A new visual series by Seafarer Asia, Kumusta, Kabaro? Kumusta, Kaibigan? gives viewers gritty glimpses into the lives of Filipino seafarers and their kin. True tales of love, pride, sacrifice, failure and success weave a living tapestry and an oral history of life at sea. The subjects are given free rein on what to share and how they wish to be photographed. The series is inspired by the popular photoblog, Humans of New York.
Sushmita Salvacion, 24
I was rejected by over 300 shipping companies because most of them don’t take women. The few which do have incredibly difficult exams and hire just a few women, even when so many are qualified. Gender bias and discrimination? Real. To make ends meet, I worked at Jollibee and waited tables for weekend events. I come from a broken family and we never had much money. My biological father never supported me and my mother is a food vendor. I apprenticed at an inter-island oil tanker to prove I had what it takes. What the guys did, I did better. Painted the hull, fixed everything, never complained. One of the boys. After that, I faced a three-year dry spell looking for a job. The worst is when you don’t have enough cash to leave the house. You want to go out and apply but you can’t, bills and debts piling. It’s really very depressing. But the difference between me and so many others is that I don’t quit. After 300 failed applications, I finally got in. My cruise ship leaves next month. Everything I’ve gone through has made me stronger. On the outside you see a small girl. Inside, I’m iron.
Gregg Yan is an award-winning writer and photographer who covers marginalized groups and environmental conservation issues. His work has been featured by National Geographic, Discovery Channel, CNN plus over a dozen books – including Into the Wild, his first coffee table book. He also has a monthly magazine column on wildlife.