Vikings of Asia

From:    Mindanao Times

Date:     April 17, 2010

Title:      Vikings of Asia

By:          Marilyn C. Roque

Thousands of years ago, the ancestors of the Filipino people, the Austronesian speaking people traveled from the Asian Mainland by land bridges across the continental shelf to the South East Asian archipelago. They sailed to as far east as Polynesia and as far west as Madagascar aboard the ancient vessel, the Balangay.


Kaya ng Pinoy launched an exciting new undertaking that will retrace the migration of our ancestors across the oceans using only the native Balangay, faithfully built to the craftsmanship and materials used during ancient times. Navigation also remains accurate to the method that was used by the earliest mariners steering by the sun, the stars, wind, cloud formations, wave patterns and bird migrations.


The Balangay, Balanghai 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 in the Philippines.


We were first acquainted with this Butuan Boat in Butuan City some years back, where the Ayala Museum displays the artifacts. 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. Nine specimens were discovered in `976 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao, 3 of which have been excavated. Extensive investigation reveals that the extant boats found date back to 320, 990 and 1250 AD.


The finely built boat, made without the use of blueprints was handed down from one generation to another using 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 a sail of buri or nipa fiber or padding and is large enough to hold 60 to 90 people. It was used for cargo and raiding purposes, a proof that Butuan played a central role in trade.


The Balangay voyage hopes to reconnect the present with the glorious historical past and rekindle the maritime consciousness among the Filipinos. It also aims to install Enrique De Malacca, the Indo-Malay, his rightful place in history as the circumnavigator of the world.


Its crew has for its leader the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition climber, a former President of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, a veteran mountaineer and a marathoner. Art is also a former Undersecretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication. With him are Leo Oracion, Erwin Pastour Emata, Janet Belarmino-Sardena, Carina Dayondon, Noelle Wenceslao, Dr. Ted Esguerra, Fred Jamili, Voltaire Velasco, Lito Esparar, Mark Lim and a father and son team, Daniel Toto Calo and son Nico from Cabadbaran, Agusan.


A welcome party was tendered by the City Government of Davao upon their arrival. They crossed to Samal Island for lunch at BlueJaz where they experienced swimming at the giant slide and pool. They also held a tree planting near Don Julian Bridge, San Rafael Village. They are scheduled to sail and trace their way back to Sarangani on their way to Manila after the flag raising ceremony on Monday, April 18.


Masaua Hong Butuan and Diwata, called the Vikings of Asia by Cable News Network CNN, sailing the waters across the islands of the Philippine Archipelago, will be touching the ports of Vietnam, Singapore, China and other ports in Southeast Asia to continue their voyage to reconnect the present with the glories of our past!