How Ships and Strong Men Survive Storms?


Storm. A violent disturbance of the atmosphere. As we say the word a catastrophic image emerges in our heads. There’s thunder and lighting. In some places, there may even be sand and snow. Strong winds accompany heavy rain which makes the situation even worse. It creates havoc as properties are destroyed and precious lives are lost.

Disturbing. Dreadful. Disastrous.

Anyone wouldn’t want to be caught in the midst of it, right?


Cruise ship in the middle of a storm

At sea, storms are horrible experiences. When I was still working on cruise ships I had my fair share of unwelcomed encounters with them. It can be quite scary especially when you see towering walls of water slamming into the ship. It’s certainly nerve-wracking to look at how angry waves forcefully toss us from right to left. The turbulence was very evident and it’s easy to feel nervous and helpless.

Yet no matter how heavily battered these massive water structures are, they can endure bouts of ruthless weather. A ship’s survival during harrowing times at sea is dependent on three things.

1. Sophisticated Technology

Cruise ships of our time have state-of-the-art weather forecasting equipment. The ship’s Bridge has maps, satellites, and computers to keep track of the weather. Cruise lines also have control centers that track the position of their ships. Some even have designated meteorologists to inform them of big storms and hurricanes. All these give an extra layer of protection for the ship.

2. Sailor’s Skill

A cruise ship or any other ship can’t move on its own. Strong engines power this floating hotel as it sails. Highly-skilled and well-trained sailors run these engines. Aside from the technical knowledge, it takes courage and commitment to execute a safety plan when in the throes of storms. Thousands of lives depend on them. It requires a lot to make good judgment when threatened by heavy rains, flooding, and tumultuous winds.

3. Ship Itself

The repeated impact of the waves can potentially damage the ship and break it apart. This can most likely happen especially if the pounding is too hard. There is always the threat of listing, capsizing, and the most feared of all – sinking. But let’s not forget that ships are made for moving. Ships can go through cruel seas because they have technology that stabilizes them. They are made of heavy steel. The presence of guests and crew also adds to their weight. While under construction ships go through rigorous tests that include storm simulation. They also do sea trials to make sure they are ready to sail.


Woman in the midst of a storm

Storms not only happen at sea but also in our lives. Life storms can happen at any moment. Unlike sea storms that can be predicted and avoided, life storms can catch us unaware and off-guard. None of us want to go through storms. These are storms in our finances, in our jobs, and in our relationships whether they be family or friends.

COVID-19 which is wreaking havoc across the globe up to now carries no water nor wind. But like any other storm, it created a sense of futility, bewilderment, and fear that was too much for anyone to bear. 2020 is nearing its end and the once elusive vaccine is finally being tested. However, in other parts of the world, the virus continues to spread.

As of December 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded that there are more than 1.6 million deaths. Currently, there are over 71 million confirmed cases in 218 countries and territories. Left and right businesses are going bankrupt and people are losing their jobs. This has certainly left many powerless, confused, disappointed, angry, and depressed.

Like ships that brave the ruthless storms across the sea, men can muster the strength and courage to overcome life storms. We, too, can emerge victorious long before the calm. Coronavirus will also pass. It may not get weaker but we can get stronger to fight its wrath.

Inspired by my many years as a seafarer, these are things I believe we can do to stay positive in these challenging times.

1. Skip

Bad weather can affect cruise lines schedules and itineraries. Cruises get canceled rarely unless the storm will hit the port where the guests will embark. The captain might delay departure by a few hours, worse a day or so. Sometimes, he can also switch the order of the scheduled ports. A port may be skipped altogether if the seas are too rough. The cruise can be shortened or lengthened depending on what he thinks is safe.

How does this relate to life? Well, sometimes things happen unexpectedly that force us to drop our plans. Skip the joy brought by things we desire and trade them with what’s immediate and important NOW. Sad, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve painted a very clear picture of what you really want. Only to realize in the end that there’s no way they will happen. Instead of feeling sorry, let’s encourage ourselves. Skip and delays do not equate with no or never. Not yet. Have the patience to wait a little longer.

2. Think

When storms threaten the path of ships, combined efforts are required. Headquarters staff back up the crew onboard. Weather forecast companies and meteorologists supply them with relevant information. Involved parties think with the aid of advanced technology so they know where to take the ship. Warnings are given to prepare for imminent danger.

Somehow it’s okay to say that seafarers are in a better position when battling storms. Warnings help them calculate their moves. Though nothing can ever prepare you for a disaster, it never hurts to be notified. For most people, this is not the case. Oftentimes, you don’t get the slightest clue that something horrific is about to come. The big bully just shows itself, knocks you out, and laughs. Don’t cry. Find the will to stand up. Think things through and answer the big question of “What’s next?” Come up with emergency response plans and if you don’t have one ask around. Other people who have been through the same thing can show you how.

3. Outrun

Do not confront. Avoid. This has been a strategy that work for cruise lines across the board. If a more serious storm is in their path, cruise ships generally try to outrun or avoid them. If the weather is bad the ship will steer around hurricanes, massive storms, and bomb cyclones. Ships can meet speeds of up to 22 knots and beyond leaving storms that tend to move at only about 8 to 10 knots.

Now, what does this imply? I believe we can apply the same principle in real life. It’s okay to move forward and leave behind chaotic circumstances. This doesn’t mean escaping from what the real problem is. It’s more of thinking forward and being one step ahead of the game. Instead of feeling thwarted and stuck, you find ways to inch forward. You put objective frames around the bad experience and look at it as a catalyst for growth. You also change your self-talk. Instead of saying, “I’m done,” you say “I’m in this mess (breathe). What can I do next?”

4. Reroute

If adverse water is unavoidable, the cruise line may change the itinerary. The ship may dock or anchor at an alternate port. On lucky days you might end up in a beautiful place you didn’t expect to visit. The ship might change the order of the ports or go through more sea days to seek a sunny spot at sea. It’s not always easy to find replacements. Arrangements must be made to book the new ports.

Unexpected storms like the deadly virus can instantly alter the course of our lives. Suddenly we have to follow a very different trajectory despite our prior plans. While rerouting, take the detour with a cheerful heart and inquisitive eyes. Learn new skills and try new jobs. Make a living out of a new career you formerly don’t know anything about. Find the inner strength to cope constructively with the inevitable setbacks. Major storms are often defining moments in people’s lives. When dealt with correctly, this journey can be a self-curative process. It can contribute to our personal growth and cultivate greater resilience.

5. Move

Solid engineering and advanced technology can help ships move away from storms. But then, they cannot evade them entirely. Passengers will still feel the rough waters even when they reach far off places. Storm remnants will still be there to intimidate the ship, only with lesser intensity.

What does this teach us? Simple. Ships are made for moving. It knows how to roll with the waves. On its quest for safety, it might finally find the calmest patch of sea but it won’t stay there. That’s not how ships are built. We should do the same. Our hopes and expectations may be out of line with reality but we can’t afford to do nothing. It’s okay to rest but don’t wallow in despair. Keep moving so we know what lies ahead. We will encounter monster storms every now and then but we should not get discouraged. To cope with the calamity let’s refocus our attention and energy on something worth looking forward to. Rather than getting stuck in a web of disappointment that can turn into lingering sadness let’s dream again. Build new dreams and make them happen.


Finding true north

Storms in life are different from storms at sea. Most often than not, they come by surprise and catch us unprepared. No warnings. Sea storms are more or less predictable and so the damages are somehow preventable. On the other hand, most life storms are beyond our control.

COVID-19 is possibly one of the greatest storms I would ever have to combat in my lifetime. Maybe not only for me but for the rest of humanity. We all have our epic stories to tell the younger generation when our hair turns gray and our skin gets wrinkled.

2020 was supposed to be a very special year for me. I finally decided to do my last contract, a retirement from ship life that was long overdue. I was scheduled to join the Joy in May. It’s Alaska season and although the country is quite magical it doesn’t excite me very much anymore. I had the privilege to spend half of a contract there before. Besides, my mind is fixed on saving money.

This year will be momentous. I can finally settle some major bills that’s keeping me uptight for years. This is the year when I can take my family to travel. This is the year when I can go back to my “normal” self. I had to drop those plans in a snap of a finger. We had to make some quick changes since I technically lost my job. Things did not necessarily get canceled but were delayed. And for someone who waited that long to “come home” it is quite agonizing. I have mental pictures of what I want to do next. I already predicted my future and to my horror, fate taunted me in the end. What happened was quite the opposite of what I wished for and expected.

Going back on track is not easy. Getting up, brushing myself, and starting over is still a struggle on some days. I’m tempted to look back at what’s been gone. There are times when I find myself wishful thinking this whole thing didn’t happen. Thankfully, there is some special force out there that gently reminds me to trust the process. Get busy discovering new paths. Unexplored territories can bring us the greatest reward. Don’t let bitterness take root. Storms like this may not really meant to destroy us. See beneath the surface. The water may be running wild, but who knows what’s cooking underneath?

Looking at the big picture, we’re still blessed to embark on this fantastic journey called life. Yes, storms may happen every now and then. They will test our resilience, patience, and faith. Believe that something good will come out of it.

Find your true north and keep sailing. We can be tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind. But HE remains the same. Let’s fix our eyes on Him.

Don’t be a shipwreck.

Depression, COVID-19, and Filipino Seafarers

COVID-19 is causing depression among seafarers
COVID-19 is causing depression among seafarers

What is depression and how does it affect seafarers on board?

Depression at Sea

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 265 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization defined it as “characterized by persistent sadness and lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.” It affects how one feels, thinks, and behaves and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. It can be triggered by stressful life events such as loss.

Last year, a study by Yale University which was commissioned by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust revealed “dangerously high levels of mental stress among seafarers.” The results released in October was alarming. Based on the answers of the respondents who took the survey, one-quarter of them had suffered depression, 17 percent experienced anxiety, and one out of five contemplated suicide or self-harm.

Just to emphasize this happened last year when things were okay and what we call normal used to be different. Before 2019 ended, the coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China. What health authorities considered to be a mysterious case of pneumonia expanded and affected every corner of the globe. The novel virus created a world pandemic that sickened and killed many. It also paralyzed many industries including mine – the cruise industry. An industry that used to be esteemed as beneficial now became completely problematic. The very thing that makes it attractive and lucrative now became its curse. Cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of the closed environment, contact between travelers from many countries, and crew transfers between ships.

What is the No Sail Order made by CDC?

The Start of Cruise Catastrophe

The havoc caused by the novel virus convinced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue its first “No Sail” directive on March 14. At that time, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which counts dozens of major cruise lines as members, announced the suspension of its cruise ship operations for 30 days. As of this writing, the federal ban on cruise ships operating in U.S. territory is being extended through September 2020. And that translates to more losses not just for the cruise operators, but also for people working on those ships. The tides have turned, and sadly to our disfavor.

In response to CDC’s directive, the biggest cruise lines have made announcement suspending their operations. Passengers have to be immediately disembarked while crew members remained to await their flights home. My contract was supposed to finish in April, but it was cut short. I left the ship on March 22 together with the other ship crew. My contract at sea usually lasts for 6 months. It is always punctuated with joy. This last one was completely different though.

How did my latest contract at sea end?

Bitter End and Sorrowful Memory

From the Bahamas, I traveled long hours with questions and sadness covered by a mask. I thought I’d feel safer and happier when I would reach home. I was wrong. The trip from NAIA to my hometown was surprisingly quick and yet eerie as the roads were almost empty. When I stepped out of the car, I couldn’t hug my mom nor anyone. We only smiled and then I headed to my room where I stayed for two weeks alone.

For days, even after my self-quarantine, I couldn’t sleep. At first, I thought my body clock was just messed up, but deep inside me, I know there’s something else that’s off. The sadness lingered and multiplied its size with endless questions and more doubts. I was long out of the water yet I felt like getting drowned.  

While I was at home, the deadly virus continued to mercilessly cast its spell around the world.  International travel was knocked out. Borders were closed and so were the ports leaving poor seafarers including some of my friends with no choice but to stay on board and in effect exceeding the length of their contracts. It is noteworthy mentioning an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention widely known as the Seafarer’s Bill of Rights that limits a worker’s single tour of duty to less than 12 months. Sadly, this was bypassed. Even up to know there are still ship crew who couldn’t go home. The anxiety and worry mostly brought by repatriation issues compromised the physical and ultimately the mental health of the ship workers. A few suicide cases have been reported.

Who are the crew members who took their own lives?

Deaths and Other Sad Stories

On April 30, a Polish crew member jumped overboard the cruise ship Jewel of the Seas. The man was only 27 years old and worked as an electrician on board. A week after, on May 9 to be exact, a 29-year old Hungarian crew member who worked as a shore excursion assistant, was found dead in a cabin on the Carnival Breeze. The ship was making its way to Southampton, England and other areas in Europe to repatriate the crew members. On May 9, a 39-year old Ukranian woman jumped overboard the Regal Princess while the ship was docked outside the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

And the most tragic of all, on June 9, a Filipina employee of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died while waiting for repatriation to the Philippines. Her name was Mariah Jocson, 28 years old, a restaurant staff, and a new hire. The young woman from Mandaluyong was with 2 000 crew members on the Harmony of the Seas who were waiting in Barbados to be returned home.

The spike in numbers of seafarers in distress was disturbing. Yes, repatriation issue was the number one cause of anxiety but there are also many other reasons why ship workers worry and feel anxious and depressed. As explained before, depression is triggered by stressful life events such as loss. And I think some fellow ship workers will agree that this feeling of unease continues even after you’ve left the ship and have returned to your family. The worry lingers. It’s like grieving over a “loss” in silence. You might be wondering what exactly did we lose?

What are the causes of seafarers’ depression and anxiety that are related to COVID-19?

Losses and Defeat

5 losses that cause depression among Filipino seafarers
5 Big Losses of Filipino Seafarers in times of COVID-19

1.       Self-identity

We stay longer at sea and as much as we hate to admit it, our stay on ships has occupied a huge part of our life, enough for it to somehow define who we are. Our identity is tied too strongly to our job. For most workers, the contract lasts for six to eight months and vacation at home is only a month to two. We spend most of our time and energy on board. Naturally, after the layoff, we become shocked, distracted and confused. A mild depression could set in and worst, we feel ashamed.

2.       Support

Before COVID-19 seafarers just like any other overseas Filipino heroes were called unsung heroes. Our jobs help our families and the country’s economy mainly because of the remittances we send. When cruise operations were halted, thousands of seafarers began arriving in the Philippines via charter planes, and the cruise ships themselves. They were placed in a 14-day preventive quarantine by our government before they were allowed to go back to their hometowns. Sadly, some residents have recently rejected the idea of converting hotels into temporary shelters for repatriated Filipino seafarers who they feared are carriers of the deadly virus. Others even openly voiced their opinions on social media that seafarers shouldn’t be allowed back home.

3.       Security

Having a job means a steady pay check. There’s a sense of security attached to it. This is very true for Filipino seafarers who chose to work away from their families just to have the means to support them and create a better future for people they love. This unexpected unemployment, created a major financial hit among many Filipino families. The income dropped and consequently added extra worry and anxiety about bills and debts. The future that once looked promising is now bleak and impossible to achieve.

4.       Safety

This pandemic has created a new normal that is scary and uncertain. Suddenly, hugging, shaking hands, or even standing within six feet of each other is restricted. Businesses, schools, and even churches closed. We were stripped of the license to control the structure of our society and the many things that we previously enjoyed. It doesn’t help that no matter how hard the medical team from different countries are trying, the elusive vaccine that can put an end to this chaos hasn’t been found. Fear replaced pleasure when going out. We’re scared of getting the deadly virus and passing it to our families and friends.

5.       Sanity

This one is more of a consequence brought by the other four, either individually or in combination. The ordeal has taken a toll on the mental health of many with reports some taking their own lives. This is the case not just for seafarers and other OFWs but also for the rest of the people around the world. This generation has never experienced anything big like this before. The death toll was dreadful. We’re fighting a sinister enemy whose bullets we cannot see.  Everyone is left hanging as no one can answer when this pandemonium will end. Instinctively, we feel weak and powerless.

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of reliable data about seafarers’ suicide during the pandemic crew change crisis. This has been highlighted by Seafarer’s UK at the beginning of Seafarers Awareness Week, with a call for the Maritime Labor Convention. It is my prayer that no more weary souls will be added to the last reported four who succumbed to death.

How did I ward off depression while at home?

My Self-Journey

Originally, my last contract was supposed to end on April 16, the date I eagerly and excitedly waited for while I was still on the ship. I was literally counting the days together with my other youth worker friends most of whom were scheduled to go home the day after I leave. Our lives were changed when COVID-19 started. I remember thinking this too will pass easily just like SARS which happened years before. There’s no need to worry, but regrettably, I was wrong.

April 16 came and I was in my room. I’ve been home for three weeks. I was lonely, confused, and lacking sleep. What was supposed to bring a period to a long wait has taken me to a sea of commas instead. I was long away from the ship and yet ironically, I felt the agony of not knowing where to and when. Then one momentous day, an old friend invited me to join her abundance group where she will share meditation tips online for 21 days. I was not convinced at first but I thought why not. I can always quit if things don’t work out. What can possibly go wrong? What can go more wrong than what’s happening now?

And so I journeyed for almost a month. The tasks were interesting and they kept me on my toes. It’s like doing something exciting every day. I’m traveling within and seeing different parts of me. The ugly, scared, insecure, selfish, and weak. The happy, innocent, faithful, loving, and bold. The meditation relaxed me and brought my sleep back to normal again. I would do it at 1 in the morning when my day was finally over and then I’d go to bed gifted with peace. Thanks to this wonderful experience I’ve had the pleasure of meeting three versions of myself – my old, my present, and my future. And I love what I saw. There is gratitude for the past, understanding for the now, and hope for tomorrow.

How can fellow seafarers win against depression?

COVID-19’s Gifts

6 ways for Filipino seafarers to fight depression
Fight depression in times of COVID-19

There are nuggets of wisdom that I got from my experience and I’d like to share them with you now. If you’re feeling depressed, worried, and lonely this might help you too. Let’s summarize the six lessons I learned into one word, and that is THANKS. This pandemic might spell curse, death, loss, and all things negative for some. If we try so hard though and confront it with the right mindset, there’s treasure hidden under its lethal touch.   


Gratitude is a form of self-care. Experts have long argued that gratitude won’t cure depression but it can ease it. A study reported in Psychology Today found that people with anxiety and depression who kept a daily gratitude journal were able to sleep better. When we encourage ourselves to think of things to be grateful for no matter how small they are, our negative thought process is challenged. We start counting our daily gains instead of focusing on our losses. And the more we express our gratitude for what we have, the more our minds become magnets attracting more things to say thank you for. Recent studies have also shown that gratitude releases two feel-good hormones called dopamine and serotonin. At the same time, the level of the stress hormone cortisol is reduced.

Ask for HELP

We are born social beings and we lead better and more meaningful lives when we care about each other. Since we’re stuck at home and we’ve been away for so long, this is the perfect time to rekindle family relationships and strengthen personal ties with them. This moment calls for honesty as well. They are your family and most often than not, they will honor how you feel. They will understand the emotional rollercoaster you are going through. Open your arms and allow them to help you. Let them express their empathy, trust, love, and care. Allow them to serve you. Learn together so you will know what to do as the whole world swirls crazily around you. Listen to their advice and welcome all kinds of supportive behavior they will offer. Let their love become your buffer against this hard fall.


Just like gratitude, the links between depression, anxiety, and exercise aren’t entirely clear. However, different forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and can make you feel better. Studies have proven that exercise raises endorphin levels, another feel-good hormone and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. It takes your mind off your worries cutting your train of negative thoughts. You have a goal in your head and getting in better shape, as a result, leads to increased confidence. You are also coping against the crisis in a healthy way because by staying fit, your immune system is stronger and can fight against different kinds of viruses that can make you sick.

Start NEW

The best gift this pandemic can give you is an opportunity to rediscover and reinvent yourself. We weren’t advised but rather forced to do it. There’s nothing much to do since we’re trapped in our house. Use that time to dive into creative pursuits to rediscover your interests, talents, and strengths. Unlike before when we have limited vacation time which is usually eaten by training and renewing of document in order to work on ships again, now you don’t have an excuse to try things you wanted to do before.  Now you have more time to write, play music, dance, sew, garden, vlog, and many other choices. As long as they’re enjoyable and engaging, you are up for a good time. Who knows? One of these new found hobby can bring you additional income.

be KIND to yourself

Being kind to yourself means being honest. It’s okay to cry and get angry if that will make you feel better, but learn when to say enough and then stop. Do not wallow in self-pity and resentment. Relax and take a deep breath. It really helps. Devote at least 5 minutes of your day doing anything you find relaxing. It’s different for everyone. It can be reading a book, listening to music, watching K-dramas alone, drinking coffee, taking a hot bath, or meditating. If you can’t pick, a simple act of deep breathing is really effective and helps induce calm. Find a comfortable place and do it for a few minutes.


With so many things going on, it’s so easy to get lost. Remain faithful because faith provides hope and the gift of redemption. Old stories of people who had unwavering faith will give inspiration and reminder that greater good comes from adversity and sufferings. Isn’t the cross the most powerful reminder that suffering has a purpose? Trust and surrender everything to Him. He looked after you while sailing across many seas. He’ll do even more now that you’re back here. He got us covered.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!!! This verse has kept me afloat during the lockdown. I’m sure we’ve all lost something in this unprecedented time. Let us not be discouraged. Maybe a chapter has ended so we can explore new pages. Just like the prophet Elijah, let’s choose to keep our faith. Feel, hear, taste, and witness the ABUNDANCE of the rain. He will put this long period of drought to an END.

Follow your dreams,


Alaska in My Mind

Norwegian Joy in Skagway, Alaska

March, 30, 1867: What Started it All

The United States bought ALASKA for 7.2 million dollars from the Russian Empire. It officially became the 49th state of the US on January 3, 1959. Alaska is the largest state of the USA by total area at 663, 268 square miles. It is over twice the size of Texas, the next largest site.

Alaska is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It has its own kind of magic that can effortlessly put one under its spell. I was very fortunate to go in and out of this place for five weeks. In total, that was five Alaskan cruises that gave me enough time to see its lakes, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. The ports that we visited were Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, and Skagway. We also went sailing around Glacier Bay.

My Ship of Joy

April 6, 2019: Goodbye Singapore

My long day just finished and I was alone in my cabin. I remember looking at a special set of small things that in the last few weeks have served me very well. A map, a few left-over coins, a fridge magnet, and a train ticket. These things took me places and rewarded me with the best memories.

That was my last day in Singapore. I was aboard Norwegian Joy. We were going to Japan and then after just a day we would sail for Vancouver, Los Angeles, and finally Seattle which will be our new home port. From there we will start doing Alaskan cruises in time for its spring and summer seasons.

As the next chapter began to unfold, I remember not being able to contain my joy. My excitement just overflowed. I kept thinking about many beautiful tomorrows.

Where I can smell cherry blossoms. See good friends I haven’t seen for so long. Touch and feel the snow. And witness the most magical light show of all.

May 7, 2019: Hello Tomorrow

After a long dry dock, we finished strong. A month just passed. It was Norwegian Joy’s first official cruise. I was out with friends in the cold. We were following a long line of people waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us to downtown. We were in Juneau, my very first Alaskan port.

I bought two precious things that day. A beanie and a nice pair of boots. You see, I didn’t come here prepared. The whole time, I was thinking I’ll be spending half of my contract basking under the Caribbean sun. It was a good switch though brought by an unexpected detour. Alaska is a place full of pretty things far too many for me to count. Here’s a short list of the places I visited, the things I did, and the lessons I learned.

Oh! The Places We Go

May 8, 2019: Railroad Dock (Skagway)

White Pass train in Skagway, Alaska
The White Pass Train in Skagway

The rain went hiding. Your blessings remained. My hands were freezing because of the cold air. My eyes were filled with awe and wonder. My heart leapt with joyful prayer.

The snow-capped mountains were amazing. I saw a long train left to go there. I wish next time my friends and I can go hiking. It’s a long walk they say. It takes many hours and certainly tiring. But that’s okay. I imagine the view will take my breath away.

I walked around the town and immersed myself in shops filled with delightful products all locally made. I bought another fridge magnet to remind me of moments I wish to keep.

I couldn’t help but smile. Thinking how great are Your plans and how marvelous are the work of Your hands. Some months ago, I was under the heat of the Caribbean sun. Now I’m here on a completely new land. In a few hours, the ship will be surrounded by ice. I’m excited to see orcas, otters, and all things divine.

May 10, 2019: Creek Street (Ketchikan)

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska
The vibrant colors of Creek Street

You give beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair.

The historic Creek Street is one of the most popular things to see in Ketchikan, Alaska. Known as the Red District in the past, the place is now home to restaurants, shops, museums and public dwelling.   

Unexpectedly, I found this charming place in the company of two kind strangers who instantly became my friends. It’s been a fun day Lanie and Blessel. I’m glad the crew drill was cancelled and today’s weather was perfect.

As we find our way through the colorful houses, wooden stairs and bridges, I can’t help but think of how things were here before and how they changed. The beauty lies not just in the structures but in all the stories they told. Because from mud it transformed to gold. From a fool’s paradise rose a fountain of hope.

I guess that’s my story, too. Thank You for bringing me to You.

May 14, 2019: Lumberjack Show (Ketchikan)

The Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan, Alaska
Spruce Mill vs. Dawson Creek

In praise of rugged woodsmen and a rowdy good time! Lumberjack is a person who falls trees, cuts them into logs, or transports them to a sawmill. A female lumberjack is called a lumberjill. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a tourist attraction in Ketchikan. It honors an industry that was the backbone of Ketchikan’s economy from the late 50s to the 70s.

This morning, my friends and I treated ourselves to an action packed and laughter-filled show that featured the great lumberjacks of two rival camps – the American Spruce Mill and the Canadian Dawson Creek. They competed in various events that involved saw, ax, rope, chainsaw, and of course wood.

The whole time, the athletes’ skills and strengths were put to a test. The crowd has been great, cheering for their favorite teams. After an hour of intense fun, the American loggers were declared winners.

Thank You for free tickets to an amazing show. Lumberjacks!!! We salute you all! 

May 15, 2019: Mount Roberts Tramway (Juneau)

View on top of Mount Roberts in Juneau, Alaska
View on top of Mount Roberts

What a beautiful day! The woman I met and walked with early this morning said, “You are never alone.” Thank you Vicky.

I rode a tram that took me up to the mountain. The view took my breath away. And indeed, I met strangers who became friends. Kind people who shared in my joy as I capture photos of moments I may never have again. Thank you Ate Baby and Kuya Romeo.

The sun shone bright and I thought it would be hot. The temperature changed and it was chilly at the top. I was welcomed by a lovely sight. There was still snow that I can finally touch. The feeling was wonderfully weird as I hold them in my hands.

Thank You for another heavenly surprise. Before my stay here ends, I pray You also make me see the lights.

May 15, 2019: Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords (Glacier Bay)

Glacier Bay, Alaska
This one’s for the countless ooohs and aaahs. The bliss in freeze. The unforgettable magic.

From 5 pm until 9 pm, we were cruising around Holkham Bay Glacier Fjords. I was in awe and was lost for words. I have never seen something like this before.

I saw many waterfalls, giant mountains and countless icebergs. It was a sight I will never forget. The floating ice, small and big, had their own rhythm and seemed to happily dance with water and wind. The sound of them breaking was like a soothing music.

And there was that giant glacier. The name, I am trying so hard to remember. A wild beauty that brought me to tears. For You’ve been gracious and faithful to Your promise. You’ve showered me with favors and blessings I do not deserve. Thank You for Your love that never ends.

May 21, 2019: Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan)

Totem Pole in Totem Bight Park (Ketchikan, Alaska)
Totem Pole of a man wearing a hat

Totem Bight is a historical park that houses 15 totem poles and a native American Indian community house. These poles were never worshipped. Some served to record family stories and histories, proclaim wealth and status, or honor the dead. Others graced house fronts or served as posts to support the clan houses.

In the 1900s, native villages in Southeast Alaska were on the decline. People migrated to towns to work and the totem poles they left behind were soon eroded by weather. In 1938, a program aiming to salvage these monuments began. Skilled carvers and young artisans were hired to repair the poles and to learn the art of carving them.

Red cedars are typically used for the poles. More than the desire to build with the intent to finish, the carver’s willingness to wait for the log to take shape is also the subject of a laborious test.

Today’s lesson is about being patient. To try to understand even when one’s upset. To shut the mouth rather than utter words that can hurt. Because people make mistakes. Family, friends, strangers, myself

May 23, 2019: Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid’s Waterfalls (Skagway)

Reid's Waterfall in Skagway, Alaska
With my new friend Fam

Two giant sister ships met – Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss. I was hoping to see an old friend but found two new friends instead.

My feet were heavy and my shoulders were down. I was walking a little bit sad. There I was in between two ships devising a new plan. The people I know were all gone and I wanted to do more than just eat and shop.  

There were doubts in my head yet forward I marched. My steps were unsure, slow and unsteady at the start. I convinced myself along the way, I’ll meet someone. Imagine my joy when two angels showed up. I was beyond happy and grateful to have met Fam and Dang!  We went to see the Gold Rush Cemetery and the Reid’s Waterfalls nearby.

For You shielded me and cared for me; You guarded me as the apple of Your eye. Thank You for a fulfilling walk. The world is my playground.

May 30, 2019: Nature Trail (Icy Strait Point)

Icy Strait Pont in Hoonah, Alaska
Rebel – a sister and a friend

Today we went to Icy Strait. I didn’t see whales nor seals at the beach. But I saw other things much to my heart’s content.

We went into the forest where we were welcomed by gigantic trees. I sensed fear in me with a grounding joy attached to it. Because I realized that there will always be something bigger than myself.

This simple walk took away my conceit. And replaced it with peace. That soon turned into bliss. For I was walking with a friend/sister dearly missed. Thank You for today’s gifts.

June 6, 2019: Lower Lake Dewey (Skagway)

Ship crew members hiking the Lower Lake Dewey in Skagway, Alaska
Crew Club activity. We went hiking after the weekly crew drill.

Today my feet and legs are aching. But my heart keeps rejoicing. Thank You!!! I went hiking earlier. The 3-hour walk was exhausting. But the wait and the sweat were worth it.

The picturesque scene lingers. I cannot take the view of the lake off my head. I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine it. That was rare beauty we saw. It was pure and real. Truly mesmerizing.

I was in many different states of peace and bliss. I wish we stayed longer. With no cameras to click. Only sit and look and feel. Admire something so wonderful that I can’t help but give praise and thanks.

Thank You for taking my feet there. Thank You I walked with new friends. I look forward to many more travels that lead me to people and places. All those wonderful feelings and moments that make me feel Your loving presence. And make me see Your beautiful face.

June 12, 2019: Nugget Fall and Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau )

Mendenhall Glacier visitor center in Juneau, Alaska
Last cruise

Amidst the rain, You were my sun and shield. You covered me with Your grace and glory.

This morning I rode a blue school bus that took me to Alaska’s most accessible glacier, the Mendenhall. It was huge and wide, ultimately beautiful. I walked the shore of a lake and followed pathways that led to the thundering Nugget Fall. It was a sight to behold.

Everything went fast. I only had a few fleeting hours. But I’m certain the memory will last. Until another marvelous surprise comes. And what I thought was the greatest and most lavish will be surpassed.

Thank You for this happy adventure. I can’t wait to see the future. The rain showered me with Your favor. Give me more and more and more.

The Milk with The Boy

When I was a little girl, I remember looking at a cute young boy. His blue eyes were piercing and his hair was brown, almost gold. He has that happy smile on his lips that was infectious and pure.

The boy’s angelic face became a familiar brand icon of a milk product in the Philippines that flooded many grocery stores. Above his head was a red rectangle with white letters that spell the word ALASKA – big and bold. That milk product became famous and so did the “Alaska boy”.

Some years later I found out he was nothing but fiction. An artist’s mere rendition of someone from another place, another world. Another world which I’m grateful to have explored.

Who would have thought? That one fateful day my feet would walk his world. Almost unbelievable. But this I know is true. With God, all things are possible.

Follow your dreams.



Mama Mary and child Jesus

“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your will.” I can imagine the special scene in my head. I can see a young woman speaking to the Lord’s angel. Oh, she’s not quite a woman yet when it happened. She was barely a teen. Yet she had that quiet confidence in her and a kind of courage that dispels out all kinds of fear.

That’s what Mary’s life is all about, an act of complete surrender. She did what’s asked of her. She said “yes” and she and the whole world were never the same again.

TRUST. That’s what You want me to do. That’s what You want to put in my heart. But sometimes oftentimes I’m stubborn and does things my way instead. How naïve I am to think I can do better, that I can fathom Your thoughts and I can alter Your ways.

These past 10 weeks has been a series of unfortunate events. Well that’s what I thought in the beginning. In hindsight, I saw the lessons You lovingly planted in them. Truly “All things work together for those who love You”, in the end. Thank You for yesterday and for the most humbling experience. I’ve learned to trust the process. And most importantly, to trust You more than I trust myself.

I still have many more things to cross out in my bucket list. The world will not run out of exciting dreams for me to chase. On the contrary, every now and then I can see shadows of dark thoughts lurking. Telling me I can’t do it, I don’t deserve good things, and I’m bound to fail. But I choose to envision a future that’s a million times better than what I have or what I had. I say yes to Your invitation to an exciting life ahead. A life defined by healing, joy, love and success.

I surrender my plans to You. Bless them and purify them. May they be done according to Your will.

I’m following my dreams.


PNG’s Conflict Island

Filipino Sea Woman in Conflict island

I found peace in Conflict Island. Ironic, isn’t it? Well, don’t get fooled by its name. I first came here last August 4, 2017. It was a Papua New Guinea cruise then. For me it would eternally be one of the most stunning corners of the world I’ve ever seen.

A Little Background

Conflict island is a group of 21 picturesque islands that was first spotted in 1879 by HMS Cormorant. In 1880, Bower who was the captain of HMS Conflict gave the beautiful paradise its name.

The islands are surrounded by a bluer than blue lagoon that is home to what marine biologist consider to be one of the most biodiverse reef systems in the world. Whenever someone would mention PNG to me, this is the first image that would come to mind. Kiriwina, another place in PNG, is also a favorite of mine.

Conflict island is an idyllic island haven measuring 375 hectares and located just north of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Region. It’s about 80 kilometers from the nearest points in PNG. Because it’s very far, it’s impossible to get there on your own terms. Cruise ships are the perfect way to see the island.

The Australian businessman Ian Gowrie-Smith and his family privately own Conflict island. P&O cruises are the destinations’ exclusive partners. I came here aboard the lovely Pacific Aria.

Can We Go Now???

I remember waking up very early that day. Well, weeks ago my good friend and I already made plans to go out. Unlike her, I’ve never been to this place and I was excited to see what it’s like.  In total, I only had two short visits here. The second time, which was also the last time, was in November 2017.

I didn’ t have a proper breakfast. I was in my room and I only ate cookies that time. I met my friend and we went straight to the gangway, hoping to go out fast. Surprisingly, we found lots of crew members crowding in corners while waiting for a tender boat ride. The ship’s security officers were very strict that day. The captain released an order to make sure the guests can go out first before the crew members.

two cruise ship workers in conflict island
Waiting at the top deck just behind the Kids Club

After waiting patiently, my friend and I realized it’s pointless to stay. It’s going to be a waste of time. Instead, we decided to go to the top deck at the back of the ship. There, I had a tantalizing glimpse into an enchanting picture that I will forever keep.  We both agreed to go back to bed and try again after lunch.

Sun, Sea, Sand

I was awakened by a call. “We can go out now,” my friend said. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my bag and proceeded to meet her. We were beyond excited.

A few minutes later, we were already in the tender boat. It floated and gently sailed through an incredibly calm water. It was a very hot day, but I remember taking off my sunglasses. I wanted to see its beauty up close despite the very bright light that pierced my curious eyes.

Finally, we reached the island – a special place I only knew from other people’s stories and pictures I viewed from the Internet. To be able to see it for real was such a great blessing I will never forget.

We alighted from the boat and were greeted by an endless white sandy beach. The aqua colored water was sublimely clear that one can see what’s underneath. There’s no need to use goggles. We had a leisurely walk while taking pictures. We wandered around and then ran. We ran to the water like kids ready to have fun. The water was refreshingly warm. It soothed our skin and relaxed our minds.

I didn’t take so many pictures that day. Actually, we brought two cameras with us. We took a few shots with the first one before its battery died. We weren’t able to take quality pictures with the second camera because we just borrowed it from another friend, and we couldn’t change its setting. My phone, on the other hand, stayed idly inside my bag the whole time. Despite all that, it was perfectly fine. I remember paying attention to every single thing around. I was glued to a “perfect moment” that certainly touched my soul and warmed my heart.

Final Bow

We went back to Conflict island in October of 2017. I was three cruises away from going home. I was fortunate I was given the chance to go out again and took better pictures.

girls in conflict island
October 2, 2017. Fun times with the girls. Thank you Mary, Luv, and Edel 🙂

That was my last contract with P&O Australia. Pacific Aria was my last ship with them. Undoubtedly, it was a happy end to an almost 6 years of experiences, lessons, and memories that had gifted me in so many ways. Thank you P&O for everything that you gave me and made me become. Thank you Edel for the gift of friendship and being part of my life.

What blessings did you receive today? Count the big things and the small things. Remember what Aesop once said. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

Follow your dreams.


Norwegian Escape: My First Norwegian Ship

Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape cruise ship is the first of the four Breakaway-class ships of Norwegian Cruise Line vessels –  together with Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore. When I transferred to NCL, this became my first ship. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is a subsidiary company of the shipping corporation Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) with headquarters in Miami, Florida.

Norwegian Escape Beginnings

Escape received its name from a contest that was traditionally called “Norwegians Name Their Ships”. It was selected through a Facebook contest that ran from September 10 through 24 of 2015. People from the US, Canada, Spain, Germany and United Kingdom participated. They were asked to vote for their favorite out of the line’s top 10 name prospects – Bliss, Discovery, Dreamaway, Escape, Journey, Muse, Passion, Sailaway, Treasure and Triton. The lucky winner got a free cruise for two during the ship’s inaugural activities. The liner’s christening ceremony was held on November 9, 2015. This was led by the ship’s godfather Pitbull where he performed a live concert and sang some of his best hits.

Norwegian Escape is an exciting ship that looks like a mega-resort at sea. The ship is so big that when I saw it for the first time, I felt like standing in front of a giant hotel. It’s super long extending to more than a thousand feet and towering with 20 decks. It was so much bigger than Pacific Dawn, my very first cruise ship home.

I remember fixing my eyes on its haul while walking towards it when I embarked in April of last year. I never saw a ship looking very much alive with colors for underwater creatures adorned its haul. The theme was designed by Guy Harvey, a famous marine wildlife artist and conservationist.  

Norwegian Escape used to be based in Miami but it moved to New York City last year, making it the ship’s new home port. It goes to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada & New England, and Bermuda. By April next year, it will start doing a transatlantic cruise to cross over Europe. It will stay there until summer season is over.  


OwnerNorwegian Cruise Line
BuilderMeyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany
Launched15 August 2015
Maiden voyage9 November 2015
Class and typeBreakaway class-plus Cruise Ship
Tonnage164,000 GT
Length1,069 feet (325.9 m)

Norwegian Escape and I

New Home

Joining Norwegian Escape was one of the best days of my ship life. I was away from the sea for months because my mom was sick. At first, I hesitated to go back to ships because there were so many things to do at home. Then the “sea” called me and I realized I missed it too. When my application went through and I was accepted to be part of a new company, I grabbed the chance.

The flight was long compared to what I normally had when going to Australia. I traveled for almost one whole day. The time difference was huge too. It took a toll on my sanity and productivity during the first few weeks of my stay on board.

I joined in Miami on April 7, 2018. My heart leapt when I first caught a glimpse of the Escape. That was my new home for 6 months straight. I was in awe when I stood in front of the enormous ship. It looked so beautiful and I felt quite excited.

You can imagine the surprise and wonder that followed me when we finally boarded. It was even more impressive when you go inside. We quickly looked around before heading to our welcome meeting. I saw a gorgeous chandelier hanging at the top of the ceiling. Its long body looked so elegant with all its magnificent lights and blings.   

As days rolled by, I realized that Norwegian Escape is the ship to go to for people wanting to have unforgettable holiday. It has pretty much everything – from dining, recreation, entertainment, relaxation and many others. No wonder why it’s very busy. There are so many things to do both for the adults and the kids.

The ship offers more than 25 dining experiences. You can choose to go French, Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian, American, Brazilian, and Asian. There are 14 bars and lounges if you wish to party and have fun with friends. There are Broadway shows almost every night, hilarious live comedy, and performances by very talented artists who offer different types of music.

There’s the spa and salon, gym, casino, shops that sell all kinds of stuff, and the youth clubs where I work. I will never forget the expansive Aquapark, looming above the main pool while boasting 4 exhilarating water slides. There are hot tubs, a soothing waterfall grotto, a 3-storey ropes court, mini-golf, basketball court, bocce ball court, and a video arcade.

Yet no matter how lavish and grand the things around me were, there was a special place on deck 5 that I really loved. It was a tiny room that would pass for a big box. This box housed a little bed, a narrow closet, a modest table, 2 luggage, fears, frustrations, joys, hope and dreams. I was lucky to have a solo cabin. This small room became my haven when I transferred to NCL.

New World

A cruise ship is a melting pot of different cultures. One can meet people from other countries around the world. When I was still with my previous company, most of the crew members in the youth team were fellow Filipinas. My other colleagues were English, Kiwis, South Africans and Canadians. There were a few Scottish, Portuguese, and Americans. I also had one boss from Chile. Outside our department there were so many Indonesians, Malaysians, Indians, Ni-Vans, Tongans, and Fijians.

When I moved to NCL, it was not only my ship that grew. Literally, my world expanded, too. There were so many people. Imagine being surrounded by crew members amounting to approximately 1700. That was a lot. They hailed from all over the globe, even from places I never even heard of.

Next to the Filipino community which always accounted for the most number in all the ships I’ve been on, were workers from various Latin American countries. I met crew members from Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. There were people from Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Russia, Spain, Mauritius, St. Lucia, Belize, Zimbabwe, and Senegal. My very first friends were from India, China and Honduras.

Different nationalities mean different languages. In the beginning it was crazy to sit and eat while hearing words that sounded so weird and were meaningless to me. There were a lot of times when I found myself feeling offended by people who won’t speak English and used their first language instead. I thought that was rude. Eventually I began to understand that it was never their intention to make me feel out of place. Rather it was more of convenience. Knowing this, I tried to sharpen my understanding of non-verbal communication. I deliberately tried to study another language, too. Right now my Spanish is getting better. 🙂  

Aside from these people, I was very blessed to be on a ship that goes to beautiful places. It was my first time to be in the US and it felt like a dream. I only spent one day outside Miami then the ship sailed for 3 days to go to New York. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see it up close. I was not allowed to go outside NYC since I was on my first contract.  

Nonetheless, I was able to visit other countries and new places that were exquisitely mesmerizing. I saw lovely beaches in Jamaica and Bahamas. When the ship home ported in New York, it started running 7-day cruises with 2 overnights in Bermuda. I won’t forget swimming with the turtles and frolicking at the beach that has pink sand. Towards the end of my contract, we traveled to other parts of the US. We also went to Canada where I saw maple trees for the first time. Holding a real maple leaf was like touching the cherry blossoms of Japan. It was so special.   

New Me

The new ship environment demanded something new from myself as well. You cannot go to a new place and expect to remain the same. I would like to believe that my half a year stint on Norwegian Escape changed me for the better. This went both on professional and personal levels.

In terms of work, I would say it was the same and yet different. Physically, I was well-rested. Mentally, it was challenging. Unlike in my previous company where I used to do everything, on this ship I was only working with the teens. This enabled me to focus on them more and to come up with activities that they would really enjoy.

I guess the biggest difference between the American teens and the Australian teens that I used to handle was their sense of freedom. Based on observation, the Aussies were a little bit more conservative and had higher level of cooperation and respect for authority.   The teens from the US were wilder and were harder to please. It took a while for me to understand them. Thank God for music which paved the way for me to have a look into their world. I painstakingly listened to rap and hip-hop. I familiarized myself with Drake, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, 6ix9ine, Cardi B, and many more gangster artists that they idolize.

Compared to my old company where there were more Filipinos in the team, on this ship there were only a few of us. The 3 other Filipinas were working with the smaller children and so I rarely saw them. Working on this new ship made me opened my doors to new friends from other countries. I realized that no matter how different we all look, we still share so many things in common. This includes the need to belong, to be respected, to be loved and to be accepted.

Despite meeting new friends, there were still many days when I went to the ports alone. There were just times when I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with because their schedules and their plans were different. But then, that was alright. I found ways to keep myself entertained even when I didn’t have anyone with me. I took responsibility for my own joy.    

What I Learned from Norwegian Escape

My biggest takeaway from my Escape experience was “I CAN!!!” I should not be scared to start over again. This starting over required me to “escape” from situation, people, and old beliefs that made me feel sad, defeated and small. It led me to a new place that enabled me to find my stronger, wiser, and better self. Norwegian Escape will always be special for me because it taught me so many things. It gave me the means to escape the following:


My last contract with my other company was very challenging. I was so drained because I was all over the ship and was doing so many things. It got even worst when I was sent to smaller ships. There were only a few staff even when there were so many kids. It came to a point when no matter how much I love my job, it was a struggle to carry on. I lost a lot of weight because not only was it physically demanding, it was mentally taxing too. Going to the Escape made me realize that I have the power to change my environment. I can always choose to go to a new place where I can work, have fun and still be able to take good care of myself.


In 2017 Mama was diagnosed with cancer. I was on board when they broke the sad news to me. It was tough because I had to keep working and look happy even when emotionally I was shattered. Aside from the worries brought by the thought that we might lose her, the medical bills were so high and insurance can’t cover all the expenses.  It also didn’t help that my vacation was long. It was more than 3 months. I was running low on budget and we were paying so many things. By accepting the new job offer I was able to solve my problem because my salary was higher. This allowed me to help my family again.   


I guess we all have that little dark corner inside our heads. It limits us from doing what we want to do because we’re too scared to fail. I wanted to leave but there were voices inside me that told me “You can’t do it. You’re old. You’ve been here too long. You’re not good enough.” Choosing to leave no matter how scary it felt made me learn to trust myself and to have more faith. I disciplined myself to ignore those voices that spoke of ugly things. I prayed my deepest prayers and believed with all my heart that the God I know and worship is the king of everything including my fears. And there can’t be fear where there is faith.


For years, I dreamed that one day I’ll get promoted. I was doing this job for a long time and I was good at it. Foolish and naive, I made myself believe that in exchange for all my hard work I can climb the ladder. By mistake, I thought that it would automatically come. I desired it because I thought having it can make me win the respect of others. When I transferred, I realized how shallow and superficial my ambition was. I was surprised because even though I was new, I gained the respect of my colleagues after they saw how I worked. This experience polished my rough edges. I realized that I am not my job title. My self-worth should not depend on it. I should strive for excellence rather than recognition from others.


Mama, being sick, has been one of the lowest and highest point of my life. It brought us closer us a family. It brought us closer to God. I must say it also helped me discover who my truest friends are. Real friends will care and support you during trying times. Sadly, I learned that not all my friends were that. Having spent a few good times with them doesn’t automatically make us “good friends.” I may have had thousands of pictures with them, but it doesn’t mean they will be around to offer help. It made me reevaluate myself and the kind of relationship I’ve established with the people around me. When I joined the Escape, I was more careful and more selective of people to spend time with. I looked for authenticity, genuine love and care that I found in my family.


By this I meant the greatest enemy I have – MYSELF. “We are so accustomed to the comforts of “I cannot”, “I do not want to” and “it is too difficult” that we forget to realize when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.” These were the wise words of a best-selling author named Pandora Poikilos. For the longest time that was my story. I’ve gotten used to my “old world” and I embraced it’s predictability. It became too safe that the mere thought of taking risks and trying new things became so scary. It was liberating when I was finally able to escape. I discovered that new doors are waiting just outside my comfort zone. I only needed to be brave.

Before You Go

Don’t get me wrong. I wrote this not to list down things I didn’t like about the company where I used to work. On the contrary, I will always be thankful for my 6 fruitful years with them. My stay there honed me into becoming an excellent youth worker. I learned so much from them.  When I think of my old ships, I remember the good times more than the bad. I met good friends there too and some of them I consider like my own family.

This article was written only to suggest that when things no longer work, we should stop lying to ourselves. We always have the option to go. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Or better yet we should try new things even when we’re scared. If not, we’ll never know what rewarding opportunities await.

So if you find yourself lost, discouraged, sad, or even when you just feel like you had enough you can always choose to leave and escape. After all, you are never alone in your journey. There are loving people around you who will support you. Most importantly, there’s someone up there who will guide you. Go where you really want to go. Always remember that there is no place so desolate that you cannot find God there. No set of circumstances can ever isolate you from His loving presence.

Follow your dreams.


Basic Safety Training for Cruise Ship Workers

orange life bouy  for Basic safety Training

What is Basic Safety Training?

Basic Safety Training (BST) is a starting point for people who want to seek employment at sea. This is the first training requirement for people who want to be a seafarer. Here in the Philippines, you need to present your BST certificate of completion and proficiency to the Maritime Industry Authority (most commonly known as MARINA) to be able to get a seaman’s book.

What exactly is Basic Safety Training which goes by other names like Basic Training or SOLAS training?

First of all, it is important to know that the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), requires all seafarers to take the “basic safety training”. This is to ensure that seafarers are fully qualified to handle the risks involved when working on ships as they sail on high waters.

Working on whatever kind of ship is never easy. Think of a ship as a floating community. And just like any other community troubles may arise anytime. Chances are, these troubles happen when we’re away from the rest of the world. No matter how big or small the problems are, we need to make use of the resources and people we have to solve them. Therefore, it is necessary that the people manning the ship has full awareness of safety practices to prevent these problems from arising. We should be competent enough to take control of hazardous situations and to respond appropriately in case of emergency.

What Courses does Basic Safety Training Cover?

The full Basic Training Course in the Philippines usually lasts for a week. Sometimes it goes up to 9 days, depending on the training center where you will take it. The first part is the theoretical part where the objective is for you to gain knowledge and understanding of the different courses covered. There’s a written exam after the lecture. The last part is your practicum where you get to apply everything you learned from the class through simulation exercises.

These are the four courses included in the basic training. You must pass the written exam and the practical exam for each course to complete the training.

1. Fire Prevention and Firefighting

In FPF, you will learn how to identify fire hazards on ships, the different ways to prevent fire, and what to do in case of a fire emergency.  You will also see the many firefighting equipment we have on ships and how to use each one of them. For the practicum, they will require you to correctly don a fireman suit, operate a self-contained breathing apparatus, and fight real fires both in an open and a smoke-filled enclosed space.  

2. Elementary First Aid

In EFA, you will learn about the most common types of medical emergencies on board and what immediate actions should be taken when you encounter them. You will also know what kind of first aid and how to properly apply them to patients or victims while waiting for medical help. They will discuss incidents requiring medical attention like wounds, burns, shock, stroke, cardiac arrest, fainting, choking, drowning and more. You will learn different bandaging techniques, Heimlich maneuver, moving and lifting patients, rescue breathing (RB) and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).  

3. Personal Survival Techniques

In PST, you will learn different survival techniques that you can use in open water if ever you need to abandon the ship. They will teach you how to correctly wear a life jacket and an immersion suit. They will show how to operate a survival craft and how to use location devices and radio equipment. This is the part where you will be asked to jump from a height while wearing a life jacket. You will be required to right an inverted life raft and stream a sea-anchor. The most difficult part for me when I first took this course was to keep afloat without a life-jacket because I don’t know how to swim.

4. Personal Safety and Social Responsibility

In PSSR, you will know the living and working conditions aboard. This will allow you to quickly adjust to the new environment once you join your ship. You will get familiar with the emergency procedures which includes safety drills, emergency alarms and signals, and use of safety equipment. This course will cover your rights at work, employment conditions and work practices. This will give you an understanding of your role in keeping others safe and protecting the environment. Hence, rules related to drugs, alcohol, and pollution prevention will be discussed.   

Basic Safety Training in the Philippines


These are the things you need to prepare before you look for a training center.

  • Advanced payment to reserve a slot (Training price can go from P3,000 to P5,000)
  • High School diploma
  • Valid ID (Driver’s license, Voter’s ID, Passport etc.)
  • Good physical health (Make sure you’re fit because it can be physically demanding.)
  • Medical certificate from a trusted clinic


Once you and your documents are ready, start looking for a reputable maritime center in the Philippines that offers the Basic Safety Training course. Check if the training center is duly recognized by the following government agencies before you enroll.

  • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)
  • Professional Regulation Commission (PRC)
  • Maritime Training Council (MTC)
  • Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Training Centers

I first took the training in 2011. Magsaysay People Resources Corporation was my agency back then. They endorsed me to their own training center, the Magsaysay Training Center or Magsaysay Learning Resources, Inc. which is located in Times Plaza Building, Ermita, Manila. Their practicum site was in Tanza, Cavite.

You may contact them here:

Magsaysay Training Center
Head Office:
6th Floor, Times Plaza Building,
United Nations, cor. Taft Ave.,
Ermita, Manila Philippines 1000

524-9996 local 300 or 635  

Practicum Site:
Brgy Bunga, Tanza, Cavite

Basic Safety Training has to be renewed every 5 years. Thus, we have, BT Refresher Course which goes only up to 3 days. Under BT Refresher, you will only take training in Fire Prevention and Firefighting and also Personal Survival Techniques.

Last July, I took my BT Refresher Course. CF Sharp, which is my agency now, asked me to go to Compass Training Center which is close to Quirino LRT Station. Compass Training Center also offers a full BT Course.

Feel free to reach out to them:

Compass Training Center
1913 Luna Orosa Building, Taft Avenue cor. Remedios Street,
Malate, Manila 1004, Philippines  

Trunk Line Numbers:
353 5487 | 528 1035 | 450 0138   

Registration Department:
450 8575 | 450 1452  

Sales & Marketing Department
536 2368 | 536 2158  


The Basic Safety Training is just one of the many requirements that you will have to complete to be able to work on board. And mind you, there’s a lot so prepare your mind, body and money.

I took my training a few weeks after I was hired and not right after my manager told me I got the job. The reason was, I don’t know how to swim and I was so scared to “jump”. When I was finally done thinking and praying, I decided to go even though I wasn’t sure how things will go. As you know by now, from that “jump” my journey at sea was born.

William Faulkner once said, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. A journey of whatever kind requires COURAGE. And courage means doing what should be done even when you’re scared. So go out there and take a leap of faith.

Follow your dreams.


So I Won’t Forget

1 Corinthians 16:14

It’s been two days. Up to now my head can’t comprehend. My heart is still burdened by this heavy feeling. I feel like in the midst of a whirlpool in turbulence. And it’s sucking in the very core of my being.

I’m groaning with despair.  Why does it have to happen? Why do You give and take away? Why do You say yes and suddenly change Your answer? So many questions. So many what if’s and could have been’s. 

But only You knows our lives from beginning to end. Our coming and going. Our time here on Earth.

May I remember this moment forever, what I felt and what I learned. To trust others and believe in their goodness. To value relationships. To love with the kind of love that You unrelentingly give. To forgive even when it hurts. 

I will not be shaken. I’ll make myself better.

I’ll follow my dreams.