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Ancient Philippine Boats Complete Asian Odyssey








Filipino adventurers arrive on a replica of an ancient Philippine wooden boat called a balangay in Manila after a sea voyage following the routes and methods of ancient sea gypsies. The three vessels were made of carved wooden planks held together by wooden pins and pegs, and the 39-man crew navigated using the timeless methods of their ancient predecessors, team leader Art Valdez said.

13 December 2010 - 09H57

'Ancient' Philippine boats complete Asian odyssey

AFP - Three wooden-hulled replicas of boats made 1,700 years ago ended a Southeast Asian odyssey in Manila on Monday, having followed the routes and methods of ancient sea gypsies for more than a year.

The vessels, called balangay, were made of carved wooden planks held together by wooden pins and pegs, and the 37-man crew navigated using the timeless methods of their ancient predecessors, team leader Art Valdez said.

"Why did I launch into the expedition and the balangay? To capture the imagination of the people and send the message that we (Filipinos) can do so much," Valdez said after the boats sailed into Manila harbour.

The 14,000-kilometre (8,700-mile) journey began in September 2009 and took them to Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The vessels were replicas of boats discovered on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao in the 1970s that were carbon dated to 320 AD, the oldest seafaring vessels ever to have been found in the country.

Valdez said the voyage retraced the trading routes used by the sea gypsies who would have used the ancient boats as they roamed the Pacific.

The modern-day crew sailed using the stars as charts, and with the vessels powered only by the wind gusting into sails.

Valdez said the vessels held up well in stormy weather, surviving waves as high as two-storey houses, although there were some worrying moments.

"We were blown off course and we ended up in Indonesia. My plan was not to go to Indonesia but there was no way we could go against the winds and the waves," Valdez said, recalling a three-day storm in late October.

"I tied the three boats together so that we wouldn't be separated. So that whatever happened, we would be together."

Organisers said said the voyage also proved that ancient seafarers from the Philippines were astute navigators who built tough boats.