BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/20 April) — Repair works on a replica of the historic Balanghai boat have started to restore it to its original state when it first sailed all over Southeast Asia with two other replicas back in 2009.
Masawa hong Butuan, which made a 14-month voyage across six Southeast Asian countries starting Sept. 1, 2009 alongside Diwata ng Lahi and Sama Tawi-Tawi, is now perched on a 12-foot high platform along the banks of the Agusan River.
Butuan Global Forum (BGF), which built Masawa hong Butuan back in 2009 with contributions from Butuan residents and expatriates, said the project would cost around P3 million pesos. Aside from repair and restoration, it includes landscaping and creating a huge viewing area for the boat beside the Agusan River.
“We are saving a cultural heritage, Masawa hong Butuan is one of the boats that proved to the rest of the world that such voyage somewhere back in the year 320 A.D. was possible and that our ancestors made such trips from Butuan City to the rest of Southeast Asia,” Jody Navarra, BGF project chair said.
“We need to preserve the boat and show it to future generations the pride not only of Butuan but also of the Filipino people. It already had several damaged areas due to the marine borer worms. The boat was even repaired during its voyage back in July 2010 in Zamboanga City,” Navarra said.
“Along its long voyage it received several small repairs, but eventually it succumbed to the massive worm infestation and was dry-docked in October of 2011 at the Luna Compound in barangay Bading (Butuan) where it was originally built,” he added.
Bashir Abdullah, one of the original boat builders from Sibutu Island, Tawi-Tawi said the restoration work was already 70% complete.
Abdullah, who has 15 years of boat building experience behind him, said the workers are now restoring the roof and replacing several planks.
Navarra said they hope to finish the repairs by April 30 and start applying wood preservative by early May to protect it from the elements.
He said the word preservative would cost between P90 and P120 thousand, adding they had already spent about P850 thousand for the repair in general.
He added they hope to finish the viewing deck that would cost P1 million before the year ends.
Nine balanghai boats was discovered buried in Barangay Libertad in Butuan in the late 1970s, but only three – Balanghais 1, 2 and 5 – were dug up.
Balanghai 1 was dated back to 320 AD, Boat 2 to 1250 AD, and Boat 5 to around 900 AD.
The three boats were declared on March 9, 1986 as national cultural treasures under Proclamation 86 by the late President Cory Aquino. Boat 2 is now on display at the Maritime Hall of the National Museum in Manila. Boat 5, which has the most intact structure, is displayed at the National Museum site in Libertad.
The discovery of the boats gave proof that Butuan was once a seafaring community trading with the Sri Vijayan Empire in Southeast Asia and China as early as the 10th century AD. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)