Hometown is in former seafarer’s heart

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

OFW Journalism Consortium, in partnership with The Philippine Star


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.

(To be continued)