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.
Tony Gabo, 54
Korean deck officers, particularly during the early 2000s, were known for brutality. They’d slap, punch and kick you for the slightest violations. If you stood up to them, then they’d usually leave you alone – but things are much better now. I’ve been a seaman for over 20 years. Stuck it out with inter-island ships for 12 years. Fast-craft, ferries, tugboats, you name it. In the 1990s I earned just P15,000 a month, even as marine engineers working in international vessels were sending home over P120,000 monthly. As more and more of my experienced crewmates worked abroad, I realized I could be providing my family with nearly 10 times more cash. So off I went to Manila, looking for a job. Every day for six months, I’d walk up and down Luneta, applying for 10 companies daily. I was already 45 then, endlessly filling out forms without knowing if I’d ever get a callback. But even though I started late, God provided. I’ve since been on seven international cruises without much downtime. Tomorrow I leave for at least seven months, though I can be rewarded with three more months if I perform well – and I always do. Years of toiling in local and international vessels, silently enduring abuse from strangers, it was all worth it. Because this time next week, I’ll be sailing in the Netherlands.
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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.