Photo from Ms. Annie Uy

“I’ve always believed that a seafaring family’s success depends on the character of the woman left behind,” says Annie Uy, who retired as finance director of the AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital after 31 years of service. “Think about it. The father works 10 months a year at sea and though he provides for the family, it’s usually the mother who raises the children and holds the family together the rest of the year. When the mother is stable, the rest of the family will be too.”

Annie originally wanted to work in a bank, but started working for AMOSUP under its founder, Captain Gregorio S. Oca, in 1974.

“I got the shock of my life on my first day at work,” recalls Annie. “Our office then was really tiny, just a small office with me, Kap and three staff.” Eventually, she started working at AMOSUP’s budding outpatient clinic and dental center, which serviced Pinoy seafarers, dock workers and their families.

The clinic was situated right smack in Manila’s docks. As a relatively sheltered and soft-spoken young lady, it took a while for Annie to get used to the frenetic hustle-and-bustle of the port area. She eventually got used to it and soon started managing more and more people as AMOSUP’s medical facilities grew.

From a small outpatient clinic, AMOSUP was able to expand to a 100-bed hospital in Intramuros. Facilities also sprang up in Cebu, Iloilo and Davao via the Gig Oca Robles Seamen’s Hospital.

“Through the years I’ve realized just how much our hospitals and clinics have helped seafarers and their families,” explains Annie. “Commercial hospitals are very expensive. Through a compulsory monthly donation, our seafarers are given peace-of-mind knowing that their family’s health and dental needs will be covered, especially when they’re out at sea. It’s one less thing for them to think about.” 

One time, Annie encountered Kap Oca talking to a mariner whose wife was burned by kerosene accidentally spilled from an old gas lamp. “We work very hard to ensure your families get good salaries. Please use your money to improve your family’s living conditions,” requested a deeply-concerned Kap.

“That’s what I learned from my father, my uncles and especially Kap,” recalls Annie. “To dedicate myself to work with the same passion and commitment we give our own families. This is because our work means so much to seafarers, who in turn sacrifice so much for their families.”

It was while serving seafarers that Annie finally realized what a true union was – not merely a group of people calling for change, but a covenant for a greater good.

Annie shares that one of the central elements to her life was spirituality. “Kap was extremely religious. He would go to mass not just regularly – but in various Churches around Manila too.”

One time, Annie was hearing the 7AM mass at nearby St. Agustin Church when the heavens opened up. “It rained like crazy and Intramuros soon started flooding. I managed to make my way to the Seamen’s Hospital when I saw Kap dutifully attending to our people. That was his way – serving people, rain or shine. His family was more than just his own sons and daughters. It was AMOSUP itself.”

Annie finally retired from AMOSUP after 31 years. Now 70, she keeps busy keeping touch with her son and daughter, who runs Purple Spatula, a home-based bakery. “Aside from taste-testing my daughter’s super popular taisan rolls, I help her with finance matters,” she beams.

For many Pinoys, family always comes first. But workplaces which treat everyone like family will always be their second home. 

Know more about AMOSUP’s various Seamen’s Hospitals here.

This story is part of a series of stories celebrating the 60 years of the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP). AMOSUP was founded by Capt. Gregorio Oca to help Filipino seafarers on board foreign ships. AMOSUP currently has welfare programs in place to help the Filipino seafarers and their families, including health benefits, housing, welfare and legal aid, and education and training. Visit the AMOSUP website for more information. 

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.