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. 

Rajib Andag, 23, Engineman

On a ship, there are three sounds. Loud, louder and the engine room.

It’s so loud our enginemen can be temporarily deaf for hours if they don’t use the right equipment.

I’m from Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost city in the Philippines. Don’t know of too many seafarers who come from our place. It’s strange because we’re surrounded by the most beautiful islands and seas in the whole country. Life is simple down there. You wouldn’t even need a good education to live a good life. 

Maybe 400 of us took the seafarer entrance examinations. Three of us made it and we’re all working aboard this ship now.

I originally wanted to be a teacher. I was already on my final year at Mindanao State University when I took the entrance examinations out of curiosity. I had no idea what I was getting into, but somehow I fit in pretty well with the rest of the cadets. It only gets lonely when the three of us realize how far Tawi-Tawi is – but it’s good training, because seafarers sail to the farthest, loneliest reaches of the planet. 

I used to dream of being a teacher, but this is much better. I’m living my new dream. I’ve always told myself this: don’t concentrate too much on your dreams. Just concentrate on your work – and your dreams will come true.

Someday, when I return to Bongao, I’ll help others become just like 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.