MANILA - Barely 2 months after it launched on a 4-year voyage around Southeast Asia, the "balangay" sea vessel was swept by raging flood waters near Cavite on Tuesday evening.
Team Balangay captain Art Valdez said in a text message that the vessel, a replica of the ancient Southeast Asian boats called "balangays", was "swamped with big waves and strong currents" at a waypoint in Ternate Municipality in the province of Cavite at around 9 p.m.
Valdez, in an interview on ANC, called the incident a "freak accident", since he said it was completely unexpected.
"We didn't expect that the river would just [go] up. When they opened the [Maragondon dam without notice], the flood [broke] and we got swept into the open sea," he said.
Valdez said that the team was forced to set sail at 12 midnight back to the Sangley Naval Base, their first waypoint.
"We're still making damage assessments but the Balangay and crew appear okay and [in] high spirits," he said in a text message sent to ABS-CBN.
He added that the crew is just waiting for fair weather so that they will be able to continue their journey.
The team is set to visit every major port in the Philippine archipelago this year, covering a distance of about 2,108 nautical miles.
Their vessel, named "Ngandahig", is a replica of an ancient wooden boat excavated in the 1970s and believed to be one of the oldest seafaring vessels ever found in the Philippines.
The crew will then cross over to Sabah on the Malaysian part of Borneo, Micronesia, and Madagascar by next year.
It is expected to return on 2013 to Manila, where it first set sail on June 27, 2009.
The boat is manned by a core crew of 10 adventurers, including Nestor Emata and Leo Oracion, both of whom had scaled Mt. Everest. The team is supported by members of the Coast Guard and Philippine Navy.
After docking at a port, the crew will typically spend about 3 days promoting their environmental advocacy to nearby communities. With reports from ANC and Agence France-Presse.