Nippon Maru

SSEAYP Onboard Nippon Maru

Finally, after holding this off for so long, I finished writing the last instalment (still up for consideration) of my SSEAYP experience. After all, we spent most of our days during the program onboard a cruise ship called Nippon Maru. A lot of people ask me what exactly happened while we were cruising the sea for thirty days and so I hope I am able to answer your questions here. Before getting into the juicy parts, however, I wish to introduce you to some of the common terms and abbreviations that we use just so I can get it out of the way.

Nippon Maru
Batch Dilaab!

Nippon Maru



Participating Youth


National Leader


Youth Leader


Assistant Youth Leader


Discussion Group


Solidarity Group

PPY, JPY, BPY, etc.

PY from a specific country (first letter of country name)


Cruise Operating Committee


National Presentation


Voluntary Activities

Major Activities

Discussion Group Activities

Nippon Maru
DG 3 PPYs with KD

I had to put this first because this is the essence of the entire program. Anyone who’s been an ex-PY would know that there became change of perspective from SSEAYP being a cultural exchange program to a socially relevant program. Onboard Nippon Maru, we have DG sessions. Prior to the program, we have already been assigned to specific DGs that we will join. There were eight DGs this year and I was assigned to DG 3 – Environment and DRR which happened to be my top choice. Other DGs tackled were social entrepreneurship, cross-cultural understanding, education, food and nutrition, health education (measures against HIV/AIDS), and international relations. Each DG is well-represented by all participating countries.

During discussions, we learned more about topics, social issues, ways to help the community, and many more. Each DG is headed by a facilitator and activities can vary depending on how the facilitator handles the group discussions. I was happy to be part of DG 3 and I feel really lucky to have KD as our facilitator.

It was a great chance for me and the other PPYs to share our experiences because Philippines, as we know, experiences a lot of disasters every year. At the end of the sessions, subgroups are made and each group will come up with a post-program activity proposal which we can introduce to our contingent for further assessment and development.

Solidarity Group Activities

Nippon Maru

It’s a bit hard to explain what SGs are but they’re basically groups composed of PYs from all countries. There were 11 SGs this year, from SG A to K. I belonged to SG E with Orange and FB and our NL was Jenny from Singapore.

There are many SG activities onboard organized by a steering committee which is why our SG-mates are pretty much our closest friends onboard other than the fact that most of us are together in the same cabin. Each SG will have their own experiences and memorable moments so I believe that no SG is better than the other, although there are times when we can’t help but compete against each other. Haha!

National Presentation

Nippon Maru
Bathala squad

NPs are our chance to showcase our country’s culture. All contingents really prepared for the 75-minute performance. I got to learn more about all the countries and I really appreciated all the presentations.

For our NP, I was assigned to sing two songs and one dance number. We made sure that all PPYs and our NL would perform during our NP. What’s more is that we tried to make all our numbers as authentic as possible. Our Cultural Committee took the extra mile to experience first-hand some of the performances in their specific origins. We were also privileged to have a theatre director, theatre artist, classical musician and dancer, and many other talented PPYs. What I love most about our NP preparations was when I learned more about the different cultures of my country. It was very interesting to see native head accessories, authentic bamboo instruments, beautifully woven clothes, and a whole lot more. I just couldn’t help but fall in love with the Philippines!

Voluntary Activities

VAs, from the name itself, are activities that can be organised voluntarily by PYs. We can organise any activity that we want. These events can range from massage tutorial, to pajama party to even drinking feast! For our VA, we organised two activities: a pajama Christmas party and a film showing of a classic heartbreaking movie, One More Chance. Needless to say, we all enjoyed watching the movie. Haha!

Daily Activities

Morning and Night Calls and Exercise

Everyday onboard, there are morning and night calls, and exercise. Each SG is assigned to facilitate all three activities in a day. Some SGs did it more than two times. It is up to the SG members to decide on how they can make the calls and exercise fun and creative.

Morning Assembly

Nippon Maru
Flag hoisting ceremony

Morning assemblies were usually held from 9:15 AM to 9:45 AM at the Dolphin Hall just right before the official activities which usually start at 10:00 AM. Everyday, an NL goes on stage to make a run through of the day’s schedule and give us a few reminders. Then Admin staff will also make some announcements. Afterwards, PYs are given the chance to shine on stage for promotions, shoutouts, and other announcements. Also, unless a PY is sick, everyone is required to attend the assembly. We also have temperature checks everyday to make sure that everyone is healthy. We usually line up per SG so it’s our chance to mingle with our groupmates.

Eating and Others

Ah! My favourite part! People who knew me onboard can attest to this. I gained about 5 kg during the programme. The food onboard is good and I always love days when there’s ice cream and non-halal food. It is also part of SSEAYP culture to have noodle parties in cabins as alternative for food at the dining hall.

From 9:00 PM until 11:00 PM, PYs can also enjoy drinks at the midship bar. I really only go there for Kuya Jojo, the Filipino bartender. Actually, most people go there for Kuya Jojo! He’s the life of the party and is super fun to talk to. Of course, we are not allowed to be drunk so NLs always remind us to drink responsibly like the adults that we are supposed to be. 😉

Free Day

Nippon Maru

The programme is jam-packed with so many activities onboard and during homestay so it is imperative that we get some rest. We would usually have free days right after each country program. The pool would also be open for a few hours so PYs can enjoy “swimming.” During free time, I’m usually either in my cabin, napping (my cabinmates would now) or at my favourite spot on the 5th floor, reading a book or playing music with friends.

There are many other activities that I probably missed out but the ones I mentioned are those that I can remember. There are a lot of things that go on while we are cruising and we are usually very busy. I learned so many things during the programme and it truly was a life-changing experience. Perhaps I’ll write more about my personal insights some other day but for now, this is what I can share.

For those who are interested in joining the programme, I highly encourage you to do so. Applications are almost open again and I suggest that you check National Youth Commission’s website (for Filipinos) or your local youth organizations in your country (if you’re from another country).


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