Surviving Maritime Academy

Maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented or military training

By Bea del Rio

The maritime industry in the Philippines is sailing—pun intended. Several maritime academies offer scholarships for applicants who pass their admission test, fitness and medical test, and interview. Usually sponsored by shipping companies and agencies, government and unions, these academies give cadets or midshipmen sure employment after graduation. It is thus understandable how more and more of our countrymen want to enter the industry.

Third Engineer Sergio O. Ramos III, graduate of Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) Class of 2015 Cum Laude and Fleet Commander of their class, shares his insights on surviving—and excelling—in any maritime academy.

Prepare your body

Most academies require a physical test. This includes fitness and medical tests. Doing simple exercises such as jogging and push-ups regularly before the test will greatly help.  It is also important to know that maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented training or military training. So aside from hierarchy and ranks, expect it to have rigorous physical training. The first stage—the plebehood—is, as they say the hardest. You will have to adapt to the tough training; to things like waking up at 4 in the morning, doing daily exercise, and following strict formation that will test your endurance. So it’s highly advantageous to be physically prepared.

Prepare your mind

According to Ramos, one of the main challenges he encountered upon entering MAAP was adjusting to the transformation from  civilian to  military/cadet life. The main difference between the military and civilian life is  lack of freedom. This means that as a cadet, you have to follow a strict set of rules. You have to do a given set of things at a given time, and execute them exactly as demanded.

“Yes, it’s hard. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,”  Ramos shares. “During our fourth class year,there were a lot who weren’t able to make it because they thought it wasn’t for them; that they couldn’t do it. But no. Most of the time, it’s not really about the body, but about the mind. When it

comes to physical training, always remember that what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”

Know  your “Why”

Whether it be for greener pastures,  passion,  family, or for country, always keep in mind why you’re there in the first place.

Ramos states, “Based on my experience and observations, majority of those who enter the maritime academy don’t really want to be a marine. It’s not because they want to be captains or chief engineers. Some enter because of financial problems, or for a  brighter future because it is said that seamen earn more, or because they were pressured by their parents. Whatever it is, be sure you know what you really want before you enter. Because that’s your purpose. It will help you survive.”

Self-Discipline and Time management.

Although the physical training is important, it is first and foremost an academy, so keep in mind that academics are just as significant. Aside from not being able to keep up physically, a lot of people fail due to academic reasons, or more accurately, because they can’t find the balance between physical and academic training.

For the consistent dean’s lister and member of the prestigious Honor Board committee, Silent Drill Company, and Marathon Fleet Squad, the key to overcoming this is not much of a secret:

“Just have self-discipline and manage your time wisely. First step is to identify the set of things you have to do, and then do them, as competently as possible, and without excuses. It’s as simple as that.”

Take it one step at a time

Ramos tells us that “Although there are some whose body are really ready for strenuous exercises, I assure you that the majority of the fourth class is actually not physically prepared. That means you are there to train, not to be tested.”

He explains further that this means you are there to continuously improve; to push yourself and test your limits. It is normal to feel weak or frustrated at first. The important thing is to keep going.

“Just don’t quit. Take one day at a time. At the start of the day, be grateful that you are given the chance to train and improve. And at the end of the day, be grateful that you survived.”

Be friendly.

The people you will meet upon entering the academy will most probably be those who will stick with you through thick and thin, or at least until the end of your days there. So do not isolate yourself. Be friendly and get to know the people around you. You’ll learn a lot from them. It will also help you enjoy your maritime life. Having worked in Oil/Chemical Tankers,  Ramos says this is also crucial when you’re already working aboard ships. You will learn that camaraderie is the most important thing when you’re stuck at sea with the same set of people for a long time.

Observe, especially during fourth class or your first year in the academy.

Although obeying rules is essential, it doesn’t mean you’re just going to do things automatically without thinking. Be mindful of your surroundings, the situation, and the people around you. Be sure to always be present at the moment, and learn to think on your feet. You’ll find that doing so will make things a lot easier for you.

Contrary to what you may think, your time at a maritime academy isn’t just about the physical and academic hardships, though it may seem like it at first.

As Ramos said, “Maritime academy is a journey. Strive to learn the lessons little by little. Use that time to strengthen your belief, whatever it may be. Despite the many challenges, you’ll learn to appreciate your academy life—and even enjoy it.”



Fighting loneliness at sea


Source: Pexels

By Maridol Ranoa-Bismark

There’s something about the vast blue sea that makes seasoned mariners suddenly feel like a solitary bird flying alone in the sky.  The silence is deafening; the endless expanse of blue so alienating you feel like plunging headlong into the waters and swimming right back home to your family.

Life coach-psychotherapist Dr. Randy Dellosa explains why the sea and the ocean tend to drown us in that I’m-alone-in-this-world feeling.

“The seas and oceans can be associated with family beach vacations. Hence, it can make the seafarer homesick.  Also, the thrill and enjoyment of seeing and being in the ocean fades and becomes a monotonous sight because of the constant exposure,” he says.

No wonder the phrase “feeling blue” is equated to loneliness, that feeling of being left out with no one to turn to.    It’s also linked to sadness.

If it’s any consolation, most seafarers share this feeling.  Dellosa explains that they’re away from loved ones and/or friends. Yes, they have company on board.  But not all of them are people they’re comfortable with.

Work-related stress which they can’t take a break from, adjusting to workmates of different nationalities, and diversions on board, like alcohol can make things worse.

So these seafarers still feel lonely, even in a crowd. Yes, Dellosa says.  They can have fun,  be happy even.  But loneliness creeps in again once the lights are out, they’re  alone on their bed, and everybody has called it a day.

“Lonely people feel a decrease in energy , motivation, focus, and self-confidence.  Their appetite may suffer and they may experience shallow, unrestful sleep.  Not only do they feel sad. They may also feel irritable, anxious, or more stressed.  They have a tendency to ruminate on worrisome thoughts,” observes Dellosa.

He warns that intense loneliness can spiral out of control and cause clinical depression which requires medical and psychological treatment.

It becomes terribly harder on special occasions like a loved one’s birthday, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

How do you fight loneliness?  Dr. Dellosa’s tips:

  • The most important thing to remember is not to wallow in loneliness. Feel the loneliness so as not to suppress it. After a few seconds of feeling it, imagine breathing the loneliness out of your system. Then focus on work and other distractions.
  • Interact and engage with people on board. Nothing increases loneliness than isolating yourself. Male seafarers must keep clear of boundaries with females to prevent infidelity.
  • Spirituality helps people understand their difficult situations from a higher perspective. On board, people can maintain a personal schedule for prayer and Bible study time.
  • Connect with friends and loved ones through social media or other means whenever internet signals are available.

Smart’s Marino All Aboard SIM

 The good news is that Smart Communications Inc. came up with a way to fight crushing loneliness among Filipino seafarers around the world.   It’s called the Marino All Abroad SIM.

The leader in mobile teamed up with Magsaysay Maritime Corp. to give its seafarers  the most affordable, dependable means to stay connected with loved ones.

The Smart All Abroad SIM, a new prepaid roaming SIM for seafarers, has a downloadable dialer that lets you call, text or send email to the Philippines and other countries at reasonable rates.

All you have to do is download the All Abroad app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then fill out the registration form by entering your complete name and a confirmation number you’ll get via SMS. Remember to turn on your phone’s data roaming and mobile data services to avail of the program.

The All Abroad SIM is automatically set to ‘roam’ at no cost to the user. A regular SMS or email with a maximum of 100,000 characters starts at  PHP2 only, while calls cost only PHP8 per minute.

You may also subscribe to Smart’s P300 call or text buckets, which provides SMS at only PHP1 per message and PHP3 per minute of calls for Smart, TnT and Sun.

And once the All Abroad SIM is loaded, you can ‘convert’ the regular load to All Abroad Load.

Now who says seafarers can’t beat that monster called loneliness?

Check out the Smart Marino FB page.


A dutiful son shares his career highlights

“The best repayment to your parents is not material possessions, but the duty you show as their sons and daughters in relieving them of burdens”.

An enduring  gem of wisdom that Captain Dan Gruta left as parting words to  children of seafarers  as he closed a mentoring session  with students of Saint Pancras Academy,  a progressive school south of Manila.

In a feature article from the Maritime Review  titled  Capt. Gruta Mentors Children of Seafarers,  Vicky Viray-Mendoza writes Continue reading “A dutiful son shares his career highlights”

A Maritime High School Question: How to bridge the Tech-Voc-Livelihood and Academic Tracks

This could perhaps be considered good suggested reading for school owners, Senior High School teachers, and most specially the Philippine Department of Education.

Imagine that you have a Tech-Voc-Livelihood (TVL) program that develops skills allowing your students to work through two years of Senior High School (SHS) covering skills ranging from navigational watch, steering ships, engine watch, stewardship and other pertinent skills related to ratings or non-officers. Take a look at this Suggested Technical-Vocational-Livelihood Maritime Specialization Scheduling of Subjects.

Now consider over the next two or so years, when learning interests/motivations and the global educational environment evolve, as learners begin to demonstrate skills or attributes enabling the desire to take a higher level of formal learning.

Meanwhile, Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) and Academic Tracks, two programs requiring highly technical and more complex skills are  separately in place.

The following question may then come into sharp focus:

What if some or perhaps many students who are in Year 11 of K-12 demonstrate the competencies as well as the serious inclination towards a college program leading to officer roles?

The answer could be easier for those in the STEM and the Academic Tracks: Apply for admission to the suitable maritime academy of choice.

For those in the TVL track, this discussion may require several perspectives.

One is government policy. Another is blended learning or elearning. Yet another is collaboration.

Bridging program comes to mind. But I’d like to think that a unifying thread could be around the use of ICT.

What are your thoughts on this?