Valdez, crew of Balangay get warm welcome in Cebu

Date: November 1, 2009
By: Caecent No-ot Magsumbol

Art Valdez and the crew of  Diwata ng Lahi received a warm welcome from Cebuanos the other day when they called in the port of Cebu. 

Diwata ng Lahi is a replica of "balangay” or the boat our ancestors used in sailing from Borneo to the Philippines thousands of years back. 

Valdez together with the core of the Philippine Mt. Everest Team – Leo Oracion, Erwin “Pastour” Emata, Carina Dayondon, Noelle Wenceslao, Janet Belarmino-Sardena, Dr. Ted Esguerra, Fred Jamili and Dr. Voltaire Velasco – or the “Kaya ng Pinoy Incorporated” are in the fourth leg of their ambitious voyage to retrace the migration routes of our forefathers. 

Diwata ng Lahi is built to the same specification of a balangay by master boat-builders from the islands of Sibutu and Sitangkay in Tawi-Tawi . 

Art Valdez was the leader behind the project to put the first Filipinos on the summit of Mt. Everest in 2006 and 2007. With his watchful eyes, the boat took form in 45 days. 

The boat sailed from Manila to Calaparan on September 1 for its maiden voyage. 

During the voyage, Valdez and his crew applied ancient navigational techniques using the sun, stars, wind clouds and even bird migration as point of reference. They will continue to use the same techniques throughout the voyage. 

So far, they haven’t lost their way or run aground. 

The voyage to Cebu is the fourth leg. On its way to the City, Diwata ng Lahi received cheers from townsfolk as it passed Bantayan Island, Daanbantayan, Bogo, Danao and Mactan. 

While in Cebu, Valdez and his crew were treated to sumptuous dinner by noted sportsman John Pages and his father Bunny Pages at Moon Café in Guadalupe city. 

From Cebu City, the voyagers will sail to Argao November 3 for their last stop in Cebu. Then they will be off to their fifth leg – from Dumaguete to Butuan via Siquijor, Bohol, Leyte and Cabadbaran and eventually to Silaug in the south. 

Valdez, during an interview with The FREEMAN, recalled the dangers they faced during their voyage. He said when a storm was battering the sea in September, causing some vessels to sink; they were hiding off Maestro Campo, a tiny island between Mindoro and Romblon. 

“We were like we’re in the Bermuda triangle but we managed to hide. During our stop (ashore after the storm), we also did some medical mission and symposium,” recalls Valdez. 

Valdez further said that the weather had him and his crew thinking of quitting or installing an engine to the boat for emergency purpose but decided against it because it will defeat the purpose of the journey. 

Sailing across the Philippines is only Phase 1 in the voyage that Valdez and his crew have embarked. 

After sailing in the Philippines, Diwata ng Lahi will sail to Malaysia to start the Southeast Asia leg of the journey next year. 

Valdez hopes to sail to Micronesia and Madagascar in 2011. By 2012, they will sail across the Pacific onwards to the Atlantic for around the world journey. They will be back in the Philippines by 2013. 

“Although we have target dates, we really do not know if we will be done by then. It just depends on the weather. But more than being around the world, we hope that the message we are trying to impart especially to the young ones will be instilled to them,” Valdez said. 

With a crew that conquered Mt. Everest, sailing around the world won’t be such an impossible dream. 

The project will highlight and challenge Filipino ingenuity and native survival skills in modern age by using ancient seafaring methods. 

Valdez takes note of the cheers of thousands of youngsters who greeted them and bade them goodbye during their visit to difference ports. This made him a believer. “One day, one of the two of them will emerge as a great leader because they are challenged with what we have done,” he said.