Frankie the Philosopher Cat asked to be let out of our house when the weather cleared up after two recent storms. He said he wanted to check out the maritime training centres in Manila. He was gone for a good three days, but we didn’t mind. Frankie is so perspicacious that he always comes back with some interesting stories. It’s the kind of stuff that one never gets to read in the maritime press.

Marine Café Blog
: Did you enjoy your outing?
Frankie: It was entertaining, to say the least. I sat in a class at one training centre and heard the instructor speak English the way it should not be spoken.

MCB: You mean the chap had an accent.
Frankie: No, I mean his English was bad – as in bad grammar and bad pronunciation.

MCB: Aren’t you being arrogant? Those folks are technical people. You can’t expect them to talk like the British Prime Minister.
Frankie: You’ve got a point there. I just wish some people would use Pilipino instead of mangling the English language.

MCB: So what’s your impression of the training centres?
Frankie: They make me think of fast food. So many outlets – at least 95 training centres nationwide – and some have more customers than your favourite coffeehouse.

MCB: Competition must be tough, I imagine.
Frankie: That’s an understatement. It’s cutthroat competition! I was told that to get ahead in the business a training centre had to play the “rebates” game.

MCB: Rebate as in discount to customers?
Frankie: The term is a euphemism for kickback. It’s common practice to give crewing managers a cash incentive every time they refer seafarers to a training centre.

MCB: That doesn’t seem right.
Frankie: Well.. if you ask me, those crewing managers are saints compared with your thieving senators.

MCB: Speaking of fast food, how’s the menu?
Frankie: Quality depends on who’s preparing and serving the menu items. One instructor of an introductory course on ECDIS said the end-goal of ECDIS training was “proper voyage planning”. Can you believe that? I won’t tell you about the Management Level Course (MLC) for ship officers. Your blood pressure might go up.

MCB: But I thought the government people have been regularly inspecting the training centres.
Frankie: Inspecting or collecting? Let’s make a distinction.

MCB: Surely there are some excellent training centres?
Frankie: There are actually a few in Metro Manila. I was told there were two good training facilities up in Subic. Unfortunately, buses are off limits to cats so I couldn’t visit the place. Most of the rest are like Vendo machines.

MCB: What do you mean?
Frankie: They push some button so you get your cold drink. Of course, you have to pay first at the counter.

~Barista Uno


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