It started back in September 2015 during Sailors’ Society’s Manila Gala. Simon Bennett and Martin Pitt of Swire Offshore and the Anscor Swire Ship Management Dependents Association (ASSMDA) asked if the Society would help build two health centres. This was the start of the journey that culminated in the official turnover ceremonies of the two new health centres in Barangay Libertad in Palo Municipality in Leyte Province and Barangay Ticad in Bantayan Municipality in Cebu Province.
Bright and early on 16 June, Iris Terana (Sailors’ Society’s family outreach worker), Christopher Mabuyo (Sailors’ Society’s programme coordinator) and I were waiting at the airport for the arrival of the visiting party from Swire Offshore and ASSMDA.
They had been at the airport at 3:30am just to be on this 5:45am flight, that’s how dedicated ASSMDA is to the welfare of seafarers.
Even before the ceremony started, everyone was feeling the heat and humidity. The event was attended by members of the local government and council and it was great to cut the new centre’s ribbon!
The day didn’t end after lunch!
ASSMDA conducted a workshop for its members and people from the local area. ASSMDA has travelled around the Philippines, where its members live, teaching them various skills that will help them provide for their families.
ASSMDA's president, Ofelia Villanueva, told me it is her greatest joy to see seafaring families become independent and self-sufficient should the day come when the main bread winner is no longer able to sail.
The next part of the journey started in Cebu City on 18 June.
We drove up to Hagnaya port, it’s on the north-western tip of Cebu island. I always enjoy this coastal drive with its views of the sea.
After crossing the mountains, where you get spectacular views of vast open fields, we travelled by sea to Bantayan island.
After checking into the hotel in Santa Fe, Bantayan we drove to Bantayan town centre to walk around its famous fresh and dried seafood markets.
A little explanation here is warranted, Bantayan island is made up of three municipalities – Santa Fe (on the eastern side), Bantayan (on the western side) and Madridejos (from the middle to northern side).
Sunset in Bantayan is a beautiful sight.
ASSMDA conducted another well attended livelihood workshop for its Bantayan members.
The next day (19 June) was the turnover ceremony. Just like the one in Libertad, it was attended by members of the local government.
The ceremony was over too soon and all the visitors packed up and headed to the Sante Fe pier to catch the Ro-Ro back to Cebu island.
Throughout the four days spent with ASSMDA, I can see how deeply the company cares for its employees and their dependents.
The seafarers and their families reciprocate this kindness through donations of money and more importantly time, volunteering to help those in need.
The health centre in Libertad will benefit approximately 1,000 households and the health station in Ticad serving approximately 7,000 households.
These centres help the company’s employees, seafarers and the community at large.