BACOLOD – Have you flown to China on a plane or sailed there on a ship? One group of Filipinos is planning to make the journey aboard a balangay (indent)—a native boat made of wooden planks.
The Philippine Balangay Expedition team is planning a voyage to China using three balangays, replicas of pre-Spanish Filipino boats.
The vessels are currently being refurbished using freshly cut wood to sustain them on the rough seas. As of this writing, the mother ship Karakoa is being fixed in Bacolod City. The two other bancas, modeled after ancient attack boats known as salipsipan (indent), are being repaired in Sulu.
Environment Undersecretary Art Valdez, who spearheaded the first Balangay voyage in 2009 and also led the Philippines’ first expedition to Mt. Everest, said they will be sailing for China on May 4, where they are expected to rendezvous with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte is will also be visiting China in May.
The trip may come as symbolic as ties between the Philippines and China have been seeing fairer weatherdespite unresolved maritime disputes over the South China Sea.
Valdez said the balangay (indent) voyage will also commemorate the 600th anniversary of Sultan Paduka Batara of Sulu's mission to China in 1417, where he forged a preferential trade agreement with the Ming Dynasty.
The sultan fell ill during his mission and died the same year. His remains are in China, in a mausoleum ordered built by the emperor
The first voyage of the Balangay Expedition team was in 2009, when 40 Filipino adventurers led by Valdez sailed around the Philippines and Southeast Asia, passing through six countries in 17 months.
The group planned to reach China, but decided to head home due to sudden changes in the weather.