HomeLEAPS: Miriam College Faculty Research Journalvol. 24 no. 1 (2004)

Seafarers' Wives Speak

Ma. Margarita A. Acosta

Discipline: Family and Relationships



The Scalabrini Migration Centre estimates that there are 500,000 registered seafarers in the Philippines. This number comprises 20 percent of all seafarers in the world. A continuing study by the Philipine Overseas Employment Association (POEA) supports such findings that in 1999 there were 78,294 registered officers and 390,383 registered ratings totaling 468,677.

Filipino seafarers are widely recognized for their industry, dedication, adaptability, and reliability. It is projected that the leading position of Filipino seafarers in the global market will be maintained in the short- to medium-term, ensuring general stability in this market.

As more and more Filipino seafarers are employed, there is an increasing concern for those left behind. These are the seafarers’ families – their wives and their children.

This article talks about the lived experiences of three women – Lara, Lyca, and Maricon - who are known as “mga asawa ng marino.” The means through which the stories were accounted in this paper was through a casual group get-together and story telling. Later on, as the need arises, one-on-one follow-ups were made.

Atypical women in typical migrant families are how the wives in this article can be described. How many more there are like them is unknown as most of the literature and researches on families of overseas Filipino workers present findings contrary to the sharing of these women’s experiences. It is quite a revelation that the families left behind can be happy; that the connection between the family members and the worker is real and deep; and that the wives can be empowered – with their strength and their independence well appreciated by their husbands.

With the responsibility of keeping the family together in the hands of the Filipino wives – they do their roles well. The teachings of the Church become their stronghold; faith in the Creator keeps their hopes up and the ties that bond the nuclear and the extended families become their refuge. Clearly too, education in the lives of the women mentioned here play a major part in their empowerment. As they have found their place in a career that they enjoy, there is security and fulfillment.

When the women learn to be self-sufficient, because they are given a chance, then they are challenged to continue. When they have proven themselves successful ‘independent partners’ of their husbands then the survival of the family is assured.

As the Filipino family becomes more and more a transnational family with globalization allowing for easier mobility, it is nevertheless assuring from what experts ascertain that families are resilient to adjust over time to the temporary separation of their members. Families are families, they will remain…