Balangay: the Maritime Marvel of the Natural World

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Even the ravishing tides, roaring winds, and the radiant scorching heat of the sun never stopped the courage of the great naval vessel that travelled through thousands of miles, without the use of technological developments present today. The strong will, pure heart of dedication, and the eagerness of exploration never held back the spirit of Butuanons, back then, until now.

Maneuvered by the guidance of light, power of wind, the map of the stars at night and the formation of clouds by day, the Balangay with the spirit of its maritime ancestors, once calmly ruled the tides of the pacific floating amongst its kind. Manned mostly by men, these large vessels of the ancient city of Butuan crossed and sailed the biggest ocean in the world linking us with the South Asian Nations such as Campa (Vietnam) and other prominent civilizations.

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The Balangay first mentioned in the 16th Century, Magellan’s Chronicler Pigafetta documented the existence of this Butuan boat fit for a king: “We saw come two long boats, which they call Ballangai, full of men, and the largest of them was their king sitting under an awning of mats”. These wooden watercrafts initiated as transportation for both trading and raiding, proved their craftsmanship and seamanship skills as evidence of pre-colonial use of science and technology.

Our seafaring forefathers navigated the seas making the early primitive concepts of their discovery of the natural world as their backbone. Because of the superiority of the boat’s design, they were affiliated to the Vikings as maritime lords in this part of the world. With their structure of having no motor nor outrigger, the native practices of building these large vessels were just one of hundreds made by our pre-colonial ancestors that link the natives of the archipelago to science and technology.

Made by Dungon wood and Kamagong wood for its planks and pegs respectively, our tribal ancestors used traditional tools, timber materials and ancient ship building methods to build the Balangay. Their initial predictions about nature and the universe: steering by the sun, the moon and the stars, following cloud formations, tracking wave patterns, and using their knowledge of bird migrations, and their application of their ancient ship building methods kept Balangays afloat for many centuries. It is with their early concepts of looking through the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world and their skillful approach of their majestic design made their source of life and their feats possible.

Our pre-colonial ancestors with the help of their pursuit of knowledge about the natural world paved way for the maritime marvel – the Balangay. And through this important symbol of our heritage we come to know that in those far-off days, we had the technology, the capability, the boat-building skills, and the sailing knowledge to navigate the seas of Southeast Asia to as far as the Indian Ocean Sea. It is through the Balangay we pride our Filipino hearts that only in the Philippines, this flotilla of such prehistoric wooden boat exists throughout the world. With its strength withstanding the harsh tides and with its unique framework that no other vessels of this type have been found in the world, our glorious heritage of this boat reflects and embodies who we are as Filipinos. We keep ourselves sturdy and resilient amidst the ravaging tides of change and power our minds with the knowledge, and ingenious methods to face and withstand the raging waves of hardships and the demands of time.

Indeed, it is a magnificent work of perfection. A boat which can withstand such obstacles at sea that integrates itself to the Filipino’s heart pure of courage and determination. Ideas that start as small as a speck attached to a flower that creates a great ripple effect for the future. It paved way to many innovations that led to great discoveries of naval strategies.

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