Being Dark is Awesome

          Nognog. Charcoal. Tar. Negrito.

          I get it. My complexion is a bit darker than other people's. In different shades of brown, I stood on the darker side. People usually notice the color of my skin whether I just met them for the first time or after some time. On several occasion, I get ridiculed for it, especially during my childhood years. When I grew up and went to high school, things got even worse. My skin tone turned out to be one of the reason of my growing pains as a teenager. I can still remember the time when somebody sent me a hate letter, addressing me as the "black man" of  Freshman Eagle.

         So much with the scorn tease at school, even some of my family members make fun of me simply because I look darker than the rest of the clan. For instance, during our family reunion, one of my titas would make me sit beside my fair-skinned cousin just to emphasize to everyone "how fair my cousin is." Of course, everyone won't come up with that single conclusion in mind. They still looked at me mockingly and I would feel like I am the darkest person alive.

          I told myself that I've had enough when I went to college. So I started applying all sorts of cream on my face, only to incite hostility upon my facial pores. I would wake up everyday with a fresh bunch of pimples that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The rest of my day would become a total mess, with me becoming self-conscious every minute because of those little devils spewing out secretions of my sebaceous gland.

         With things becoming worse, I stopped using those creams that are supposed to turn my skin fairer and magically make me gwapo. I'll just let my color be the way it is. After all, I don't want to look like an endangered species of  monitor lizard walking around the school premises.

         I managed to boost my self-confidence after accepting the fact that having a dark complexion doesn't define the person you really are. The color of your skin, no matter what it is, is not the measure of your worth as a human being. I keep on repeating this to myself every time people make sarcastic remarks on how dark-skinned I am. I tried to stay cool. Though I still feel bad at times, I was able to shake their comments off.

         Fast forward two years after college, I was on board the training ship Spirit of MOL. There, I met people of different nationalities and culture. Russians, Ukrainians, Indians, Indonesians, light-skinned and dark-skinned. Our group was so diverse in color that even my classmates didn't bother to notice me at all. The shade of anybody's skin never turned out to be an issue or an object of derision.

         My experience as a cadet on the training ship made me realize two things on skin color and Filipino society. First, skin color is merely a portion of genetic make-up that varies from one person to another. It will never be the determining factor of your own worth, or limit you to attain things in life. Second, Filipinos still revere the idea of having a white skin. Majority still have obsession on a whiter complexion and often equate it to beauty. Take it from numerous ads on whitening products that never fail to catch the attention of most people in our society. 

         I also noticed that it was my Filipino classmates who used to tease me about my skin color before we were on the training ship but it was my Russian classmates who appreciated my complexion. One of them even told me that I should go to Russia, because girls would definitely dig me there.

          Our society may not teach us to be proud of our own complexion, but I believe that we should uplift ourselves by not clinging to the idea that having any skin shade will mold our own fate. It's not our passport to success. What really counts is the unseen qualities of a person that prompt him to act with such dignity and endeavor to accomplish his dreams and live life to the fullest.

           I still get some jokes on how dark I am. Nognog, charcoal, tar, negrito, etc. I even receive funny gestures sometimes (my friends would wipe their hankies on me every second week of January). I don't get hurt, but when I think I had enough, I just tell them to stop stating the obvious or check the color wheel pag may time.

           Being who you are is awesome. That awesomeness includes all the aspect of yourself, even your physical appearance or skin color. And when my complexion becomes the main topic of any conversation, I always express my pride of having a skin color that marks my Filipino roots. That having a dark color, like any other color, is simply awesome.

Marino Diaries

things are different when...

By J.S.

           I find it ironic and sometimes awkward that seamen, a general term to call men working at sea, is pronounced like semen. Coincidental or not, it seems to have some point. I had attended trainings last year to comply with the requirements of the industry. In almost every occasion, my instructor never failed to sneak in the topic about sex.

          In one of my courses, when it's three fifteen in the afternoon and everyone had gone for a coffee break, our instructor starts to tell his stories during his life on board. He narrates experiences with emphasis on how good he was in attracting prostitutes to have sex with him. He was teaching us his techniques and telling us what he does. The next day, he began telling his other sexual fantasies. On another day, he was telling us how he cheats on his wife and how he escapes confrontations about it. Until our last day, he had not failed to talk about sex.

          I always get disturbed by his stories and I begin to ask myself questions. Is this how men talk about women and sex? Couldn't he think of better ways to keep our attention besides talking about sex? I believe that a real man is more than what I have seen. A real man has a mature mind. Someone who can think clearly. Someone who will not deal with a prostitute to satisfy his flesh. Someone who will not be proud about cheating on his wife. A real man will not make other men do the same mistakes he committed. A real man is responsible for his actions. A real man will make every sacrifice just to keep his family.

          In my next training, I was hoping things would different but it didn’t get better. While many were falling asleep, our instructor started to talk about sex to pump up everyone’s attention. Stories about his sexual adventures from Brazil to Venezuela, to Netherlands and Russia, to Singapore and China and even in the Philippines; for every country and every port, he definitely had something to tell. From the stories of these selfish individuals, seafarers became stereotyped to have gone for sex to every race in every port in every country. I couldn’t put all the blame on them for committing this mistake but I am optimistic that it’s not too late to make things right.

          The last training I attended turned out to be different. I did get sleepy but there were no lame sexual stories in between topics. We talked about sex on our last day, but in a totally different perspective. Instead of telling how to win a woman for sex, our instructor discouraged us in bringing sex outside marriage. Sex is a gift of God to a man and a woman who are bound in marriage. It must be kept sacred for your wife alone.

         The nature of our work as seamen brings us closer to temptation. Long months away from home, from loved ones make us long for love and affection. Sex may give us a temporary satisfaction to the emptiness that we have, but it doesn't mean that we have to dwell in the idea so much to lead us into infidelity. Sex is not something we should keep unspoken of either. It is something to talk about with an open mind and holistic perspective. We just have to reveal the truths and expose the lies about it.

           So, shall we talk about sex?

Random: Sala sa Init at Lamig

Ang gyro compass, bow.

           Mag-aapat na buwan na ako sa barko. Katulad ng dati kong ginagawa, magsisimula na akong magbilang ng natitirang araw ng pananatili ko sa dito. At dahil mas maikli na lang ang kontrata namin ngayon ( 6 months), makakauwi na ako sa katapusan ng Agosto kung sakali (yey!).  Medyo matagal na rin pala akong di nakakapagsulat ng maayos na post. Marami akong nasimulan pero di naman matapos. Andun lang sila sa drafts, naghihintay ng karugtong. At dahil wala naman kaming pasok ngayon, naisipan ko na lang na magrandom.


          Nadelay kami ng tatlong araw sa China dahil sa makapal na fog. Less than one nautical mile ang visibility kaya hindi kami makapasok ng Qingdao port. Yung fog siguro ang dahilan kung bakit yung mga fishermen nila eh napapadpad sa mga isla malapit sa Pilipinas. Tapos aangkinin nila. Anlabo mehn. Parang fog. Anlabo.


Namumuo ang mga ulap sa malayo. Hindi namin alam na makapal pala na fog ang sasalubong sa amin.

         Pagkatapos namin ng discharging sa China eh agad naman kaming pumunta sa South Korea para sa bunkering (pagpapagasolina). Akala ko noon eh di naman matutuloy ang ilang naka-schedule na operations dahil na naman sa fog. Kinahapunan, nahawi naman iyon at sabay-sabay na nagsidatingan ang mga barge at service boat. Hindi magkamayaw ang lahat kung ano ang uunahin. Pero natapos naman iyon ng mga alas-dyes ng gabi at nakaalis kami ng Korea ng alas-sais ng umaga.


          Nababadtrip ako sa sarili ko dahil nagsisimula na naman akong mag-procrastinate. Andami kong dapat gawin na hindi ko nabibigyan ng oras at madalas pinagpapaliban lang muna. Kahit na alam kong mas madami akong time na gawin iyon ngayon dito sa barko, di ko pa rin makuhang gawin. Nakakamiss tuloy ang mga study sessions namin ni Jan. Napapapursige ako. Sa ngayon sarili ko lang talaga ang kailangang magtulak sa akin.


          Maraming nababadtrip sa bosun namin. Kabilang na ako. Pero di ako nagsasalita kung gaano ako kabadtrip sa kanya sa tuwing siya ang pulutan sa mga usapan. Not my thing. Nakakasawa kung puro si ganito si ganyan ang laman ng kwentuhan. Masyadong makatao.


Nakakatuwang pagmasdan ang dagat. Parang salamin ng ulap. Naks!

          Kung gaano kalamig sa me Eastern Asia, grabe naman ang init malapit sa Equator. Kalmado naman ang dagat na parang nagiging salamin na ng mga ulap kung titingnan. Yun nga lang, ang iniiittt! Abot sing it!


Bagong gupit. Selpi agad pagkatapos magbanlaw.

          Mag-aapat na buwan na rin pala akong hindi nakakapagpagupit, kaya kahapon, nagpagupit ako sa isa sa mga kasamahan ko. Pinabawasan ko lang ang gilid at tinira nya ang bandang tuktok. Voila! Undercut na daw. Konting haba pa at maitatali ko na ang buhok ko. Yung tipong Ariana Grande daw sa ponytail sabi ni Yccos.


          Nagpa-contest pala ako sa mga kapwa ko marino. Tatlo lang ang nagpasa ngunit nakakatuwa naman ang pinagsusulat nila. Nagrequest pa ang isa na ipost ko daw dito ang mga iyon minsan. Bukas o sa makalawa, isa sa kanila ang makakatanggap ng $100. (yey!)

Ang kalapati naming walang pangalan. Me kanin pa sa tuka.

          May alaga pala kaming kalapati ngayon sa barko. Apat silang galing Taiwan pero siya na lang ang huling natira sa kanila. Nakarating na siyang China, Korea at Papua New Guinea. Pero ayaw pang bumaba. Siguro dahil me melamine sa China, mers-cov sa S. Korea at malaria sa PNG. O dahil hinihintay pa rin niya ang pagbalik namin sa Taiwan. No one knows. No one knows.

          Someone's creeping me out lately dito sa barko. Isa sa mga bagong kasamahan ko dito. He's giving me creepy stare at times. Subukan nya lang mang-assault, itatapon ko talaga siya sa dagat.

No, hindi siya yung tinutukoy ko. Me flashlight lang yan kaya ganyan.

           So far maayos naman ang lahat. Mas magaan ang mga trabaho ngayon dito kumpara sa dati kong barko. Ayun nga, naghihintay na lang ako ng ilang loading at discharging at uuwi na naman. Sana lang eh makapagbakasyon ako ng tatlo hanggang apat na buwan dahil bitin na bitin ang bakasyon ko nitong nakaraan (sabay katok sa kahoy).