Ninety percent of everything that we use in daily life has been shipped via sea, on one of about 100,000 marine vessels, manned by 1.2 million seafarers—of which almost 400,000 are Filipinos. At any given time, there are about a quarter of a million Filipino seafarers plying the seas.
Behind this almost-invisible industry are the equally invisible families. If seafarers are the lifeblood of the maritime industry, then the families that they leave behind are the heart. Seafaring is a profession fraught with risk, yet seafarers persist because of their families, either the families they built or the families that they come from.
While they are considered overseas workers, seafarers (and their families) encounter a set challenges that their land-based counterparts do not. While they may earn more, the dangers are greater, the contracts shorter, and the chances of renewal are less. Communication, which has vastly improved over the years, can still be intermittent simply because there are periods that sea vessels are out of coverage area. Aside from the usual issues of long distance relationships, families also have to deal with the cyclical nature of the maritime career.
These issues are not new. However, they will be discussed with a new perspective at the upcoming Seafarer Family International Congress (SFIC) on August 14 and 15 at the Manila Hotel. Both local and international speakers will address issues such as mental health and sustainable wellbeing; best family practices; financial literacy and retirement planning; setting family boundaries; the dynamics of the ‘sandwich generation,’ parenting both your children and your parents; and the myths that surround seafarers and their families, among others.
SFIC also recognizes that the current generation of children and youth may no longer know a world that is not digital. We are living in an increasingly digital world and it has not only changed the way people interact, learn, and work, but has also caused changes in family dynamics. This is also one of the highlights of the upcoming congress.
Aside from the plenary session, there will also be breakout sessions for both the adults and the youth, plus games and activities for younger children. Participants and the public can also enjoy the exhibit booths.
While it may have been organized for seafarers and their families, the activities and the issues to be discussed at the SFIC are also relevant to all other families, OFWs or not. Registration for the event includes entry to all the plenary and breakout sessions, lunch, morning and afternoon snacks, and gala dinner.
The Seafarer Family International Congress is organized by Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation Inc (GASFI), a non-profit organization that promotes building strong family bonds, foster a love for learning, and strengthening family moral values, especially among seafarers and their families. SFIC is also in celebration of GASFI’s tenth anniversary.
The Seafarer Family International Congress is in partnership with Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) and ITF Seafarers’ Trust. It is also presented by Asia United Bank (AUB); AJSU-AMOSUP Mariners’ Home; The PTC Group; The Manila Hotel; PhLUG; Mind Museum; and Habitat for Humanity. SFIC media partners are Seafarer Asia; Philippine Daily Inquirer; Business Mirror; and Crossover 105.1.