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‘Balangay’ takes a break, will sail anew in January

From:    Philippine Daily Inquirer

Date:     December 18, 2009

By:          Tina G. Santos

After 90 days, 35 port calls, eight typhoons and 894 nautical miles from Luzon to the Visayas, the “Diwata ng Lahi,” a recreated balangay or pre-Hispanic Philippine water vessel, is set to complete its voyage of discovery around the country after it explores Mindanao early next year.

“We look forward to immersing ourselves in the wonderful culture of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. After witnessing the national pride enveloping our fellow Filipinos in Luzon and Visayas, the balangay team is optimistic that we will learn more of our southern heritage,” said Art Valdez, the boat’s skipper.

The Diwata crew has returned to Manila for a Christmas break while the boat undergoes repairs at the Butuan City port.

Another ‘balangay’

When it resumes its voyage in January, the Diwata will be joined by another balangay built by residents of Butuan, the site of a pre-Hispanic settlement where original balangay were unearthed by archaeologists and from which the expedition’s sixth leg will take off.

Valdez said the two vessels will sail together for the rest of the expedition. The sixth leg will end in Ozamis City.

The seventh leg will start in Oroquieta and sail on to Dapitan, Sindangan, Labason, Siocon, Sibuco and end in Zamboanga City.

The balangay crew of 18 is comprised o the Philippine team that conquered Mount Everest several years ago and Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

Eighth leg

The eighth leg will call at Panubigan, Port Banga, Olutunga, Limbug Cove, Pagadian, Malabang and Cotabato City.

The stops, Valdez said, were strategically chosen based on the balangay’s maintenance and docking specifications.

The Diwata’s historic voyage started in September this year, setting off on Manila Bay behind the Cultural Center complex in Pasay City. Its first stop was in Cavite.

The crew makes its way not by relying on modern navigational equipment but by following the sun and the stars, looking for familiar landmarks, and often asking passing fishermen for directions.

In the last two legs, the boat will sail to Davao City, Sarangani Islan and Bongao, among the 19 ports that comprise the latter part of its itinerary. The last stop will be Sibuto in Tawi-Tawi.

Migration, trade routes

The voyage hopes to retrace the migration and trade routes of ancient Filipinos and to prove that far back Filipinos were already adept sailors.

More importantly, Valdez said, the journey has given the crew a chance to interact with people from different communities as well as an opportunity to share lessons on protecting the environment, particularly marine life, on disaster management, climate change, among other things.

Dr. Ted Esguerra, the boat’s resident doctor, said the warmth and hospitality of the people they have met has more than compensated for the sacrifices they have had to endure during the voyage.

“Our journey has become a travelogue of sorts that showcases the best character of the Filipino and the beauty of our country just waiting to be discovered,” said Valdez.

“It proves that cultural rebirth is possible and there are more things we can still learn and should be proud of as Filipinos.”