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Pushing boundaries for Filipina seafarers

Pushing boundaries for Filipina seafarers
Yashika F. Torib June 9, 2021

Third Officer Abigail Chin started sailing as a child.

One of her earliest memories was boarding a ship and watching as her father ably navigated the Philippine waters. She witnessed how a seafarer's instinct works or how their weathered hands can capably steer a vessel safely. In the eyes of a child, life at sea was a sheer adventure.

"He was a ship officer and I tagged along as his little apprentice," Chin recalled of her childhood voyages.

It was also during this same period that the young girl understood the reality of the sea, a reality that even in all its hardship and isolation, tugged her into its folds until she wanted nothing more but to be part of it.

"I always knew I was destined for something big. Even when I learned that I am entering an industry that is traditionally dominated by men and even when people stereotyped what sort of jobs we can only do as a woman, I was firm in wanting to be a part of the maritime sector. I wanted to be a seafarer," Chin said.

She then applied for Westminster's Cadetship Program and successfully passed all examinations. In 2014, Chin finally joined her first voyage as a deck cadet on board a tanker ship but realized that her struggle had just started.

"The early years were not easy. I was bullied a lot for being a neophyte and my gender added fuel to the fire. I remember being cursed at by people every day even when I know I do not deserve it," the lady officer recalled.

Chin's resolve to be part of the industry was such that her survival went beyond using intellect and strength. She endured and adapted.

"There's a stigma in this industry that a woman on board a ship can cause trouble and misfortunes. I felt the need to change this. And so, I learned to stand up against bullying and harassment by setting boundaries and establishing that I came here to work, pursue my dreams, and earn for my family."

As a Third Officer, Chin already experienced waves of struggles and success. Amidst the pandemic, she was among the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who got stuck at sea and could only hope for the best for her family's health. As a breadwinner, she had to fend off all potential hazards for her mental health and trudge on until all is well. "My family has been my source of strength and motivation and I love what I do for them."

Chin pushes boundaries. She sees herself as a strong-willed person who does just about anything she sets her mind on. "I am a woman with concrete goals. I am a go-getter and nothing has ever stopped me from reaching my goals in life. Kidding aside, I have been through a lot and I have remained tough and resilient."

Indeed, the lady officer known to her friends as KC, launched her own YouTube Channel, KC Seafarer TV, in December 2020 to document her adventures in the high seas and the maritime sector. She used the social platform to inspire aspiring seafarers and underline their relevance. "You will never know many young minds you will touch and motivate by sharing your stories," she said.

"I want to use my voice and this platform to strengthen the workforce of Filipina seafarers in the Philippine maritime industry. It is high time that society accepts that being female is not a weak gender. We may have different strengths, but our differences do not diminish our merits," she concluded.