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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House committee on revision of laws approves bill declaring the balangay as national boat
Writer: Rowena B. Bundang, Media Affairs and Public Relations Service
29 November 2015 05:54:12 AM

The House Committee on Revision of Laws has approved a proposal to declare the balangay as the National Boat of the Philippines.

The committee chaired by Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan) approved the proposal embodied in House Bill 4879 authored by Rep. Lawrence Lemuel H. Fortun (1st District, Agusan del Norte) which aims to ensure that future generations of Filipinos will recognize the invaluable contribution of their forefathers in shaping the country's maritime tradition and in passing on the values of solidarity, harmony, determination, courage and bravery through the declaration of the balangay as the nation's national boat.

"The declaration serves as a testament to and symbol of the country's rich ancient maritime history. The balangay is a source of national pride that should not be forgotten. It is time to formally include the balangay in our roster of national symbols," said Fortun.

The bill refers to the balangay as a prehistoric plank boat adjoined by carved-out planks edged through pins and dowels. Previously, balangay boats were discovered in the late 1970s in Butuan City by archaeologists from the National Museum.

According to Fortun, there are nine balangay boats known to be in existence, the oldest of which has been carbon-dated 320 A.D.

The committee on revision of laws adopted the proposal of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) that the term balangay shall not refer to the Butuan boat alone but to all balangays found in other parts of the country as well.

"The balangay is a finely built boat designed for long-distance navigation made without the use of blueprints and was taught to be made from one generation to another using an ancient technique that has been preserved and is still employed by boat makers of Sibutu island. The boat was first mentioned in the 16th Century in the Chronicles of Pigafetta, and is known as the oldest watercraft found in the Philippines," said Fortun.

Used by early Filipinos to maintain relations with neighboring islands and empires in Southeast Asia, Fortun said the boat is a testament to the ingenuity and ancient boatbuilding craftsmanship of the Filipino, and the sophisticated maritime industry in the country during pre-colonial times.

"The balangay is a symbol of the solidarity, harmony, determination, courage, bravery and resilience of the Filipino community. The balangay deserves its rightful place, not only in the museum but more importantly in the consciousness of every Filipino," said Fortun.

Fortun, a vice chairman of the Committee on Reforestation, said the balangay was the first-ever wooden watercraft excavated in Southeast Asia and demonstrates the early Filipinos' boat-building and seamanship expertise during the pre-colonial times.

Found only in the country where a flotilla of such ancient boats exists, the lawmaker said the balangay was utilized by Filipino ancestors to maintain trade relations with neighboring islands around the country and empires around Southeast Asia.

"The extensive utilization of the boat for this purpose confirms the active involvement of our forefathers in robust commerce activities in Asia as early as the 10th and 11th centuries," said Fortun.

On March 9, 1987, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 86, declaring the balangays in the vicinities of Butuan City as National Cultural Treasures, and the sites where these are found to be Archaeological Sites in accordance with Sections 3 (c) and 3 (j) respectively of Republic Act 4846, as amended, otherwise known as the "Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act."

The bill provides it is the State policy to promote and inculcate nationalism, appreciation and pride in the nation's cultural and historical heritage. Moreover, the State shall instill and foster nationalism, appreciation and pride in the country's national symbols that embody the ideals and traditions of the nation.

The bill mandates the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), in coordination with the NCCCA, the National Museum, the Department of Education (DepEd) and other concerned government agencies to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of the Act.