Filipino seafarers on various ships world-wide according to Marissa Oca, president of the Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation, Inc which published the book. She is also at the helm of the Seamen’s Village in Dasmarinas, Cavite where some 456 families of seafarers live and owner of the St. Pancras School where children of seafarers get their basic education. His father, Captain Gregorio Oca, also heads the 85,000-strong seafarers’ labor organization called the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP). The family is also behind the  school for seafarers, the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP). It has since then produced more than 800 midshipmen and midshipwomen since it was founded in 1997.

 On the whole, remittances from seafarers contribute a staggering $2 billion or about 17 per cent to the total annual OFW remittance of $12 billion. The book notes that approximately 25 per cent of the world fleet’s seafarers are in fact Filipinos which confirms the country’s reputation as the Crewing Capital of the World.

 Noted MAAP president Vice- Admiral (ret.) Eduardo Ma. R. Santos in the book: “There is a shortage  of 10,000 officers overseas and the shipping companies want Filipinos. We can only graduate over a hundred each year and we cannot cope with the demand. Every MAAP graduate has a job waiting for him in a foreign vessel. We have 100 per cent employment rate.”

  For the most part, the book is a tribute to the seafarers and their families.

  Opines Captain Oca in the book’s introduction: “Seafaring is a profession and many have taken it seriously as a lifetime career, as ‘seafaring’ truly runs in the blood of Filipinos. I took the same route and sailed the seven seas, and for over half a century now, I have chosen to be passionately involved in matters concerning seafarers and the maritime industry. As they say, once a seafarer,  always a seafarer.”
 In the three chapters with beautiful photography by Mandy Navasero, the book proceeds to chronicle the maritime industry and its allies, their families and the maritime schools in other parts of the country.

    While it remains a fairly substantial documentation of seafarers and their families, the book has a bigger agenda which is to encourage reading among seafarers and their children.
    The result is individual testimonials of various personalities in the maritime industry extolling the virtues of reading with excellent photography by  Navasero.

    Says Marissa Oca: “In the context of the one-parent family or the distant parent set-up, it has become our fervent desire to see the reading habit infecting seafarers’ household. Our 476 families at the Seamen’s Village in Cavite are taking their cue from the African proverb modified, ‘It takes a child to raise a village’ – in this case, a village of readers. Embracing the value of quality time through reading together is an inspiring start. We know that a reading adult at home can producea reading child. Studies show that the bond between parents and children who read are remarkable. We are bent on making our seafarer’s children shine brightly in the future.”

  The book and the Foundation was actually inspired by Marissa Oca’s late son, Gig, who shared  his mother’s  and Navasero’s love for reading, photography and people.

  For its short but extensive documentation of people behind the maritime industry, “Read To Bridge Ocean” is a must reading specially for those mulling a career in the high seas.

                                                                     - Pablo A. Tariman 
                                         Munting Nayon News Magazine                                                                               http://www.mnnetherlands.com 

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