A 50-cent contribution goes a long way
The example set by seamen affiliated with the Association of Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) shows how small contributions, when systematically pooled, could help in nation building.
Organized in 1960 by the Oca brothers Roberto and Gregorio, the seamen’s union started with 500 members. The steady demand for Filipino seamen from international shipping companies encouraged AMOSUP president Captain Gregorio S. Oca to put up the Maritime Institute of Asia and the Pacific in 1998.
“Then I realized from the applicants we were getting that our basic education has deteriorated,” Captain Oca says. So when Labor Secretary Sto. Tomas broached the idea of AMOSUP as CGMA’s first donor, Captain Oca did not hesitate to extend his support.
“Our association, as the biggest labor organization of Filipino seafarers, is fully aware of the importance of education and training as tools for national development,” says Captain Oca. “We are able to maintain our leadership in the global seafaring labor force because of better education and training.”
The seamen’s union collects $0.50-donations from each member when they renew their licenses. CGMA’s first and biggest donor started with a P2-million donation to build 10 classrooms in Tala High School in Caloocan. One of the most crowded schools, Tala has 6,199 students and 39 classrooms – or a student-to-classroom ratio of 159. Each classroom in Tala has to be shared by three classes.
A touching comment made by one of Tala’s student when the ten classrooms were inaugurated in December 2003 remains vivid for Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson. Mustering his courage, the student approached Undersecretary Imson to express his gratitude that with their new classrooms, he will no longer have to attend night classes. “Children should be at home in the evenings doing their homework. This is the time when their parents are home from work,” says Imson.
AMOSUP also donated two classrooms to Victorias National High School in Negros Occidental, which was also inaugurated in December 2003.
AMOSUP, which has 75,000 members, has been able to pool a total of P6.04 million, enough to build 30 classrooms in 11 public schools. The fundraising is a continuing endeavour of the association. “We committed 50 classrooms to Secretary Sto. Tomas. We still lack 20,” says Captain Oca.
When rehabilitation activities were started in Quezon province, which was devastated by typhoons and landslides last December 2004, AMOSUP donated eight classrooms to four public schools – Infanta Central and Alitas Elementary Schools, both in Infanta, General Nakar Elementary School and Llavas High School in Real. These were inaugurated August 2005.
Ten more classrooms are now being built in five schools in Camarines Sur – Burabod, Hanawan, Don Tomas Garchitorena, and Nonito Paz Arroyo Elementary Schools and Rangas-Ramos National High School.
“Filipino seafarers are high qualified, reliable, experienced, competent, and loyal workers who can effectively communicate in the English language,” he adds. “We would like to continue supporting the CGMA project to ensure that our people would have access to better public education facilities that would help produce world-class human resources.”