A Pinoy Seafarer's Life Ashore After Years On Ships March 23, 2012
Hometown is in former seafarer's heart
by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
OFW Journalism Consortium
MAKATI CITY-A FORMER ship captain's low-income hometown is 151.66 kilometers away from here.
The structures in his hometown of Bautista, Pangasinan have nothing on the slickness of the marbles, tiles, and furnishings of the multi-storey office building of Capt. Manolo Gacutan.
But it doesn't matter, says the president and general manager of Dohle-Philman Manning Agency.? "I am helping improve our quiet hometown," Gacutan adds.
This vision is perhaps a product of Gacutan's weekend rides to his economically placid?birthplace. The general strategy to achieve this vision is common sense, says one of this year's four Model Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Family awardees of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
First, focus on the village where you are from or in, and in Gacutan's case, it is Barangay Ketegan. There, if the person has courage, set up a local enterprise that provides a service or product that's not available in the community and hires local workers.
Next, ensure that the business runs well. If the entrepreneur is reaping the rewards of his or her first venture, he or she can then set up a new business and hire other local workers.
Then, try to gather the people for a common economic activity. In Ketegan, Manolo and wife Rosemarie jumpstarted the formation of the Ketegan Multi-purpose Cooperative and, after the cooperative's initial years, they let local residents manage the organization and have it run like a business.
Thus, in the course of the Gacutan's setting up of small business after small business, and seeing that there's local demand created given other businesses that were set up there, Ketegan, the former ship captain claims, has "almost zero unemployment".
Count overseas work into the equation: Gacutan's manning agency has sent thousands of seafarers to ocean plying vessels. Some 500 seafarers came from Bautista alone, mostly from Ketegan.
Not surprisingly, the Gacutans have been perceived to be doing these entrepreneurial and local economic activities as political tools. "Politics? Not my interest," Manolo says.
MANOLO and Rosemarie, plus their three children Sherry Mae, Debbie, and Kristoffer, were cited in OWWA's 2011 Model OFW Family Awards (MOFYA) as a special awardee for entrepreneurship.
This 1970s graduate of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) sailed ocean-plying ships for 16 years, and spent two years on-shore as operations manager for manning agencies. While running the operations of a British-German manning agency in London, Gacutan was asked by superiors how to cut costs since the manning agency was hiring "expensive" American and British seafarers.
"Cut down on labor costs," he advised. Try out Filipinos and other nationals, Gacutan added. His superiors thought long about Gacutan's suggestion, gave him a go, and decided to form a Philippine-registered manning agency, Dohle-Philaman (founded in 1996) that would have British, German, and Gacutan as partners. It was a good thing that Gacutan had savings as a seafarer; he used all these as his equity in the corporation.
The company, so far, has sent over-3,000 seafarers on crew and has 1,000 more on vacation, waiting for redeployment.
This is when Gacutan's annual dividends with Dohle-Philman became his family's, and Bautista's gain.
Rosemarie first set up a tailor shop for seafarers' uniforms, with Dohle-Philman's seafarers roster as clients. When it grew, the couple then established the first entrepreneurial endeavor in Bautista, a trading company that sells agricultural products as well as products for fishponds.
The next to go up was Ketegan's building in which the Gacutans allowed local entrepreneurs to rent spaces. Next were a bakery, a mini-grocery, agricultural and poultry feeds, and finally a resort.
Then they formed a multi-purpose cooperative, as well as the Gacutan Family Foundation that gives scholarships on seafaring, holds feeding sessions and medical-dental missions, and supports some disaster relief efforts.
"When the businesses were set up, no local entrepreneurs in Bautista ventured into these lines of businesses," Gacutan explained, as all these enterprises' capital was courtesy of Gacutan's dividends at Dohle-Philman -the "mother company",? even if the companies are not directly under Dohle-Philman.
The Gacutans just carried a habit that's hard to break. "Whenever I get my dividends from Dohle-Philman, Rose and I always think of where to use this and which business will we finance."
And except for the tailor shop in Manila, "each of our business must be set up in Bautista."
BAUTISTA is on the western side of Pangasinan, with 28,904 residents living in 18 barangays. Its municipal government earned P41.835 million in total income (P39.141 million came from the internal revenue allotment), says data from the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Actually, looking at the 2010 data of the Local Government Performance Monitoring System, Bautista earned plus-4 (out of a high of 5) in economic governance. While the score means good news to the local government and its residents, the LGPMS database recommended that "more needs to be done to institutionalize a business-friendly environment."
Surely, a municipal government that currently enjoys its own slick municipal hall may be doing efforts to improve the business climate, but Gacutan wants to go the extra mile on his own.
This is where he saw the need to engage overseas workers' economic power in the area. Last March, he formed the Bautista, Pangasinan OFW Association -hoping that many of the seafarers' families will put up backyard or home-based businesses.
By setting up these businesses, Gacutan explains, "they will do something productive while their spouses are overseas, and while they are receiving remittances from abroad. The hometown ultimately benefits."
It is not only overseas Bautistanons whom Gacutan is concerned. My hometown, he says, "has a routinary lifestyle.? People are at work during the day, and then they sleep at night. Then people earn their salaries by month's end."
"The economic situation seems placid that way," he adds.
Now in his mid-50s, Gacutan continues to be hands on in not only managing Dohle-Philman daily, but in engaging residents Bautista (now including barangays outside of Ketegan) during weekends to wake up from their economic slumber. And he's gotten used to that 151.66 km. road trek on weekends.
"Before, when I was at sea, Bautista is always in my horizon. What more that I am on shore?"
OFW Journalism Consortium, in partnership with The Philippine Star