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
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.”