By TGN Editorial Team
Thome Group has always prided itself in promoting a safe environment for all its employees. When we say “safe,” it not only implies providing a conducive surrounding but also encompasses the well-being of its people. Gender inclusivity in workplaces such as Thome is vital as it provides better and fair opportunities to all and at the same time promotes respect and camaraderie.
For this issue of Seafarer’s Corner, three highly accomplished Thome seafarers share their personal experiences and learnings that have moulded them to what they’ve become today.
What made you decide to become a seafarer?
Most seafarers become seafarers to fulfill their lifelong dream of traveling the world. With a burning love for his parents, Chief Cook Mark Joseph Alegre wanted to achieve their dream of having a seafarer for a son.
For Chief Cook David Naval of MV Golden Ruby, becoming a cook in a vessel was an opportunity for him to learn and earn more – to help fund his lifelong dream of having a restaurant.
Does your gender or sexual preference become a challenge? And why?
Messman Jessie Cal of Front Castor lauds his colleagues for being respectful. “It has never been a challenge nor an issue. Mainly because I am lucky to have colleagues who respect each difference and do not discriminate regardless of gender, race, or
which country you’re from.”
A proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, CCK Naval recalls his experiences. “At first, I felt challenged and tried to hid my identity as a gay person.” He added, “I also experienced being rejected by the other companies because of my identity, but it didn’t stop me from achieving my dreams. I am thankful to Thome Group which welcomed me as the person I am and equally accepts applicants regardless of their sexual orientation.”
How do you express yourself in a place where it is predominantly masculine and how was your relationship with your colleagues?
“Since gender or sexual preference was never an issue, I expressed myself freely with authenticity. Our work relationship is anchored on trust where there is respect and compassion. We focus more on work and how we can do our day-to-day operations keeping in mind to be focussed and take all the challenges with a learner mindset,” said Messman Cal.
“Just be true to yourself,” said CCK Alegre. He added that in his experience working in a place usually dominated by men, he never experienced being disrespected.
For CCK Naval, the waves were not always on his side as he felt anxious to reveal who he really was. “I was very nervous that people may disrespect me for the way I act, so I decided to hide it at first. As the days went by, I started loosening up and showed my true identity. I came out, proud, and happy.” He added, “My crew accepted me, and it’s a happy feeling to be that person who makes them laugh because of my bubbly personality. I am pleased that I can express my feelings without any doubts at all because of the respect I get from my colleagues.”
What do you like most about your job and working in Thome?
“Thome accepted me,” said CCK Naval. He added, “Thome welcomed me for who I am and as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They helped me achieve my dream of becoming a seafarer by proving to never quit.. I work hard every day and excel with my craft. Because of this, I become one of the youngest chief cook of the company.”
“We may face different challenges in managing operations, but the learnings are not comparable to other industries. Working in Thome allows me to expand my horizon and get out of my comfort zone while also considering our health and safety, especially during this pandemic through best-in-class systems and protocols,” said Messman Cal.
What were the challenges you have faced as a Thome seafarer, and how did you overcome them?
“Like in any other companies, differences in beliefs and culture become one of the challenges I encountered as a Thome seafarer. However, these differences inspire me to know more about other cultures. For my part, I researched the different nationalities onboard to broaden my understanding and perspective about them. It also made me learn how different cultures prefer their food and delicacies, making them feel that we have a home while in the middle of the sea. It also helps us to have a healthy working environment,” said CCK Alegre.
For Messman Cal, it is the inevitable circumstances that are part of being a seafarer. “When my father died last April 2020, it was the peak of the pandemic where strict restrictions and quarantine measures were in place. Hence, I was not allowed to go home. Mourning and working with a heavy heart is a hard thing to balance during this time of grief. But with the presence of my colleagues who also served as a solid support group, I found comfort, and they made it easier for me to get through it.”
What are the learnings you have gained from being a Thome seafarer?
Nothing is permanent. While there is an opportunity, dream bigger. CCK Naval said that the opportunity he receives at Thome helped him fulfill his dream of becoming an entrepreneur, which he is now slowly achieving. “I learned to be more responsible and practical with my earnings. While working as a cook, I am also investing in small businesses back home.”
“With all the challenges I experienced, I am glad that I learned the values in life which made me stronger and stayed with me as a Thome seafarer. This includes always being kind to others, expanding one’s horizons to understand not only oneself but also others, and to be grateful for what you have achieved today,” said CCK Alegre
What message can you give to new seafarers and aspiring seafarers in pursuing their dreams?
Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and grow. “Embrace a growth mindset to see every inadequacy or perceived failure as something to be developed or explored. Understand that failure is part of our learning process. Each setback or negative response is just a mirror showing you what you can improve on. Over time, you start to see that these opportunities to become even more aware of yourself and your shortcomings can be more valuable than your successes, as they provide a measuring stick for your progress. said, Messman Cal
CCK Alegre encourages aspiring seafarers to dream big. “Aim high and do not give up in times of hardships. Remember that in every difficulty, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lastly, CCK Naval gives inspiring words for LGBTQIA+ seafarers. “For future seafarers, whatever your sexual orientation, don’t stop dreaming, and work hard until you achieve your dreams. Being different is not a hindrance to land your dream job. If the straight male and female can do it, SO CAN WE!”