During its 26th anniversary celebration in June 2009. Coast Guard District Western Visayas adopted seemingly “old-new” theme- passionate coastguarding. Old because “passion” is an oft-used word to describe something or someone of intensity, to the point of being a cliché. New because the word is not a favorite to describe or characterize a technical thing, more so a technical service that is engaged in the serious business of safety and security. But despite the lack of bravado, they are interesting and substantial words that one can live by.

As the Philippine Coast Guard celebrates its 108th founding anniversary, there is that compelling urge to visit those words anew. For the words seem to sound a theme good not only for one anniversary but for many anniversaries. It might even be a theme for “all seasons”.

At a glance it may seem unlikely theme. The words do not seem to fit, or go along well like a mismatched pair. It doesn’t evoke the aura of loftiness, nay seriousness of common themes – say “Dedicated and Committed Coast Guard”. It also doesn’t conjure the nationalistic fervor of one framed in the national language, like – “Malinis, mapayapa at ligtas na karagatan” Still, the words have certain charm and appeal that seem to resonate well to those who desire (or demand) more from the Coast Guard. They reflect the yearning better and go beyond the normal. Although the operative word is coast guarding, one cannot help to be titillated by the modifier. Indeed, one is wont to think of the sensual or temporal when we speak of “passionate”, ignoring its other equally interesting meanings. Even the Greek ‘pathos’ where the word passionate was derived exudes several meanings e.g. – something that happen to you bad or good, intense feelings of want or need, showing great love and affection, etc. Just the first two definitions could already evoke a wide spectrum of meanings and interpretations, a testament to the encompassing and overarching power of the word.

Perhaps, nobody could describe passion as articulately and passionately as Brian Norms (2007) when he said, thus; “Passion is a gift of the spirit combined with the totality of all the experiences we live through. It endow each one of us with the power to live and communicate with unbridled enthusiasm. Passion enables us to overcome obstacles and to see the world as a place of infinite potential. The passionate spirit looks at very occurrence and discovers the golden kernels of what can be, what should be and will be”.

How about coast guarding? An amalgam of the words coast and guard, the fusion assumes an altogether different connotation or rather a more encompassing nature that the sun of the meanings of the individual words, a case of the whole becoming bigger than the sum of the parts. Indeed, literally combining the definitions of ‘coast’ and ‘guard’ would only yield a limited definition of watching over a specific area. Though ‘to guard’ may mutate into varying dimension and proportion as to protect or prevent from harm. Indeed, even the origins of many old Coast Guards have provided limited function to ‘guarding’. The US Coast Guard’s guarding for example started out as enforcing customs laws and fight against smuggling while that of the Philippine Coast Guard’s was maintenance of the lighthouses. But today’s coastguarding runs the whole gamut of activities that a Coast Guard Organization performs. It includes but not limited to the following functions; conducting search and rescue at sea, promoting and enforcing safety regulations, for the safety of shipping; prevention of marine pollution, enforcement of fishery laws, preventing  smuggling at sea, fighting piracy, disaster response, protection of ports, and enforcement of the other law and regulations at sea. Hence, to coastguard (note that it’s written as one word) may now specifically mean to undertake any of those activities mentioned.

Coastguarding is different and separate from actions undertaken by navies in pursuit of their countries defense although to some extent (and normally during emergencies) coast guards may work hand-in-hand with them. This is inevitable in view of the operational environment and the armaments it is also allowed to posses.

With the nature of the works and roles a Coast Guard performs, it behooves upon the organization to demand from each member work ethic and character beyond what they are used to do. It demands passionate coastguarding. While coastguarding may be considered a job, even 24/7 job, it may not be enough for one just to serve the country. While it may be considered service to the people, it may not be enough to sacrifice for it. Passionate coastguarding is all of the above…and more.

Passionate coastguarding is to have a heart and zeal to do coastguarding works beyond the role, routine and normal. It is sailing at sea when you don’t have fair winds, clear skies and following seas. It is actually liking the job in the most unlikeable situations. It is going the extra mile when you have reached the finish line. It is when the gratification of doing it is enough compensation for the job. Indeed, the essence if passionate coastguarding can be diverse in as many ways as one can feel and imagine.

A German poet Hebbel once said “nothing great in the word has been accomplished without passion.” To be great is a tall order. We just want to be better coastguardsmen. Passionate coastguarding maybe the answer to this.

Let it be not the only themes for anniversaries, but a credo to live by.