Thousands Sailed the Balangay in Celebration of MANA Mo
PASAY CITY 28 September 2020 – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office (MOAO) went on a virtual voyage of discovery and learning on the Balangay through a public webinar on 23 September 2020 that attracted a live global audience of more than a thousand viewers in celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo).
Entitled “The Balangay through the Lens of Philippine Maritime History and Boat Culture”, the webinar featured four leading experts, archeologists, and voyagers who elaborated on the genius and expertise of Filipinos in seamanship from pre-colonial times.
The Balangay also showcased the wealth of Filipinos’ ancient maritime traditions and history connecting the islands with great civilizations.
In his opening remarks, Assistant Secretary Igor G. Bailen stated that the celebration of MANA Mo is intended to raise national consciousness on maritime and archipelagic issues and policies. He highlighted that the Filipinos’ connectivity to the sea needs to be protected and preserved like an inheritance.
Dr. Maria Bernadette L. Abrera of the University of the Philippines Diliman provided an overview of Philippine maritime history, noting for instance how early marauding islanders conducted seaborne raids to extend their political influence, thereby leading to the creation of ever larger communities. She also discussed the important role of Philippine shipbuilding in the Galleon Trade.
Dr. Ligaya S.P. Lacsina of the National Museum discussed the archeology of the Butuan boats and the lashed-lug boatbuilding tradition that underscored the excellent workmanship of Filipinos evident in the construction of the boats. She also shared photos of the remains of Butuan boats from their excavations in northern Mindanao.
Dr. Aurora Roxas-Lim of the Ateneo de Manila University focused on movements by sea and stated that the Austronesian peoples, including those in the Philippines, were expert boat builders and navigators who ventured across the oceans including to China and thus, established trade routes. The long Filipino tradition of seafaring only ceased after colonizers disrupted inter-island trade and fostered religious hostility.
Former DENR and DOTC Undersecretary Arturo T. Valdez, who led the expedition, shared his experience in building Balangay using known time-tested techniques as a way to rekindle the maritime consciousness of Filipinos.
Undersecretary Valdez and his team of adventurers then undertook an expedition that traveled across the archipelago in 2009 and around Southeast Asia in 2010, recreating voyages of the Balangay from material evidence traced back to 600 years ago. He underscored the importance of how such voyages have instilled pride in the Philippines’ maritime heritage that is intrinsic to the national identity.
The recorded webinar can still be accessed at https://youtu.be/tZi6nOkWDLU. END