The second replica of an ancient boat that was used by Filipino seafarers many centuries ago is now in the water and is geared up for an epic voyage.

The 24.7-meter-long balangay, christened “Masawa hong Butuan,” was finally cut loose from its moorings around noon Sunday, and was greeted by a riot of cheers and applause from the crowd of well-wishers and tourists who witnessed the event.

It took three hours of hard work and two backhoes to lift the wooden boat from the muddy grounds of Luna compound and place it into the churning waters of Agusan River. The seven-ton boat was then towed by a tugboat up north towards the Masawa delta.

“Masawa hong Butuan” will join the newly-repaired “Diwata ng Lahi” when it leaves this city for the second phase of its voyage on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the coastal waters of Barangay Masawa.

A third boat, LEPA, will also join in the later part of the expedition, which will start with several stops in Mindanao before proceeding to an Asian tour.

“We are showing the whole world now that we Filipinos can do the impossible because we by nature are born natural seafarers,” said expedition leader Art Valdez of Kaya Ng Pinoy Foundation.

According to the expedition’s one-page itinerary of the Mindanao voyage, the first stop will be the seaside resort Jurassic Park in Carmen, Agusan del Norte and then Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.

From Gingoog City, the boats will dock in the smaller ports of Balingoan town in Misamis Oriental, Benoni town in Camiguin Island, and the Cagayan de Oro City pier. From Cagayan they will pass Initao town port in Iligan City, and the cities of Ozamis and Oroquieta in Misamis Occidental.

In Zamboanga del Norte, the all-Filipino crew will pay homage and respect to the Jose Rizal Shrine in Dapitan City. From there, they will pass and dock in towns of Manukan, Sindangan, Labason, Siocon, and Sibuco all in Zamboanga del Norte before proceeding to Zamboanga City pier. The last port of call for the around Mindanao trip is Sibuto in Tawi-Tawi.

Once the Mindanao adventure is completed in March, the next phase of the voyage – one that will take the fleet to many island stops throughout Southeast Asia – will begin, according to Valdez.

The construction of the wind-driven boat worth P1.6 million was shouldered by the Butuan Global Forum Inc., an association of Butuanons based locally and abroad; the Kaya Ng Pinoy Foundation; and the Butuan Historical and Cultural Foundation Inc.

Butuan folk consider the vessel meaningful after remnants of around eight ancient balangay boats were excavated around the province in 1978.

The oldest boat that was dug was carbon-dated at 320 AD. – Ben Serrano/KBK, GMANews.TV

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