For the next few stories, Kumusta, Kabaro? Kumusta, Kaibigan? will focus on the veterans; the seafarers who have a world of experience on their shoulders. 

Timothy Jasper Imbat, 29, Chief Engineer

I’ve seen my wife only five times since we’ve been together – and strangely enough, it’s not because of me being a seaman.

My wife lives in Melbourne, Australia. She’s been there for 11 years and works as a finance officer at a bank. She has the cutest Aussie accent, but we speak in Tagalog.

According to our moms, we’ve known each other since we were kids. We don’t remember playing with each other, but our moms showed us old photos since they’re good friends. The first time she returned here, we had the time of our lives. The second time, I popped the ring. Nothing fancy – just the two of us. A private moment. The third was to plan our wedding and the fourth was our big day. But I visited her in Melbourne for a month. Since she had work, I was her personal assistant and kept cleaning her house. Now I’m applying for a visa so I can migrate to Australia.

I’ve been a seaman for a decade and saved a lot of what I earned. I advise seafarers to always ‘level-up’ – take exams and claw their way to management-level so they can work at a school or training center, where pay is fairly good, though not as high as working at sea. Seafarers should have multiple income streams. I invested in the Pag-Ibig MP2 Program, which yields around 8% yearly. Much better than my dollar account which never yielded anything but headaches.

I got the essentials – a car, a fully-paid insurance plan, nice big wedding and two big lots in Bataan. But I didn’t build houses on my lots. Because home for me is Melbourne – and she’s waiting for me. 

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.

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Gregg Yan

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.