Luna Compound, Brgy. Bading, Butuan City
Province of Butuan
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8.967911°N 125.540092°E Taken 2009-2011
The 3 balangay boats, Diwata ng Lahi, Masawa hong Butuan, and Sama Tawi-Tawi, are replicas of an ancient Philippine boat first excavated in Butuan in the 1970s. The oldest, carbon dated to about 320AD, these wooden boats, characterize with a carved-out planks edge adjoined through pins or dowels, were constructed by the Sama (Badjao) people of Sibutu and Sitangkai in Tawi-Tawi without any blueprints, but only through the knowledge handed down by their ancestors.
Made entirely of hard woods like the dugong, the boats use no metal nails with the planks lashed together using cabo negro, a kind of grass rope and sealed water-tight using gargar, a tree resin.
The balangay was a house boat as well as a vessel of war and commerce. Whole families lived inside these boats to which our barangay, the smallest unit of government was derived.
Propelled by wind using colorful sails and rowers on each side, our ancestors used these majestic boats in their migration; guided by the sun, the moon, and the stars as well as navigational aids such as wave patterns and seasonal wind changes.
As early as 10th Century AD, roughly 500 years before Magellan, according to the Chinese Song Shi (history), people from the kingdom of Butuan had already established trading relations with the kingdom of Champa in what is now South Vietnam. By the 11th century, Butuan was the center of trade and commerce in the Philippines and was able to send a tribute mission, using boats very much like the balangays, during the Sung Dynasty.
Antonio Pigafetta, Ferdinand Magellan’s chronicler during the voyage of 1521 described the balangay as sometimes having 100 rowers on one side commanded by proud warriors and chieftains.
Such were the maritime prowess and achievements of our pre-colonial forefathers; the forgotten heritage and consciousness that the Voyage of the Balangay hopes to rekindle.
Constructed in 41 days at CCP in Manila, the first balangay, Diwata ng Lahi (Muse of the Race), is 18 meters long by 3 meters wide. Masawa hong Butuan (Masawa of Butuan), in attribution to Ferdinand Magellan’s suppose 1st Easter Mass in March 31, 1521 at the Masawa delta near the entrance to the Agusan River, is larger at 25 meters long by 6 meters wide and finished in 60 days. Balangay Sama Tawi-Tawi (Sama tribe of Tawi-Tawi), pays homage to the Badjao people that built all three boats, is at 23 meters long and 4.5 meters wide and constructed at Luna Compound, Brgy. Bading in Butuan City.
Sama Tawi-Tawi is the only balangay that has an engine. It acts as a service boat for the flotilla and as a lead boat in navigation, communications and supply. Built like a kumpit, trading and commercial boats of Southern Philippines; it houses 8 bunk beds, a 120hp engine, a generator, storage and water tanks at the lower deck while the upper deck comprises of the pilot house, the kitchen and yes, the comforts of a toilet.
Built at roughly the same time as Diwata ng Lahi, the lesser known “workhorse” of the fleet, Tiririt, is a 3 meter long boat that is mainly use for scouting and tugging.
September 1, 2009 marked the start of the voyage in Manila with only one boat, the Diwata ng Lahi; then subsequently, accompanied by Masawa hong Butuan for the Mindanao leg of the journey; and finally joined by Sama Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga onwards to Southeast Asia and back.
Balangay Diwata ng Lahi, being the first replica, was declared by the National Museum as an Important Cultural Property and is on permanent display at the museum grounds in Manila.