Balangay Boats Gear Up for Voyage in Honor of 500th Anniversary of the Battle of Mactan
In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Victory in Mactan and the first circumnavigation of the world, the National Quincentennial Committee approved the participation of balangay boats as part of the commemoration's official program.
The balangay boats will sail from San Vicente, Palawan, where the boats are currently berthed. From there, they shall cross the Sulu Sea to reach Butuan, the ancient kingdom of our pre-colonial ancestors.
From Butuan, the Balangay boats will sail to Cebu-Mactan with a few brief stops along the way. Afterward, the two boats will return to Palawan. The 2,000-kilometer voyage will take a month to complete.
The balangay was the first wooden watercraft excavated in Southeast Asia. The craftsmanship demonstrates the pre-colonial Filipinos’ seafaring knowledge and boat-building expertise.
In 2013, a massive balangay “mother boat” was discovered in Butuan, estimated to be around 800 years old and predating ships used by European explorers in the 16th century. The discovery highlights theories that the Philippines was a maritime center in Southeast Asia, and compels historians to rethink how Filipino seafarers were much more skilled and organized than previously thought.
The Butuan boat was used by early Filipinos to maintain trade relations with neighboring islands within the archipelago and empires around Southeast Asia during the 10th and 11th centuries.
According to the balangay crew led by former DOTC Undersecretary Art Valdez, they are working on a project for the balangay boats to visit major islands of our archipelago to raise awareness on the cultural heritage of Filipinos.
Balangay Proposed as National Boat of the Philippines
A lawmaker from Mindanao has proposed balangay to be recognized as a national boat of the Philippines, through House Bill 4953. "I am hoping the House Bill 4953 will be approved in the chamber on or before December 14, in time for the start of the 500-day countdown on December 14, 2019 to highlight the boatbuilding and seafaring genius of our ancestors," said Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun, principal author of the bill declaring the balangay as the National Boat of the Philippines.
"This next 2,000-kilometer round trip Balangay voyage would take about a month to complete," said Fortun, after his bill was approved on second reading at the House of Representatives.
In 1987, President Corazon Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 86 declaring the balangays in the vicinities of Butuan City as national treasures. It also declares the sites where these balangays were found as protected archeological sites in accordance with the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act.