It’s the same whether you’re in Manila, New York or London. The time for partying, carousing, singing and drinking. The time, too, for heartburns and hangovers, if not something worse. We’ve learned to take it all in stride. The commercialisation of Christmas is a fait accompli. Why fight it? Amidst the unbridled and almost mindless merrymaking, our thoughts hark back to two cases of altruism in the shipping world which we wrote about earlier this year and which reflect the true essence of the season.

One was the decision by Thomas Miller, managers of the UK P&I Club, to forego with the traditional dinner party and champagne toasting to mark its 125th anniversary this year. In lieu of that, they’ve been spearheading a project to renovate the 19th-century ship Chauncy Maples as a floating medical clinic for the benefit of the lakeside people of Malawi, southeastern Africa. The other is the tireless crusade by Jae Jung Jang, a Korean expat and chairman of the Uni Group of Companies in Manila, to give hope and a better life to cured Filipino Hansenites through his Sorok Foundation.

To be sure, there are many in the maritime sector who strive, without fanfare, to help the less fortunate and the downtrodden. There’s this old salt, a retired ship master, whose help we sought on behalf of a penniless young woman. The latter needed to see a doctor because her monthly period was attended by abnormal bleeding. Although he’s not a wealthy man and he had never met the girl before, he readily agreed to help. When we met up inside a mall the following day, he told us to walk with him toward an ATM. Whereupon, he withdrew PHP5,000 from his savings account, handed us the money and then drove us and the girl to a nearby hospital. His name: Michael B. Cuanzon. ~Barista Uno