Thoughts on exile and maritime writing

Calling a spade a spade is not exactly the style of writing that would earn one plenty of fans. Indeed, Marine Café Blog has elicited some harsh reactions over the last seven years. Some of the harshest have come from Filipino readers, which makes me feel like an exile in my own country – like the Buddhist priest depicted in Tsukioka Yoshitoshi‘s 1882 woodblock print “Nichiren in Exile at Sado” (shown above).

I remember once writing about why Philippine shipbuilding is a mirage. I noted that the country did not have a shipbuilding industry, only a “shipyard employment industry.” Although factual, the article prompted one Filipino woman to comment angrily: “You talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk.” I didn’t understand what she meant exactly. However, I would quickly find out that she was employed in a shipyard in Cebu province controlled by Keppel of Singapore. That explained her somewhat irrational reaction.

If it’s not denigrating remarks, it is grudging admiration or silence from the blog’s local readers. I have stopped being surprised. Self-reflection is alien to the average Filipino. That is why some maritime folks in Manila cannot stand what they see in the mirror when it is held up to them. Marine Café Blog has been precisely that – a mirror.

Ironically, words of encouragement or praise have mostly come from non-Filipinos. I feel heartened whenever I recall a comment made by Reid Sprague, an American old salt: “Thanks for your great content and unvarnished view of our industry! You’re an essential part of my day: ‘What does BU think?’ And it’s always thought-provoking.”

Those words spur me to go on with Marine Café Blog. To heck with the detractors. ~Barista Uno