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Manila, Philippines

The Stella Maris Dormitory for Seafarers, Manila.

Sunday 30 July 2006 saw the solemn blessing of the new Stella Maris Dormitory for Seafarers in Manila, Philippines. The blessing was given by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila. About 150 people attended including seafarers who were staying in the dormitory at the time. These had worked generously during the preceding days helping to prepare for the event.

Also present were representatives from government and maritime organisations; members of various NGOs; friends and supporters of AOS; and priests and parishioners of the church of Nuestra Señora de Guia in Ermita, including the president and several members of the parish council. It is thanks to the generosity of the parish and the archdiocese that AOS has been able to establish the new Stella Maris Dormitory.

The dormitory occupies the fourth floor of a building belonging to the parish of Nuestra Señora de Guia. The parish decided to grant use of the space to AOS on account of the daily presence of several thousand seafarers in the Ermita district of Manila. It is close to the main Port of Manila and also to many of the manning agencies at which thousands of Filipino seafarers seek employment.

“The seafarers are all around us”, said Father Savino Bernardi CS, director of AOS in Manila.

The new dormitory offers 90 single beds and two rooms for couples. It was opened in early June and very quickly filled to capacity. The seafarers who have stayed in the dormitory have praised it as being very convenient, comfortable and affordable. The fourth floor location is in no way a disadvantage. One seafarer said

“it is like being on a ship where we have to climb up and down the stairs many times a day and it keeps us fit”.

At the top of the stairs is a large icon of Our Lady Stella Maris, donated by AOS Great Britain. Seafarers who climb higher, to the roof, can find the garden terrace with an ample covered area. This is a relaxing place where the air is cleaner, away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of the street.

Establishing a seafarers’ centre has been the dream of Father Savino ever since he began his ministry to seafarers in Manila ten years ago. According to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration, there are approximately 550,000 Filipino seafarers of whom 250,000 are at sea. Some 300 seafarers’ centres in ports around the world offer services to those at sea. However Filipino seafarers who come from the provinces to seek work at the manning agencies of Manila also need pastoral care.

In realising his dream, Father Savino has faced many obstacles such as finding funds and a suitable location for the centre. The offer of premises from the Archdiocese of Manila has truly been a blessing. Much of the funding has come from sources abroad. Father Savino is hoping for some assistance from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in the next stage of the project.

Father Savino says:

“The opening of the dormitory is the first stage in the creation of a new seafarers’ centre in Manila. When the project is complete, AOS will be able to operate from one building, offerring facilities for welfare, recreation and rest. There we will serve the spiritual, social and personal needs of the seafaring community.”

 

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