Sunday, December 07, 2008

Philippine team to recreate Austronesian voyages

A Philippine team that recently became the first from the nation to scale Mt. Everest is now out to recreate voyages by ancient Austronesian mariners.

The team will enlist the help of two Badjao boat builders from semi-nomadic seafaring groups from Sibutu and Sitangkay in Tawi-Tawi to build a boat based on the Butuan Barangay from the 10th century CE. The crew will also include two Badjao seafarers and a "master mariner" from the Philippine Coast Guard who was part of the team that climbed Everest.

Sketch of a sailing boat from the southern Philippines.
Remnants of a barangay boat at the Butuan Museum in Mindanao.

The group will engage in three voyages over three years. The first will circle the Philippines; the second, visit Southeast Asian ports; and the third, attempt a bold recreation of the journey to Madagascar. The article claims that the voyagers will use ancient navigation techniques:

It will sail the natural way—by adhering to celestial navigation, observing the migration of birds, cloud formation and waves....“We would build a boat the way it was, sail it the way it was and trace the migration route of the Austronesian-speaking people,” says Art Valdez, head of Kaya ng Pinoy, a group that pushes for projects that uphold national pride.

However, later on the article the authors suggest the vessel will only hug the coastline, which is not the way the ancients sailed these waters. Also, it suggests that as many as 50 people may be crammed into a 15 x 4.5 meter boat. There are models of larger seagoing craft that the team could choose from to make trade wind journeys. They would be advised to work with navigators who still sail beyond the sight of land without instruments as some can still be found in places like Micronesia.

RP Everest team sails on to new quest

By Erika Sauler
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:02:00 12/05/2008

MANILA, Philippines—After sending the first Filipinos to the summit of the world’s highest peak, the leader of the first Philippine expedition team to Mt. Everest is embarking on another epic adventure—to navigate the waters of the archipelagic areas of Asia as the early Filipinos did on a replica of a balangay, a pre-colonial boat.

The same Mt. Everest team will steer the balangay around the Philippines in 2009, then proceed to Southeast Asia in 2010 and on to Madagascar off Africa in 2011...

Read the whole article

Paul Kekai Manansala