A seafarer’s faith is his most powerful weapon in overcoming difficult emotional, or even dangerous,  shipboard conditions and in making life at sea bearable in many ways.

During the guesting of past winners of the Ten Outstanding Maritime Students of the Philippines (TOMSP) in our online show Amigos Marinos, I  asked them again the question I posed during their interview on what personal item will they bring with them if the boat is in danger of sinking.

Some of the answers given include rosary, bible, family pictures, and notebook with prayers.

This is a reflection of the practice of most Filipino seafarers of bringing with them on board the vessel their religious beliefs, ideas, and tradition.

Dr. Nelson Turgo of the Seafarers International Research Center (SIRC) discussed during his earlier guesting at Amigos Marino a study that revealed how religious practice may serve to mitigate negative aspects of work such as loneliness, isolation, and institutional living, as well as fear of the dangers that can be encountered at sea.

Religion assists seafarers in coping with dangerous and emotionally challenging workplaces. It offers the ordinary Filipino seafarers strength, hope, and peace in relation to their daily work and social relationships on board the vessel.

Turgo noted that seafarers find strength in their God as they commonly experience fear for their life during emergencies at sea often associated with storms, mechanical failure, collisions, and groundings.

Turgo stressed that God was being drawn upon by seafarers to increase their resilience in dealing with stressful and dangerous workplace situations.

Seafarers are more likely to draw on their belief in a God to help them at times when they are powerless to help themselves.

It was relatively common for seafarers to engage in faith-based routines which they hoped would offer them some protection from ill fate.

A work of a seafarer is not exactly a walk in the park.

The shipping industry and seafaring profession are  not without incident or peril where some may go missing or die in   maritime disasters, while  others may  suffer Illnesses or  injury  due to increased work-related stress  and exposure to variant weather

The European Maritime Safety Agency declared in a report that, between 2011 and 2020, there were 745 work-related fatalities among maritime workers and nearly 9,000 persons injured.

There are still 36 Filipino seafarers still missing due to the capsizing of the Panama-flagged livestock carrier Gulf  Livestock 1  in southwest Japan on September  2, 2020,  during the typhoon Maysak.

Masses and prayers for the safe voyage of seafarers are traditionally part of the annual National Seafarers Day (NSD)   which is celebrated by virtue of Proclamation No. 828 issued by former president Fidel V. Ramos on July 9, 1996, declaring August 18 as NSD.

The purpose of the proclamation is to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers in the development of the Philippines as a maritime country. Later, Proclamation No.1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to every last Sunday of September every year.

The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) / Stella Maris Philippines is tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the celebration of said event.

The Philippines is considered as the major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.

It coincides with the celebration of National Maritime Week (NMW).

This year’s 26th NSD is set on September 26, 2021 with the  theme is “Marinong Filipino: Nasa Kaibuturan ka ng Hinaharap ng Industriya.”

The TOMSP is an annual search as part of the NSD celebration that  gave recognition to students for being academically excellent, highly competent in practice, in good moral standing, and active in their respective communities

The chosen TOMSP  is seen as the embodiment of the “ideal seafarer,” displaying “integrity, passion, assertiveness, dependability, and camaraderie” that will allow them to become globally competitive Filipino seafarers.

From 2011 to 2019, 90 students have received the TOMSP award.

Maritime schools annually produce some 40,000 graduates while a  2018  study by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) showed that an average of about 18 percent of enrollees manages to complete the full academic three years.

(Lawyer Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).