The world’s ship manning capital has such a unique, albeit impaired, culture that it inspired me to publish my second e-book, Close Encounters in Maritime Manila, in April 2018. The following are brief excerpts from the volume. I hope this smattering of quotes will give those who have not yet read the book a foretaste of its unusual flavour.

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from the Epilogue

On the giant chessboard of international shipping, Filipinos are neither rooks nor knights but ordinary pawns. To think otherwise is unrealistic and, quite frankly, a bit foolish.

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from CHAPTER 9: Illusion and Reality

Ship manning is more than an economic activity for Filipinos. It is a stimulant drug that sometimes causes mania — an abnormal psychological state whose symptoms, psychiatrists say, include euphoria, inflated self-esteem, delusions, and increase in goal-oriented activity.

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from CHAPTER 21: Slivers of Light

It (ship manning) has engendered, particularly in Manila, a kind of mind-shrinking parochialism and a culture in which seamen are treated as commodities.

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from CHAPTER 1: The Great Money Chase

When I look at all the players, I don’t see a bustling market. I see a mega aquarium populated by a multitude of fishes and other water creatures swirling round and round — the big ones preying on the smaller ones and occasionally on each other. In this enclosed space, to feed oneself is the main point.

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from CHAPTER 7: Culture of Thievery

Seamen are the usual casualties in Manila’s money marathon. They lie at the bottom of the maritime food chain, preyed upon by motley characters — thieving lawyers, greedy manning agents, slimy fixers, dishonest medical clinics and mendicant relatives.

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from CHAPTER 3: Seamen in the Park

Mariners have to wrestle not only with the forces of nature but with the evil that men do.

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from CHAPTER 4: The Maritime Flunkeys

Young maritime cadets, all raring to go to sea, work as unpaid office flunkeys and personal servants for the manning agents in Manila… It is a disgraceful practice, demeaning to the individual cadet, no less than to the merchant marine profession itself.

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from CHAPTER 12: The Maritime Circus

In the local manning and training sector, the habitual want for approval can manifest itself in a fetish for awards. Never mind if it is just a silly plaque of appreciation received for speaking at a one-day workshop.

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from CHAPTER 12: The Maritime Circus

Some of the females in the maritime circus can be as interesting as the men. They can be as hungry for money, power and recognition. The difference is that they go about it quietly, with finesse and sans fanfare. They certainly are not garrulous in public like the men.

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from CHAPTER 15: Foreigners & Natives

How can seamen have self-confidence and assert their rights if they are not given due respect on shore by those who love to lick the boots of foreigners?

~Barista Uno

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