Balangay Boat – (Butuan boat)

Butuan boatA friend of mine Greg May is based down in Butuan and its how I originally came to hear of the Butuan boats and their voyage. Historically they are a traditional boat of the Philippines and something you will come across on many photos well at least their logo design if not a real boat! Historically they are the the first wooden watercraft ever excavated in Southeast Asia.

Festival wise the Balanghai festival is celebrated in Butuan, Agusan del Norte in commemeration of the coming of the migrants from Borneo and Celebes to the Philippines on Balangay boats. Upon arrival in the 16th Century by the Spanish they quickly realised the Filipino people had a very organised network of towns and villages that they had given the name Barangays to. Now this is historically how important these boats are as the Austronesian word for “sailboat” is balangay and barangay originated from the sailboat name. How the coin of phrase developed is probably in relation to the network and things moving via the boats either way the importance of the boats to the Philippines being an island people is more than just a simple use of passage but historically its part of the Philippines and its development over the centuries.

Question where am I going with this? Now the issue is there were voyages made by Butuan boats and more planned as you can see below :-




The balangay replica docked at CCP Harbor Manila after its South East Asian expedition.

In 2009, the Kaya ng Pinoy, Inc. that conquered Mt. Everest in 2006 announced plans to re-construct the Balangay boat, with the help of Badjao and other tribal members. The Balangay will be sailed, tracing the routes of the Filipino Ancestors during the waves of Austronesian settlement throughout the Malay region and the Pacific.The special wood for construction came from the established traditional source in southern Philippines, specifically Tawi-Tawi. The team have pinpointed Badjao master boat builders, whose predecessors actually built such boats, and used traditional tools during the construction. The balangay was constructed at Manila Bay, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.The Balangay, navigated without the use of instruments, and only through the skills and traditional methods of the Filipino Sea Badjao people, will tour the Philippines travelling from Luzon through the Visayas to Mindanao, and Sulu, stopping off at numerous Philippine cities along the way to promote the project. The journey around the Philippine islands will cover a distance of 2,108 nautical miles or 3,908 kilometers. The second leg will see the Balangay navigate throughout South East Asia through to 2010, then Micronesia and Madascar the following year. The Balangay will then venture across the Pacific onward to the Atlantic and all the way around the world and back to the Philippines from 2012 to 2013.At February 4, 2011, the team arrived at Butuan City.

The balangay will navigate by the old method used by the ancient mariners – steering by the sun, the stars, the wind, cloud formations, wave patterns and bird migrations. Valdez and his team will rely on the natural navigational instincts of the Badjao. Apart from the Badjao, Ivatan are also experts in using the boat, a nation of over 90 million people living in the second largest island nation in the world. The voyage also aims to install Enrique De Malacca, the Indo-Malay, his rightful place in history as the first circum-navigator of the world.Their vessel, named "Ngandahig",can also be compared to the Hokulea voyages, and the voyages of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Now here is my issue the boats are a national pride, have used local tribes to construct them as well as gaining international fame and recognition as the news article above shows from CNN and I came across the Butuan boats all over the internet if you do a Google for them. So why is it that a boat is dumped in dry dock like this? From just knowing Greg May you will become very aware he knows his stuff when it comes to boats from sailing to constructing them which is how this photo appeared on the internet as his concerns for the boat as well as the fact its been built by hard work of local native people. Its a bit of a kick in the teeth for something that should be something kept in loving good condition. Greg’s own words describing the current docking situation.

“This hull is already damaged due to ignorance. Note the inverted keel and the stabilizing points against the weaker parts of the hull. Further, the keel is resting on an uneven bed of rocks and the supports are to keep the hull from listing during tidal shifts. Last time I saw the hull, last month, the port hull was submerged about at 40%, or approximately 2′ above the mean water line. This is why hulls rot quickly. The difference between the care of the private boat versus the care of this ‘historical treasure’ speaks for itself. Very sad.”

balangay boat - butuan boat

Greg has also been kind enough to send over a photo of how the boat should be docked to preserve it from damage as shown below.

position of drydocked vessel Greg’s comment on this “This is an example of how to care for a wooden boat. Notice the level keel and all weight on same.”

For me being business minded as well it seems a bit of a waste of opportunity on something the tourism industry could use to promote localised tourism and travel instead of leaving a boat literally to rot. I find myself when wondering around the Philippines that you wish there was more to do and here is a prime example of something that could be doing more if managed by a skille
d crew even if its used as a “traditional and historic” boat cruise. If it pays the crews salary and the cost of maintenance surely its a win win situation?

If your heading down to Butuan or want to know more about what is going on there drop by