We grew up with legends and myths about creatures, divine beings and gods, including those where water plays an important role.

Mysteries and myths of the ocean became interesting topics during an episode of the annual Boses ng Marino Online Karaoke Challenge as part of the 26th National Seafarers Day (NSD).

One of these mythical creatures of various legends and lore are the mermaids or merfolks known to be half-human and half fish.

Some legends depict mermaids as vixens who seduce sailors to their death with their songs and drag them down to their underwater sea palaces. The siren voices of mermaids are so unearthly many believe they can drive men to madness.

Their gifts brought misfortune, and, if offended, the beings caused floods or other disasters. To see one on a voyage was an omen of shipwreck.

In the film Pirates of the Caribbean,  mermaids have been known to gather in  Whitecap Bay for hundreds of years, thereby striking terror in the heart of sailors and pirates alike. Through songs, they lure their prey before dragging them to the depths of the Bay to devour them. The mermaids must defend against Blackbeard and his crew as they attempt to capture a live mermaid to harvest the mermaid’s tear demanded by the Fountain of Youth ritual.

Little Mermaid is the main character of the 1837 Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. It is the story of a mermaid named Ariel, who dreams of becoming human and falls in love with a human prince named Eric.  In the song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” popularized by the Disney animation, the sea witch  Ursula uses the song to seduce Ariel into trading her voice for the chance to temporarily become human.

In the Philippines, Dyesebel is  Mars Ravelo’s mermaid comics character who took on a journey to trace her origins. She was disowned by the sea when she found out that she was the daughter of a merman (also the prince of the sea)  and a human. She then began her adventure and explored the human world.

Sightings of mermaids are  normally downplayed  with arguments that  these are  are slow-moving, blubbery sea cows called dugongs or  manatees.

Music  plays a special role on Filipino seafarers’ life, whether at sea or on land.

The sea can not stop the seafarers in mastering the art of vocal mimicry from contagiously  belting out songs like the infamous “My Way.”

It is  an understatement to say that karaoke is a central part of  pop culture of Filipinos, including seafarers whether on board or in between contracts.

Karaoke is the clipped compound of Japanese kara (empty) and okesutora (orchestra) that is an  interactive entertainment in which an amateur singer sings along with recorded music  (or a music video) using a microphone.

Karaoke is indeed a favorite past time of Filipino seafarers as one of the  coping mechanisms aboard international and domestic shipping vessels to address stress and boredom.

Away from his family and working on board vessels sailing non-stop for weeks or months, the Filipino seafarer is physically, mentally and emotionally stressed.

Constantly exposed to fluctuating temperatures caused by variant weather changes of extreme hot and cold as the ships cross ocean boundaries, the risks of him getting  ill, injured or  killed are high.

Before the  COVID 19 lockdowns,  Pinoy seafarers and maritime students  converge along Kalaw to  show their singing prowess through a weekly show facilitated  by volunteers.

Due to the  pandemic, the Boses ng Marino was again held as an online jamming session this year instead of the  NSD traditional contest in Kalaw, under two categories, students and professional seafarers.

NSD organizers  had to forego the usual  sunset environmental concert  dubbed as Harana  by the Bay of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) symphony band  that pays homage to the oceans and seas to keep our Filipino seafarers safe in their voyage. 

Harana was an exclusively nocturnal practice which gained popularity in the early part of the Spanish period  that was widely practiced in many parts of the Philippines with a specific romantic  style of music.

Former president Fidel V. Ramos earlier issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring August 18 as NSD to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country.

The Stella Maris Philippines  was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sector in activities related to the celebration of the said event.

Later, Proclamation No.1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to every last Sunday of September every year.

This year’s 26th NSD was held  on September 26, 2021

The Sunday masses during the NSD all over the country were offered to the Filipino seafarers.

(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).