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Filipino captain John Michael Lechugas finds meaning in vlogging

Filipino captain finds meaning in vlogging
Yashika F. Torib August 16, 2023

MILLENNIAL Filipino seafarers have already gone beyond their profession. With the advent of technology in their formative years, this generation of seafarers has learned to harness its power to spur interest and interaction with people from within and outside the industry.

A good number of young seafarers, in fact, wear the extra hat of technology — they are also video editors, video bloggers, photographers, graphic artists and gamers.

Among them is John Michael Lechugas, a ship captain and famous Filipino video blogger (vlogger) in the maritime industry.

Lechugas commanded his first ship in 2017 at the young age of 33, an accomplishment fit for a man who came from a family of Ilonggo mariners. He graduated from the premier John B. Lacson Maritime Foundation University (JBLFMU) in Arevalo, Iloilo, and thence sailed the high seas onboard bulk carriers.

Life for Lechugas would have gone the customary path as with many of his contemporaries — command a ship, get married, buy a house, get a car, raise a family — if not for one unfortunate event that changed his course.

In June 2022, Lechugas was scammed by the woman she was intending to marry. "I battled depression as a result of being greatly deceived by the woman I was meant to marry. Amidst my deepest struggle, vlogging saved me," Lechugas recalled.

"My initial intention was to expose the woman once I reached 10,000 followers. However, as my page began to gain traction and evolved as a platform that my fellow seafarers used as a source of motivation, I decided to deviate from my original plan. I chose to let go and lift my pain to God," he said.

Today, Lechugas' Facebook page, "Capt. JM PH," has 49,000 followers and 18,000 likes.

It showcases his story as someone who defies the typical Filipino captain stereotype.

"My content aims to enlighten my audience about the fact that not all Filipino captains exhibit toxic behavior. I go the extra mile by immersing myself in various activities to establish a connection with my crew. Leadership, teamwork, mental health, career development and fostering positive vibes are the central themes of my vlog," he said.

Becoming a vlogger was a surprise for those around him, however. The man is a shy and reserved person who simply loves to travel. But with dedication, Lechugas came through.

He utilized his innate candidness, kindness, and patience to interact with people from the other side of the web.

As a maritime social media personality, Lechugas encounters the most straightforward curiosity amongst his mainstream followers, the most common of which is: Are seafarers really "seamanloloko"? The man is armed to the teeth with his own story to tell about such queries.

Other common questions he gets from his followers are about the salary range of seafarers, job openings for those who are looking for a shipboard deployment, and the application process for cadets.

"I receive approximately 15 messages per day on my page. But as I have no page administrator, there are occasions when I am unable to regularly check my inbox," he said.

"I am happy that people would seek my advice and guidance regarding their careers, and I equally appreciate [it] when they seek my honest feedback on family relationships. Last year I saved two of my followers who were in depression and were bound to commit suicide.

"It is difficult for me, however, to be unable to assist those who are experiencing job rejections due to unfair practices such as the 'backer system' within the companies, especially for the cadets," he lamented.

It is during these times that Lechugas shares his values with fellow seafarers who encounter hardships in life. More than a vlogger, he serves as a reliable friend who offers a strong shoulder, attentive ears, and a helping hand to those who need support.

"When faced with challenges, I remain calm and composed, tackling problems with a level-headed approach," he said.