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.

Albert Angelou Ballesteros, 21, 2CL Midshipman

“My dream wasn’t to be a seaman – it was to become a great athlete. Sports was my life. Basketball, volleyball, badminton, you name it. I had big dreams then.  

Problem is that my Pa wanted me to complete his dream. He was an old-school seaman – a hardworking quartermaster. But he couldn’t be an officer because you needed money to become one. 

I’m the eldest, so I had no choice but to enter the academy. I hated it because I could never become a champion athlete. You see, it’s very hard for a seafarer to practice a sport because you’re usually so tired from work that all you want is to eat and sleep after a shift. This is why so many seafarers grow fat.    

In my first year, I injured my knee. I think it could have been psychosomatic. My body was protesting entering the academy. It was also my chance to jump ship. Told my parents I wanted to pursue civil engineering, so they enrolled me at Cavite State University. But we stopped talking. 

Once there I realized that my father’s blood was too strong. I noticed my classmates weren’t as disciplined as my fellow cadets at the academy. Thinking now, I think he was right all along. I too, belonged to the sea.   

So one morning while he was driving me to school, I told him, “Pa, I’m ready to return to the academy.” Here I am – but things will be different.  

You see, one of the hardest parts about having a seaman father is that he’s almost never around. My mom and I share the same birthday and Pa was never there to celebrate with us. I promised myself that I’d work hard and save up for a business so when the time comes, I can be there for my children and their birthdays. And they can become athletes if they want.”

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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.