By Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck
for Mindanews .
(First of four parts)
DAVAO City — When they were in college, Ma. Theresa Gil swore she’d never get involved with a seafarer. Her concern: “It’s hard having a relationship with someone living in the same city, what more if he’s in another country?” But Erwin Arandilla was persistent and they eventually got married – on Theresa’s condition that Erwin won’t go abroad.
That was an agreement that did not last.
When Erwin was eight years old, his father died. As the eldest of three, Erwin grew up feeling that everyone else’s well-being was his responsibility. When Erwin married Theresa after college, they continued living with Erwin’s mother and siblings. The turning point came when Erwin’s niece contracted dengue and the hospital debts piled up.
What kind of work in the Philippines would pay enough for Erwin’s family to be free from debt and live comfortably? All the well-paying jobs were abroad, Erwin realized. With Theresa’s consent, Erwin flew to Manila to apply as a skilled worker in Saudi – repairing computers and cellphones. After three months of processing his travel documents, however, Erwin failed the medical test and returned home. His family was buried even deeper in debt.
Kuya Dodong, Erwin’s cousin who worked as a seafarer, offered to put Erwin through Nautical school. As soon as he graduated, Erwin flew back to Manila this time to apply as a sea-based seafarer. “The company let me run errands for the shipping company’s headquarters while I was waiting for my application to get through,” Erwin says. (to be cont’d)