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What is the Balangay?

Early Filipinos were a people of the sea, living in coastal villages or near rivers. Boats were linked to many aspects of Filipino life: fishing, trade, warfare, “piracy” (trade-raiding for goods and slaves), travel, communication, and dwelling.

The Balanghai or Balangay or Butuan Boat is a plank boat adjoined by a carved-out plank edged through pins and dowels. It was first mentioned in the 16th Century in the Chronicles of Pigafetta, and is known as the oldest Pre-Hispanic watercraft found in the Philippines.

The first wooden watercraft excavated in Southeast Asia, the Balangay is only found in the Philippines where a flotilla of such prehistoric wooden boat exists throughout the world. Nine specimens were discovered in 1976 in Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte, Mindanao and 3 of which have been excavated. Examination and extensive investigation reveals that the extant boats found in the excavation site date back to 320, 990 and 1250 AD.

The finely built boat, made without the use of blueprints but was taught from one generation to another, uses a technique still used by boat makers of Sibutu Island. Made 15 meters long and 3 to 4 meters wide, the Balangay is propelled by sail of buri or nipa fiber or padding and is large enough to hold 60 to 90 people. With the Balangay’s size, it was used for cargo and raiding purposes, giving proof that Butuan played a central role in trade.