Other low-wage countries, including India, South Korea, and Indonesia, apply for the same jobs.For that reason, Mc Kay argues, the Filipinos have set out to differentiate themselves from crew members of other nationalities.
Many Filipino sailors make small incisions in their penises and slide tiny plastic or stone balls -- the size of M&M's -- underneath the skin in order to enhance sexual pleasure for prostitutes and other women they encounter in port cities, especially in Rio de Janeiro.
"This 'secret weapon of the Filipinos,' as a second mate phrased it, has therefore obviously something to do," Lamvik wrote in his thesis, "'with the fact that 'the Filipinos are so small, and the Brazilian women are so big' as another second mate put it." According to University of California, Santa Cruz labor sociologist Steve Mc Kay, who traveled extensively on container ships with Filipino crews in 2005 for his research on the masculine identity in the shipping market, raw materials for the bolitas can range from tiles to plastic chopsticks or toothbrushes.
To crack the cultural mystery of any total institution, you have to go inside, he reasoned.
"If you [want] a feeling of a seafarer's life, you have to be at sea with them when they are open," said Lamvik, who now studies how cultural differences affect occupational safety at a Norway-based think-tank called SINTEF.
For the next three years, he was on and off ships, floating with his subjects from port to port and trying to make that connection.
At a raucous karaoke crew member party somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it began to happen.From the 16th through the 19th century, Filipinos were ordered into servitude on Spanish galleons, and in the 1800s, they helped man American whaling ships.Still, many Filipinos are hyper-aware of their own potential displacement.We have one of the world's youngest populations, one of the most alarming rising HIV/AIDS epidemics, and one of the fastest growing birth rates, yet still insist — through media depictions and everyday judgmental chitchat — on pushing a virginal, untouched national image.This is a country where two female presidents have been elected so far; where some of the most beautiful women in the world may be found; where boys growing up are spoiled by their mothers, and girls carry on a sort of lifelong situation comedy with their fathers, marked by a clash of wills and affectionate verbal takedowns. We relish the challenge of learning, through trial and error and cultural osmosis, to read between the lines, to interpret the nuances, to feel our way, as it were, in a society both matriarchal and macho, where we are saturated with stories and attitudes from more permissive places — we're looking at you, Netherlands — all while struggling with Catholic guilt and anxiety in this, our overwhelmingly Catholic country. He belted out the lyrics to "House of the Rising Sun." Then, he insisted on singing it again. It was in this type of loose, booze-flowing setting that he learned the most about the lives of his shipmates.