It’s early and we are leaving plenty of time to reach the offices of United Philippine Lines, the company that provides support and recruitment for all the Filipino crew and officers aboard the ships of Holland America Line. Today we will tour the offices where all Filipino personnel aboard the ships are processed.
Here the crew and officers can get help with visas and the other paperwork necessary to work in the fleet. And during the morning there will be a dedication for a new wing of the complex that will house several facilities for seamen including a new seamen’s hotel.
We are joining Stein Kruse, president and CEO; Brendan Vierra, vice president, human resources, and Rose Abello, vice president, public relations, who will be visiting the UPL offices. Dan Grausz, senior vice president, fleet operations, will join the group later as he is inspecting a maritime academy and a training facility for deck and engine crew and officers with Roy Akker, who is in charge of recruitment in the Philippines.
For the ceremony at the offices all the men are dressed in the national costume of the Phillipines, the barong Tagalog, which literally means the dress of the Tagalog. It is said that the design dates back to the Spanish colonial era, but today it’s popularity can be traced back to President Ramon Magsaysay who wore the shirt to his inauguration. It was declared the official national costume by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1975.
The barong is worn untucked over a white undershirt. The loose-fitting style and the light fabric that’s almost translucent makes it ideal dress for hot weather. Today barongs can be made in short or long sleeves and are worn at both formal and informal occasions.
We arrive at the historic headquarters building of UPL opposite Fort Santiago Park, our first destination.
It’s traditional for guests of honor and heads of state to visit the Shrine of Jose Rizal, the country’s hero, which is in the park. After a brief stop to pay respects at the shrine and to see the walls the Spanish built in the 16th century, it’s back to the UPL headquarters building to be greeted by the Philippine Marine Corps band and an honor guard of cadets from the Merchant Marine Academy. Sen. Richard Gordon and Anna Maria Harper, the Intramuros administrator, are on hand to join the Holland America team and the executives from UPL including Andy Lising, chairman, and Dino Lising, president.
It is widely rumored that Sen. Gordon will run for president of the Philippines next year and he takes the opportunity to chat with and pose for photos with many of the delighted UPL staff. Mrs. Harper is the administrator of the Intermuros area that is within the ancient walls of historic Manila, including the iconic Fort Santiago.
Andy and Stein lead the dignitaries on a brief tour of the building and unfurl three Holland America flags from the roof. Meanwhile the Marine Corps band plays a series of dance numbers while performing intricate marching steps in the courtyard.
Click below to listen to a podcast with Sen. Gordon.
After the ceremony, Stein, Brendan and Rose spend some time touring the offices and meeting some of the crew and officers who are on their way to the ships.