Filipino 'balangay' wooden boats sail for China

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Balangay

A team led by Arturo Valdez, a former undersecretary of the Department and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), set sail on board three wooden 'Balangay' boats in Manila Bay for China across the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) on April 28, 2018.

The three boats are replicas of the wooden plank-build and edge-pegged boats believed to be more than a thousand years old that were excavated in Barangay Libertad, Butuan City. Greg Hontiveros, author of the book "Butuan of a Thousand Years" said one of the boats, called Balangay 1, was carbon dated to be more than 1,600 years old. Its relics suggest that the boat measured 15 to 18 meters in length and 3 meters wide across the beam.

The relics are now kept inside the old building of the Balangay Shrine Museum in Libertad, near a swamp, where the boats were extracted.

Valdez, an independent director of Energy Development Corp. (EDC), is the same man who led the first successful Philippine expedition to Mount Everest in 2006, followed by the “first and only women traverse” of Mt. Everest by three Filipino women in May 2007, a feat unsurpassed in the history of Himalayan mountaineering.

Since then, Valdez embarked on a project to build 'Balangay' boats, which are replicas of a boat dug up in Butuan City and carbon dated 320 A.D. Valdez along with his crew of fellow Filipinos earlier sailed in the Pacific Ocean around the Philippines and Indian Ocean across Southeast Asia for 15 months powered by the wind.

This time, Valdez along with 28 crew members, including three women, boarded three identical 18-meter long, three-meter wide, wooden boats with a roofed area and set off from Manila Bay for China to retrace a historic trip by Sultan Paduka Batara in 1417 and showcase longstanding maritime ties between the Philippines and China.

Valdez hopes to sail 1,000 kilometers across the South China Sea to reach land in Xiamen on May 2. Two of the boats are powered by engines and the third only by wind. Chinese ports will not allow a purely wooden boat to dock, unless accompanied by motor boats.

It will be the expedition team's fourth try to cross the South China Sea, after strong winds and rough seas thwarted three previous attempts.

Early trade with China and the Philippines was made possible by watercraft, according to historians.

29 April 2018

 

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