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Balangay flotilla crew back by Christmas


First Posted 07:44:00 11/05/2010

BACOLOD CITY—The crew of the balangay flotilla that is making an epic journey around Southeast Asia is scheduled to be reunited with their families at Christmas, crew leader Arturo Valdez said in an e-mail message on Tuesday.

The three-boat flotilla reached as far as Cambodia, but had to abandon an earlier plan to sail to Hanoi, Vietnam, for a planned rendezvous with President Benigno Aquino III, because of bad weather.

They crossed the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea intending to reach eastern Malaysia but heavy swells and strong winds flew the flotilla off course toward Indonesia to an island called Tambelan, Valdez said.

Exploiting the brief change of the monsoon winds, the balangays, pushed by favorable southerly winds, crossed the waters toward Kalimantan, Indonesia and sailed all the way to Kuching, Sarawak in East Malaysia, arriving there safely at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
Filipino residents in the area headed by Justin Bersales Jr., who was originally from Minapasok, Sagay, in Negros Occidental, hosted the balangay crew, Valdez said.

Valdez said the balangays failed to reach Vietnam because of the stormy seas in the coast caused by a series of typhoons that had crossed the South China Sea from the Philippines.

If they had gone north to Hanoi, the flotilla would not have been able to return home as scheduled, he explained.

The historic 14,000-kilometer voyage, which left Butuan City last July, was aimed at retracing the migration and trade routes of ancient Filipinos in Southeast Asia and China.

The three balangays—the Sama Tawitawi, Masawa Hong Butuan and Diwata ng Lahi—are replicas of the pre-colonial “balangay” boats.

The core members of the crew include Valdez, Janet Belarmino-Sardena, Carina Dayondon, Leo Oracion, Erwin Emata, Noelle Wenceslao, Dr. Ted Esguerra, Fred Jamili and Dr. Voltaire Velasco.

Sarnea, Dayondon, Oracion, Emata, Wenceslao, Esguerra, Jamili and Valdez were part of the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition team that planted the Philippine flag on the world’s highest mountain.