Balangay sails for the 23rd National Seafarers’ Day
The voyage of the Balangay epitomizes the strong-willed Filipino mariners who are once again given tribute through nationwide activities in celebration of the National Seafarers’ Day (NSD) every last Sunday of September.
The Balangay is a plank boat adjoined by a carved-out plank edged through pins and dowels. It was first mentioned in the 16th Century in the Chronicles of Pigafetta, and is known as the oldest watercraft found in the Philippines.
It is the evidence of early Filipino craftsmanship and their seamanship skills during pre-colonial times.
The balangay was navigated through the old method used by the ancient mariners – steering by the sun, the stars, the wind, cloud formations, wave patterns and bird migrations.
The Philippines is considered as the 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.
Given the vast Philippine coast line (twice the size of the United States and nearly three times more than China ), Filipinos have natural maritime instincts that place them at an advantage over other nationalities. Foreign shipowners are known to prefer Filipino seafarers for equally important qualities: dedication and discipline, industry, flexibility, loyalty, English language fluency,adaptability, positive work attitude, law-abiding, and problem-solving capability.
The deployed seafarers in 2017 brought in US$5,870,827 as dollar remittances. The seabased sector’s remittance comprise at least 22% 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.
However, away from his family and working on board vessels sailing non-stop for weeks or months the world’s oceans, the Filipino seafarer is physically, mentally and emotionally stressed.
Constantly exposed to fluctuating temperatures caused by variant weather changes of extreme hot and cold as the ships cross ocean boundaries, not to mention harsh weather conditions, the risks of his getting killed, injured or ill are high.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring August 18 as National Seafarers’ Day wherein the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) Philippines was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sector in activities related to the celebration of said event. The purpose of the Proclamation is to give 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.
This year’s 23rd National Seafarers Day is set on September 30, 2018 with the theme “Marinong Filipino: Kayamanan ng Lahi!” with Sunday masses all over the country offered to the Filipino seafarers
Other weeklong NSD activities nationwide led by AOS include the novenas, Memorial at Sea, oratorical/ art/photo contest, Harana by the Bay, Balangay ride, boodlefight, karaoke challenge, and the Search for Top Ten Outstanding Maritime Students. One of the highlights is the Grand Parade to be participated in by more than 4,000 stakeholders from maritime schools, government agencies, manning agencies, training centers, maritime organizations, unions, families and private institutions.
The NSD coincides with the National Maritime Week celebrated every last week of September spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
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