It was my privilege to be able to travel to Manila in the Philippines in mid February 2023 to attend the Ahoy! training course run by ICMA the International Christian Maritime Association along with about 45 others from every continent who serve seafarers.
The purpose of the training was to provide the opportunity to learn more about the world of the seafarers, to gain first-hand knowledge of the Filipino seafarers' social and cultural background and the Filipino maritime sector so as to serve them better and it did not disappoint.
We were constantly on the receiving end of Filipino hospitality as we visited several dormitories where seafarers stay waiting to get the call to go onboard a ship some times for months, toured a hospital for seafarers and their families. We stopped at a training centre for officers including trying out their simulators. We heard how seafarers are tempted by lawyers to make claims in the hope that they can receive a pay out and how the Filipino seafarers livelihood is under threat because of standards European authorities say they are not meeting with the potential that they won't get hired. The government is doing much to highlight the role of the seafarers among the nations greatest export that being overseas workers, who contribute billions of dollars to the national GDP. The government is working with others such as with Japanese shipping companies to hire and train Filipino seafarers.
At the Mission to Seafarers in Manila we heard very personal and powerful accounts from the mothers, wives and children of seafarers about how challenging it is and how the Families Assistance Network has helped them support each other and the seafarers.
We also had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in daily life going to street markets and sites of national significance such as Intramuros where the Spanish influence is on show to Fort Santiago where the national hero 'Rizal' was executed by the Spanish in 1896, to the Church of the Black Nazarene where pilgrimages flock and to the popular Mall of Asia.
The peoples of the Philippines have suffered greatly at the hands of outsiders over the centuries and still do evident on the streets but their pride in who they are and what they can become is also evident.
The visit has given me a deeper appreciation and respect for the work that Filipino seafarers do and for the hardships they go through to get onboard, for the families and others counting on them. It provided the opportunity to look at how we can care better and to understand what Filipino seafarers like and need to make their short time here in Vancouver that bit easier, to show them warm hospitality.