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Date Posted: 02/01/11

February 1, 2011 - Masawa Hong Butuan is home

By: Arturo Valdez

8:20 AM - Finally Masawa Hong Butuan came home to where it all started, its homeport at Brgy Bading, Butuan City at 4PM 31 January, exactly one year after it sailed around the Philippines and Southeast Asia. But not before we got one of the scariest ride of the voyage after going through an LPA that is dumping 300MM of water yesterday alone per Voltaire's weather advisory, plus swells that goes as high as 20ft especially going through Surigao Strait.We are the only small sea craft at sea yesterday trying to get out of the possible route of tyhoon 'Amang' traversing Central Visayas per PAGASA, aiming to reach Butuan City for shelter.But the toughest ride was when we were maneuvering to cross Butuan Bay towards Nasipit Port. We're hit by 15-20 ft broadside swell at our starboard. Balangay Sama TawiTawi was heeling for several times at 45 degrees. All unsecured objects aboard were flying and at one time half of Sama TawiTawi went airborne when it plowed head on against a 20ft swell as we finally decided to give up getting through Nasipit port. We were criss crossing the Bay whipped by strong NE wind frantically searching for a shelter we can safely anchor or dock
but found none. Finally, Butuan skipper John Manginsay and Navy Swagman Ronel Santelices pointed the mouth of Agusan River as our best option to get out of the boiling sea and into safety. We were not familiar with the entrance at the mouth of the river as white caps are showing all over signifying that sandbars and shallow waters abound but after getting a cue from the ever supportive Coast Guard personnel Tobias, we followed a 25 meter opening without white caps and safely made it inside the river channel and away from the raging sea.By then Butuan CDCC speed boat with Butuan volunteer Dicky Navarra was around whom his sister Michelle mobilized after I called her earlier to be on standby,
first time I ever did in the entire course of the voyage, if ever something will happen to us. I thought 'so near, yet we almost did'nt make it.'Somehow the Nasipit port would have been a good shelter but strange it may be, Masawa Hong Butuan stubbornly wanted to go straight home in Brgy Bading to complete her one year anniversary and birthday.

In every tough leg of our voyage, be it in Ternate,Romblon, Surigao (2X), Cuyo, Caluya, Semirara,Caburan, Calavite, Verde Passage,Masbate,Balabac, and in foreign waters of Tambelan, Indonesia, Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, our fervent prayers to the Lord Almighty put a protective mantle to the 40man crew out of harms way. But also strange it may be to explain, and we can really feel it -the spirit of our seafaring forefathers and ancient master mariners are riding with us all the way, steering, guiding and keeping the boat and
crew reached safely every port of destination.By rebuilding and replicating a pre colonial voyage to sail in modern times, the spirit of our ancestors joined and guided a band of adventurers with no seafaring experiences to a voyage for 15 months and showed to all that it can really be done.

Oftentimes,people only see the smiles, giggles and high spirit of the crew upon arrival, but just like in our Mt Everest quest, what everyone see is only the finished product. Oblivious to most of them are the sweats, tears,sacrifices, fears and life threatening struggles behind
these challenges and success. I was emotional and teary eyed as we plowed through the flooded Butuan River,finally relieved that I brought Masawa, just like Diwata, safely at its final homeport.

After settling down for a good rest last night, the Balangay crew is busy today assisting Butuan City in rescue effort to save lives of people endangered by the flooded Agusan River.
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