All aboard: These seafarer children’s stories are all about family


MANILA, Philippines – Edited by Karina Bolasco, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, and Beaulah Taguiwalo, Gig Seafarer Children’s Stories features a collection of the winning children’s stories from a writing contest sponsored by the Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation Inc. (GASFI), a non-profit organization founded and headed by Marissa Oca Robles.

Kathleen Osias
Oca-Robles says GASFI is guided by her three passions: honoring the memory and youthful spirit of her son Gig; promoting the reading habit among children and their parents, and serving the needs of the Filipino seamen’s families. A daughter of Captain Gregorio Oca, a pillar in Philippine Maritime trade, who also founded the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) with its over 80,000-strong members, her dream to bond seamen’s families, through stories to be read by parents, is a simple but effective means to transform a generation hooked to their PSP and gadgets to become values-centered, patriotic, God-fearing, and useful members of society as they mature.

Like a veritable buffet in a children’s party, the collection offers a sumptuous spread of tales extolling the importance of family while reinforcing the significant roles and contributions which each family member provides that make the home where the heart is. Each story presents a common theme — the longing and appreciation for seafarer fathers —and introduces positive values.

Of course, not one story in the series dealt with a mother in the role of a seafarer, following the contest rule. Perhaps, it is because a seafarer’s work is still identified as a man’s job. Maybe, someday, someone will write about the travails of a mother as a seafarer, out in the open seas tending to ships, their cargo or the needs of its crew and patrons, while leaving behind a family coping with loneliness. Sacrifice, after all, has no gender.

But the stars of this children’s book fest are the stories. For instance, in “Jeremy’s Magic Well,” Palanca winner Eliza Victoria writes about friendship and ways to nurture it.

Edilberto Sulat Jr.’s “See, I’m Holding Daddy’s Hand” reinforces faith in the family and that fathers, seafarer or not, not only lift heavy loads on their shoulders for the well-being of the family but literally hold their children’s hands.

Ateneo student Joaquin Carlos de Jesus wrote about “Quintin and His Violin,” a story that covers a family’s life journey and the many lessons learned.

Sylvia Mayuga
Sylvia Mayuga laces her “A Tale of Tong-Its” with in-your-face realism starting with, hold your breath, tong-its, a card game which, while fun, can be carried to the extreme (like introducing money as bets).

“The Perfect Present” by Kathleen Aton-Osias is a timely read for the holidays.

Raechelle Castellon’s “Lost at Sea” is about the bewilderment of a child whose memory of her father she forms through pictures and voice tapes he sends as he travels the world on board a ship.

Hernani Pizarro Geronimo
“The First Day” by Cherrie Anne Remoroza is a snapshot of a typical Filipino family eagerly awaiting the arrival of the seafarer father.

Perhaps the most delightfully illustrated is Andrea de la Cruz’s “Judith and the King of the Sea.” It has pages and pages of beautiful sea creatures, with the mermaid as centerpiece.

Czaria Vijulet Jusi’s “Why Uncle Martin Can’t Fix My Bike” has the most controversial but subtly introduced theme — infidelity — that touches a raw nerve for families invaded by this monster.

“A Boat, A Banana and A Smile” by Hernani Pizarro Geronimo deals with coping with separation. Inspired by the banana boats and the crew who move the fruits from Mindanao to various destinations, it affirms the value of family and how it is the source of strength and wisdom in times happy and sad.

GASFI maybe reached through or the