Introduction in Socio-Economic
Seafaring has proven to be a reliable employment activity for our region’s seafarers since the past few decades. With a stable job, our sea-based workers have been able to literally satisfy very well their families since this profession gained ground.
Jobs, skills, training, taxes, goods and writing services are just few of the terms that we will meet and eventually elaborate on as we enumerate the socio-economic contribution of seafarers in general. We will have a concrete picture of this transcendental matter as we talk about Bicolano seafarers starting with their profile as viewed from a standard point of view.
Having a quick access to a document containing ready information about Filipino seafarers, their personal and professional circumstances and their important role in the society has long been the desire of ship owners and managers, officers of international agencies, associations and other interested parties. This report is a humble attempt to come up with a more or less simplified documentation about Bicolano seafarers as an important group of workers in our region.
It is often cited that the Philippines provides a significant number of seafarers employed on board ships which are engaged in international trade. To have available printed materials not only regarding their professional and personal circumstances but also of their achievements is admittedly a much-appreciated development.
To generate a dependable profile of Filipino seafarers, maritime authorities and those who are interested in the industry conducted surveys since October 2002 both among seafarers themselves and students enrolled in maritime schools. They also interviewed crewing managers, heads of government agencies and trade union officers to augment results of these surveys. Complementing all data gathered were information offered by the respective websites and publications of the interviewees.
The November 2003 report of Dr. Amante S. V. Maragtas entitled Philippine Global Seafarers: A Profile under the auspices of the Cardiff University Seafarers International Research Center (SIRC) presented basic socio-economic characteristics, as follows:
- Seafarers surveyed have an average age of 37 years
- ABs aged 34 years
- Junior Officers aged 40 years, and
- Senior Officers aged 44.
Maragtas, Dr. Amante S.V., “Philippine Global Seafarers: A Profile”, Cardiff University SIRC, November 2003.
The results show slight variations with the university research center’s 2003 seafarer database. Based on its 2003 crew list survey, Filipinos on average are 38 years old. In contrast, the world average is 36 years. Filipino junior officers are younger at 34 years, while senior officers are 46 years old on average. The relatively high average age of junior officers indicates often lengthy prior employment as ratings. At present, however, it is observed that the use of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, apparatus and instruments like simulators has drastically lowered the average age of seafarers now placed in various destinations as their exposure in laboratories alone already satisfy their required training hours before finally going onboard.
Employment-wise still in 2003, the SIRC survey showed that 9 percent of Filipinos were employed as senior officers, 19 percent worked as junior officers and a substantial 72 percent were employed as ratings.
As to educational qualification, seafarers normally undergo a four to five year course college degree. It could either be nautical studies or marine engineering. These programs are particularly designed for those who aspire to become officers. On the other hand, other maritime schools offer associate degrees to those who would later find employment as ratings, but they can come back to continue their studies, take the licensure examination and qualify as officers. The effect of the recent enactment of Rep. Act No. 10533 known as the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 to efforts to produce more competent maritime graduates in the Philippines remains to be seen starting school year 2018-2019 when the pioneer graduates under the law shall have enrolled in maritime education institutions.
Aside from education, seafarers must also undergo maritime training which updates the competencies of their performance as officers or ratings. This training is required so that they can secure the required certification pursuant to STCW ’95, as amended, consistent with the standard of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Eventually, after studies, they must undergo shipboard training or cadetship to use their knowledge and skills into practice. It is an on the job training of sort for maritime students.
Another edge that Filipino seafarers have is their good grasp of the English language. As a legacy of the American colonization, this has been the medium of instruction in educational institutions in the country, including maritime schools.
This short study has presented in simple terms the profile of Bicolano seafarers and their contribution to their families, the community and to the country’s economy. In effect, it introduced Filipino seafarers to the public by outlining their qualifications, traits and peculiarities. While emphasis was made on the different maritime courses as stepping stone for improving the lives of its graduates, the impact of other professions to the community was also given citation.
National Maritime Polytechnic, “Stress Management Profile of Filipino Seafarers Execcutive Summary, Tacloban City, September 2006.
The consequences of the employment of our seafarers had to be given light because of the variety of benefits they bring to different sectors. From having a contented family members to being active in their social and religious undertakings, our seafarers are admittedly considered a favored group of workers in our society today, very much comparable to other practicing professionals and industry experts. At the same time, this study has provided opportunity to rectify opinions about and clear the reputation of most seafarers who are unwittingly dragged into situations that ruin their character because of isolated charges against some of their peers particularly those affecting their morals and certain values.
It is finally hoped that through this work, seafaring industry will continue to flourish not only in the Bicol region but in the entire country so that our seafarers can sustain their contribution to the entire global maritime sector.
Bicolano men with their wagons, from Albay, c. 1899.
(6.9% of the Philippine population)
|Regions with significant populations|
(Bicol Region, Quezon province, Metro Manila)
|Bikol languages, Tagalog, Masbateño, Waray, English|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism with some Protestants, and Islam|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Bicolanos are the fifth-largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group. Their indigenous region is commonly considered to be Bicolandia, a region composing part of the Bicol Peninsula and neighbouring islands of southeast Luzon.
The Bicolano people are largely an agricultural and rural people, producing rice, coconuts, and hemp. Nearly all of them are Roman Catholics. Their language is closely related to others of the central Philippines, all of which belong to the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) family of languages.
According to a folk epic entitled Ibalong, the people of the region were formerly called Ibalong or Ibalnong, a name believed to have been derived from Gat Ibal who ruled Sawangan (now Legazpi City) in ancient times. Ibalong used to mean the "people of Ibal"; eventually, this was shortened to Ibalon. The word Bikol, which replaced Ibalon, was originally bikod (meaning "meandering"), a word which supposedly described the principal river of that area.
Archeological diggings which date back to as early as the Neolithic and accidental findings resulting from the mining industry, road-building and railway projects in the region reveal that the Bicol mainland is a rich storehouse of ceramic artifacts. Burial cave finding also point to the prehispanic practice of using burial jars.
The Spanish influence in Bicol resulted mainly from the efforts of Augustinian and Franciscan Spanish missionaries. Through the Franciscans, the annual feast of the Virgin of Peñafrancia, the Patroness for Bicolandia, was started. Fr. Miguel Robles asked a local artist to carve a replica of the statue of the Virgin in Salamanca; now, the statue is celebrated through an annual fluvial parade in Naga City.
Bicolanos actively participated in the national resistance to the American and Japanese colonization through two known leaders who rose up in arms namely Simeón Ola and Governor Wenceslao Q. Vinzons.
Bicolanos live in the southeastern peninsula of Luzon, now containing the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate (although the majority of Masbate's population are Visayans). Many Bicolanos also live in the province of Quezon.
The Bicolanos number about 5,907,000. They are descended from Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came from southern China during the Iron Age. Many Bicolanos also have Chinese, Arab, and Spanish admixtures. Most of the townsfolk have small traces of each heritage while their language is referred to as Bicol or Bicolano. The Bicolano language is very fragmented, and its dialects are mutually incomprehensible to speakers of other Bicolano dialects. The majority of the Bicolano people are devout Roman Catholics and Catholic Mass is celebrated daily in many churches in the Bicol Region.
Culture and traits
The Bicolano cuisine is primarily noted for the prominent use of chili peppers and gata (coconut milk) in its food. A classic example is the gulay na lada, known outside the region as Bicol Express, a well-loved dish using siling labuyo (native small chillies) and the aforementioned gata. Meals are generally rich in carbohydrates and viands of vegetables, fish and meat are cooked in various ways. Bicolanos almost always cook their vegetables in coconut milk; for meat recipes such as pochero, adobo and tapa. A special meat dish is the dinuguan. Fish that serve as common viand are mackerel and anchovy; in Lake Buhi, the sinarapan or tabyos (known as the smallest fish in the world) is common. Except for those living in Rinconada, they are not extraordinarily fond of eating hot or peppery.
Copra processing and abacá stripping are generally done by hand. Fishing is also an important industry and fish supply is normally plentiful during the months of May through September. Organized or big-time fishing makes use of costly nets and motor-powered and electric-lighted boats or launches called palakaya or basnigan. Individual fishermen, on the other hand, commonly use two types of nets – the basnig and the pangki as well as the chinchoro, buliche, and sarap. In Lake Buhi, the sarap and sumbiling are used; the small fishes caught through the former is the sinarapan. The bunuan (corral) of the inangcla, sakag, sibi-sibid and sakag types are common. The banwit, two kinds of which are the og-og and kitang, are also used. Mining and the manufacture of various items from abaca are important industries. The former started when the Spaniards discovered the Paracale mines in Camarines Norte.
Coconut and abacá are two dollar-earning products that are grown in the coastal valleys hillsides or slopes of several fertile volcanoes respectively. The Bicol River basin or rice granary provide the peasants rice, corn, and root crops for food and small cash surplus when crops evade the dreaded frequent typhoons. For land preparation, carabao-drawn plow and harrow are generally used; sickles are used for cutting rice stalks, threshing is done either by stepping on or beating the rice straws with basbas and cleaning is done with the use of the nigo (winnowing basket).
Like their other neighboring regions, Bicolanas are also expected to lend a hand in household work. They are even anticipated to offer assistance after being married. On the other hand, Bicolano men are expected to assume the role of becoming the primary source of income and financial support of his family. Close family ties and religiosity are important traits for survival in the typhoon-prone physical environment. Some persisting traditional practices are the pamalay, pantomina and tigsikan. Beliefs on god, the soul and life after death are strongly held by the people. Related to these, there are annual rituals like the pabasa, tanggal, fiestas and flores de mayo. Side by side with these are held beliefs on spiritual beings as the tawo sa lipod, duwende, onglo, tambaluslos, kalag, katambay, aswang and mangkukulam.
On the whole, the value system of the Bicolanos shows the influence of Spanish religious doctrines and American materialism merged with the traditional animistic beliefs. It is thus, a multi-cultural system which evolved through the years to accommodate the realities of the erratic regional climatic conditions in a varihued geographical setting. Such traits can be gleaned from numerous folk tales and folk songs that abound, the most known of which is the Sarung Banggi. The heroic stories reflect such traits as kindness, a determination to conquer evil forces, resourcefulness and courage. The folk song come in the form of awit, sinamlampati, panayokyok, panambitan, hatol, pag-omaw, rawit-dawit and children’s song and chants.
To suit the tropical climate, the Bicolanos use light material for their houses; others now have bungalows to withstand the impact of strong typhoons. Light, western styled clothes are predominantly used now. The typical Bicolano wears light, western styled clothes similar to the Filipinos in urban centers. Seldom, if ever, are there Bicolanos weaving sinamy or piña for clothing as in the past; sinamy is reserved now for pillow cases, mosquito nets, fishing nets, bags and other decorative items.