The balangay or Butuan boat is a wooden boat. At first, the boat probably played a role in the settlement of the Philippines. Evidence also reveals that pre-colonial Philippines was actively engaged in Southeast Asian maritime trade.
Photo: Balangay (Creative Commons: Andy Maluche).
Early Boat Making
Archaeological evidence shows that balangays were wooden boats. They were usually about 15 meters long and 4 meters wide. The boats were powered by nipa fiber sails and could hold up to 90 people. The city of Butuan appears to have been a major trading and boat building center in pre-colonial times. At least one boat has been dated back to 320 AD.
A super balangay has been recently discovered that is about 25 meters long. One theory is that this ‘mother boat’ may have been the main boat in a fleet of smaller balangays. This fleet may have journeyed to mainland Asia for trade. There is documented evidence in China that trade was ongoing with the Philippines as far back as 982 AD. Balangays would have been the boats engaged in such trade.
Today, the smallest political unit in the Philippines is the barangay. In pre-colonial times, barangays were independent villages in the Philippines. The barangay derives its name from the balangay. Balangay is actually a Malay word that means ‘sailboat’.
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