By Marville Cullen Espago


Merchant maritime handles 90% of global trade, prompting IMO Sec-Gen Efthymios Mitropoulos to claim, “Without the contribution of seafarers, half of the world would freeze and half the world starve.”

The fact has inspired the Western Union (WU) Search for the Ten Outstanding Maritime Students of the Phil (TOMSP), the spark from Mr. Choi Gamboa in 2010, also WU’s 20th anniversary.

TOMSP search limited in Metro Manila, then nationwide the following year. Applicants undergo a rigorous process, two reps per campus from which pool the top 20 are picked. A grueling process follows to search for the top 10: two panel interviews, one for technical/ professional and one for social responsibility and leadership; essays and written exams.



There is no pattern on who nor what earn the approval of judges chosen on their expertise. Here’s a sampling of past winners:

Stevon Ryan Arillo, at three months old lost his dad in a shipboard accident. As a leap of faith, he took his father’s career risking perils the seas. Stevon is now a navigating officer.

Laarni Pangalinan, took nursing but shifted to maritime where she was subjected to rigorous military training. As a navigating officer, she now travels the world for free, bungee-jumping n Thailand, visits to Aruba and Curacao.

Dionel Alfaro, from a lineage of seafarers —- uncles, father, grandfather. But he is the first of the clan to be an officer, leveling up the family’s romance with blue waters of the world.

There is Kobe Segovia, Chief Officer, who used to sail with his father since he was five;

Elijah Jose Barrios, Third Officer, who wanted to be a teacher but prodded by parents to be a seafarer. Asked what makes him love now the career, he answers, “The seafarers, themselves” who “earn for others and not just for themselves.”

Sabrina McCoy Villaruz, TOMSP Batch 2016, branded herself a ‘she-farer’ for other women who want a maritime career. She is motivated by adventure and challenges while providing well for the family back home.


Core virtues.

What makes a TOMSP? Embrace your fears, break away from mediocrity. Be passionate in everything and with everyone; brave old paths, make new ones. Value interdependence and mutual responsibility — identify your dreams and pursue with your best.

TOMSP 2018 is a joint project of WU, Cebu Gems, Asia United Bank Seafarers Club, AMOSUP Bayview Park Hotel-Manila (official residence) and Marino World, media partner.

It will be launched June 25th during the Intl Day of the Seafarer celebrations at PICC. WU has supported the Natl Seafarer Day since 2002.