Ms. Emma Portes: “Madami akong natutunan kay Kap: maging tapat sa kapwa. Wag magpamataas. Lahat ay pantay-pantay.” [“I learned a lot from Kap: be fair and true with others. Don’t hold yourself above others. We are all equal.”]

In her 42 years of working at AMOSUP, Emma Portes looks back fondly on the Christmas parties, anniversaries, and other celebrations—but not for the reasons you may think. The AMOSUP parties, after all, are much anticipated for the grand scale of food and raffle prizes, but Emma loves them because she and the rest of the employees in the AMOSUP choir get to sing.

The choir started because Capt. Gregorio Oca and his family regularly celebrated the First Friday mass. His daughter, Marissa, requested Emma and other interested employees to sing at the mass. They eventually started singing at other non-religious celebrations as well. “Kapag may event, sinasabihan kami at magpa-practice kami ahead of time.” [“Whenever there is an event, they tell us and we practice ahead of time.”]

However, the chance to sing is not the only reason Emma loves the AMOSUP celebrations. She also looked forward to the inspiring speeches of Capt. Oca. “[He says] na importante ay mayroong pananampalataya at saka pagmamahal sa pamilya, sa sarili, at sa kapwa.” [“He says that it’s important to have faith, and to have love for the family, the self, and for fellow man.”].

Emma learned more from Capt. Oca and the management as she worked her way up. She started at the Roberto Oca Worker’s Clinic—which was the 50-bed precursor of the AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital—working  under the late Dr. Velez in the mornings, and then at the pharmacy in the afternoons. She has worked in various departments such as Medical Records, CSSR, and Billing. She currently handles the PhilHealth Billing Department.

In all her years at AMOSUP, she was able to observe how Capt. Oca treated others, and tries to apply this in her work. “Mapagmahal si Kap sa mga seafarer niya, at sa mga employees niya. Sabi niya sa amin, ‘Ang trabaho niyo, mahalin niyo, at ang mga pinaglilinkuran natin ay ang mga seafarers. Hindi dapat natin inaaway.’” [Capt. Oca loved his seafarers and his employees. He told us, ‘Love your work. We are here to serve the seafarers—we shouldn’t argue with them.’”]

Of course, there have been times that Capt. Oca’s admonition was difficult to fulfill. “Nung na sa Pharmacy ako, merong isang seafarer na humihingi ng gamot. Nagkataon na walang stock nung araw na yun. Kinuha niya yung prescription niya, binato sa akin…pero siguro na-realize din nung seafarer [ang mali niya]. Sa mga sumusunod naman mabait na siya…Meron talagang pagkakataon na ganun, kaya dapat mahaba ang iyong pasensya.” [“When I was working at the Pharmacy, there was once this seafarer who was asking for medicine. It so happened that there was no stock that day. He got his prescription and flung it at me. But I guess he realized his mistake; he acted nicely the next times he came. There really are times that you have to deal with that, that’s why you need a lot of patience.”]

It’s all a matter of perspective. She quotes another of Capt. Oca’s adages, “An extraordinary day with extraordinary people.” Perhaps if this is the way you see people and circumstances, then it would be easier to extend grace and patience to those around you.  

It all comes back to loving your work, and the people that you serve. As Emma contemplates her imminent retirement, she offers this piece of advice for the next generation of AMOSUP: “Mahalin nyo ang inyong trabaho. Wag pa-petik-petik!”  [“Love your work. No slacking off and taking it easy!”]

Rheea Hermoso-Prudente

Rheea loves words, food, books, travel,  paper, and water in any form (though not necessarily in that order). She recently moved up to the foggy mountains of Baguio with her husband, two daughters, and portly cat. She homeschools her kids, and dreams of making a go at homesteading.