Sail On

Writing 101 Day 15: Your Voice Will Find You
Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.
How does that make you feel?
Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.

Do you want to travel? Experience different cultures? Meet new people and friends. Represent your country and be a youth ambassador? Well, I was able to do all that with SSEAYP.

SSEAYP stands for Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program, a Japan sponsored exchange program that’s been running for 42 years now since its inception in 1974. Basically, what happens is that youth ambassadors from ASEAN countries and Japan convene onboard a ship, Fuji Maru for our batch (Nippon Maru for the others), and share their lives together for 53 days.

For 39th SSEAYP, we traveled from Japan to Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam. It was one heck of a journey that words or pictures wouldn’t suffice to fully explain and describe the stories, the behind-the-scenes, the emotions.

Now it would be a shame if this program is cancelled forever. Too bad for the youth who won’t be able to be a part of this life-changing experience.

Let me tell you a bit more of what exactly happens in SSEAYP. The day starts onboard the ship with a morning call.

You could hear familiar voices coming out from the speakers saying good morning in different languages. Some would be singing. Others giving reminders. And there would be those who just couldn’t contain themselves and would be practically shouting. They sure are serious about their task of waking everyone from their slumber.

And so you drag your unwilling feet to the sports deck while you try to wipe off the sleep from your face. The sports deck is where we do the morning exercise or the flag hoisting depending on the schedule. Morning exercises are usually fun. That is if you’re into sporty, physical stuff. And this is supposed to help ease one’s seasickness.

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Morning exercise.

The flag hoisting on the other hand can be stressful, putting most people on edge. You may think raising the flag of a certain country is that simple but it demands sensitivity and respect. A flag is a country’s national symbol and thus should be handled with utmost care and should be hoisted the right way.

The speakers start to crackle and you hear this kindergarten-ish melody signaling that it’s time for breakfast! We go to the dining hall and would be greeted by the crew who are mostly Filipinos. The buffet of food can be overwhelming. You would want to try everything. You put a lot on your plate and decide you’re too full to finish it. That’s what most people did.

So came this food waste campaign from Discussion Group (DG) 3: Environment chanting, “Take what you can eat and eat what you take.” The food waste was reduced. I don’t know if it’s because of the advocacy, or we got tired of the food, or we just couldn’t fit in our clothes anymore that we needed to diet.

“This is an announcement from the administration. To all PYs (Participating Youth), National Leaders, and Facilitators, please assemble at the Pacific Hall at 9:00 AM. If you cannot join the morning assembly due to seasickness or other forms of illness, please call extension 23…” That’s the morning assembly where we are reminded of everything, from the schedule, to activities, to dress codes. We do have codes for the outfit, literally. A1 for formal, B for national costume, C for casual, and so on.

The whole day would be filled with an array of activities – team building, discussion, games, cultural presentations, film showing, you name it. We even had our version of The Oscars where short films were made and screened, with awards night and all!

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SSEAYP felt like United Nations when we’re all garbed in our colorful national costumes. It felt like a diplomatic mission during formal occasions of flag hoisting, courtesy calls, and speeches from dignitaries. It’s like a party with all the social activities, and dancing, and people having loads of fun. It would seem like high school if you have your own nominees in mind of the friendliest, most active, most popular, etc. The best thing of all, SSEAYP is family. We have this unconditional love and acceptance of everyone. We may not know each other that well but there’s this bond that goes beyond race and culture.

I hope and pray that SSEAYP continues to sail on. And keep on promoting cultural understanding, building friendships, and touching lives.

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Author: Ryan Bestre

Environmentalist. Teacher. Writer.

2 thoughts on “Sail On”

  1. An absolutely fabulous account of your special time with SSEAYP. I wish this was a universal thing as I know my daughter would benefit from all the activities you talk about. And the photos compliment your post beautifully.
    Great work, I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word!

    Liked by 1 person

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