MANILA Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle has acknowledged the role of seafarers, Filipino mariners in particular, in propagating the teachings of the Church, and not merely major contributors to the country’s economic growth.
Speaking during the holy mass of the 24th National Seafarers Day (NSD) at the Paco Arena, Tagle noted that the Church has always been interested in seafarers since Christ first gathered his fishermen-disciples around him and who later disseminated his teachings.
Andrew, Peter, James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, were fishermen. The Bible relates that Andrew and Peter were fishing, plying their trade when called, and James and John were mending nets with their father.
The Bible also states that James and John weren’t just fishermen but business owners, along with their father, for they employed others in the business.
Thomas and Philip may have also worked as fishermen for they were all together and fishing when Jesus appeared to them following his resurrection.
Tagle also earlier noted in a previous NSD celebration that Filipino seafarers are “saint potentials”. The archbishop was referring to Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod as he noted that these two martyrs of the Philippine Catholic Church were seafarers and missionaries at the same time before they became saints. He added that Ruiz and Calungsod sailed to other countries and died for a mission: “to teach the Good News.”
He likewise reminded the faithful not to be blinded and numbed by comfort, wealth and luxury.
“As we strive to make our lives better, may this not lead us to forgetting our roots, neglecting those who need our help. Real progress also means progress in sympathizing and helping our fellowmen. But if it leads us to becoming numb and blind to the needs for others, then you cannot call it real progress,” Tagle stressed.
The estimated 337,502 deployed Filipino seafarers in 2018 remitted $6.14 billion or around P318.55 billion. The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). These remittances help spur domestic consumption in the Philippines and a key ingredient in the country’s drive to achieve higher but sustainable growth.
“If you are already well-off and live a comfortable life and you deny the Philippines and forget where you came from, that is not progress. That is regression. That is not the attitude of an upright person. And that is not the kind of Filipino I know,” Tagle added.
Tagle underscored that the pain brought by separation is a sign of the seafarer’s love, strength, and faith for the good of his family and country.
“Even if you feel pain when you leave your family and your country, that suffering is not a reason for you to be ‘paralyzed’ but inspire you to strive for more,” said Tagle, adding that their hardships will not weaken them but make them even stronger.
The Philippines is considered a major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring Aug. 18 as National Seafarers’ Day aimed at giving due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country. Later, Proclamation No. 1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to every last Sunday of September every year.
The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) Philippines was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the celebration of said event. The Sunday masses all over the country were offered to the Filipino seafarers.
This year’s NSD was on Sept. 29, 2019 with the theme “Marinong Filipino-Kababaihan: Palakasin sa Industriya!” in line with 2019 World Maritime Day theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.”
Other weeklong NSD activities nationwide led by AOS included the grand parade participated in by stakeholders, memorial at sea, novenas, and the search for the 10 Outstanding Maritime Students of the Philippines (TOMSP) as well as oratorical, art, photo and singing contest ..
The NSD coincides with the National Maritime Week celebrated every last week of September spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Ports Authority.
Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786./PN