This September 18, three traditional wooden watercraft from the Philippines known as “balangay” will be docking at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. The three boats—Masawa Hong Butuan, Diwata ng Lahi, and Sama Tawi-Tawi, manned by 38 crewmembers, will be visiting the Lion State for a few days as part of the Voyage of the Balangay. The Voyage is a project of the Kaya ng Pinoy Foundation, the same people behind the successful scaling of Mt. Everest by an expedition team from the Philippines in 2006. It aims to retrace the migration of ancient Filipinos across the oceans using the native balangay, faithfully reconstructed according to tradition, and relying on navigation methods used by the earliest mariners.
The first balangay set sail from the Manila Yacht Club Marina in July 2009 for the first leg of the Voyage, which was meant to cover, by the end of the year, 2,108 nautical miles and 62 ports all over the Philippine archipelago. In spite of some delays due to technical issues and the elements, the navigation of the Philippine islands was completed by mid-August 2010, and the balangay then moved on to international waters, making its first foreign stop in Malaysia, followed by Brunei, and now, Singapore.
From here, it will be departing for Indonesian waters to complete its Southeast Asian journey. After this, the team, which includes representatives from the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, as well as master boat-makers and mariners from the Badjao ethnic group from the Southern Philippines, aims to sail to Madagascar to the west and Polynesia to the east, since historical records indicate that ancient Filipinos also traveled to these outposts using the balangay.
The balangay are said to be the earliest wooden watercraft excavated in the Southeast Asian region. Those interested to glimpse the present-day replicas of the 4th-century boats may visit the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club on the viewing dates to be announced on the Philippine Embassy website. Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy is also organizing a series of activities for the balangay’s crew members, including interaction with Singapore officials as well as visits to the city-state’s cultural and tourism highlights.
The crew is headed by Mr. Arturo T. Valdez, a former Undersecretary of the Philippines’ Department of Transportation and Communications and past President of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, who also led the first Philippine Mt. Everest expedition.