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AGAPI Seniors Try Ocean Cruise Off New Zealand

By Evelyn A. Opilas

It had to happen sometime, and for us six stalwarts from Association of Golden Australian Pilipino Inc (AGAPI) of Western Sydney. Valentine’s Day saw us with bags packed, climbing aboard Ovation of the Seas at Circular Quay off to New Zealand.

We – Dorothy del Villar, Jesusa Agcaoili, Maria Singh, Nards and Delia Purisima, myself – were sailing across the ditch, being the Tasman Sea, to, and later from, our Kiwi neighbour’s domain, over 12 moonlit nights.

“God,” I prayed, “let us still be friends after this voyage,” apprehensive that four of us sharing a stateroom would be too close for comfort when our longest ever contacts with each other were attending Association of Golden Australian Pilipinos Inc activities.

We survived, no major dramas, each maximising the fun one could get out of the roundtrip cruise, singly or together – enmeshed in food, entertainment, land excursions, more food.

“Oh, my girt,” I would complain to Eddie, our dining room waiter, over my orders for dinner, and to which he would impishly grin, “That’s a very good choice, Madam!”

Trust a generation of young Filipinos “spinning around the world”, to borrow a line from Peter Allen’s song, to earn a living.

“Be a trailblazing global Pinoy,” I each cheer Jackie and Carmelo, guest services crew at the Silk and at the American Icon restaurants, respectively.

We must have shown abundant energy – Doti and Maria could have danced all night; Susing and I relaxed in our cabin – prompting our room attendant Laida to comment, “Sana ganyan din ang Mommy ko…”

Not to worry, we assure Laida, your Mom will find her own groove.

Meanwhile, Crew Center, a blog of crew members sharing their cruise ship experiences, said 3 March that last year Filipinos working on foreign ocean vessels sent home a record US$6.14 billion through the banking system.

“This amount includes Filipino seamen transfers working on container cargo ships, bulk carriers, cruise ships, tankers, general cargo ships and pure car carriers sailing around the globe.”

Crew Center added that according to Party List Rep Aniceto Bertiz, this is a significant increase of 4.6% or US$270 million over the recorded money transfers in 2017.

It also cited a Xinhuanet report that more than one third of the money transfers from Filipino crew came from the United States, or US$2.31 billion, followed by Singapore, US$563.85 million; Germany, US$560.98 million; Japan, US$435.82 million; Britain, US$331.23 million; Hong Kong, US$275.53 million; the Netherlands, US$259.12 million; and Greece, US$174.98 million..

These amounts exclude cash physically brought by seafarers coming home on vacations or money sent via non-bank channels, Rep. Bertiz said.

Nelson Ramirez, president of United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), in an interview with The Economist magazine, said that out of 1.2 million seafarers working around the world 378,000 come from the Philippines.

“The Philippines is by far the leading provider of the international labor market for seamen. Every day, about 250,000 Filipino seamen are at sea. If they stay at home, the economy will collapse,” he said. – ends (Text and photos ©2019 Evelyn A. Opilas)