REVIVING THE (ALMOST) LOST ART OF FILIPINO SAILING WITH A TRADITIONAL PARAW.
The advent of motorised boats marked the end of the Philippines’s sailing heritage. Where entire villages and bands of pirates used to sail the seas with beautiful watercrafts, today only one traditional Philippine sailboat remains—ours. To build the Balatik we relied heavily on almost-forgotten knowledge, but it is with what we learned from this boat that we intend to carry sailing into the future.
The BALATIK (“constellation of Orion” in Hiligaynon, a language in the Western Visayas region) is our 74-foot long traditional paraw.
The vessel is adorned with tribal carvings and is designed after the boats that navigated Philippine islands over 1000 years ago. It took us two years and the shared knowledge of historians, craftsmen, and sailors to take this boat from our memories and back to the sea. The paraw is the only one of its kind in the Philippines today, and has been sailing between Coron and El Nido since 2014.
Bangka are native watercrafts of the Philippines. They are characterised by their two outriggers and dug out canoes designed to navigate shallow coastal waters. These boats were used for fishing and trade across the archipelago. Large bangka, commonly used as warships, were called paraw. Traditionally bangka and paraw were built with sails, but these became obsolete with the arrival of the motorboat in the 1970s. Motorised bangka are the main modes of transportation in Philippine waters today.
Gener Paduga, native Cuyonon and engineer of the Paraw Project
“A return to sailing makes sense – our marine environment is threatened by overfishing and fuel prices are rising. Learning to sail again will help Palaweños escape dependence on gasoline and diesel while, at the same time, fostering a deeper understanding and respect for the sea.
Projects like this may lean heavily on past knowledge, but they are very much the future. Global society has lusted after technology and ‘progress’ for decades, at the expense of natural resources and quality of life. Now people are tentatively reversing back out of the cul-de-sac. This project is as political as it is environmental; it hands back knowledge, independence and power to ordinary people.” – Gener Paduga, native Cuyonon and engineer of the Paraw Project. Gener was born to a family of sailors. The Paraw started as his passion project. He still sails it today.
Carvings – Precolonial Philippine beliefs were animist, so building boats with timber often came with various rituals. Ancient boats were given anito (guardian spirits) and carved with tribal symbolisms. The Balatik is made of five different kinds of wood and was blessed by a tribal leader before its maiden voyage.
Design – “Finding men to build the boat had been the initial hurdle. There were no blueprints or diagrams. Knowledge of boat-making was passed down from generation to generation, so they searched the Philippines to find three master carpenters who still remembered the traditional structure: Jaime Maltos and Bernando Conche from Palawan, and Celso Conde, a boat builder from the Sulu sea to the east. After two years of research and building…they fulfilled their dream and successfully launched the largest paraw in the Philippines.” – The Guardian
Crew, Sail, and Sailing School – Island youngsters are keeping tradition alive by learning how to sail again.
Future – Wood from large forest trees are required to build boats. Over the past ten years, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) has been working on using fiberglass in an innovative redesign of the bangka. A fiberglass bangka would still have two outriggers and no deep keep to allow it to float over the Philippines’s shallow reefs, but will be much safer and come with a more fuel-efficient engine.