written by Guest Blogger Jocelyn E. Morano on January 3rd, 2010
November 28 was a big day for Butuanons who waited anxiously for Diwata ng Lahi to finally come home in Butuan. The historic fate comes to life as the Pre-Spanish sailing boat known as Balangay Boat or the Butuan Boat reached the historic City of Butuan and the region of Caraga.
At past 9 in the morning, a message from those with the Voyage of the Balangay Team said that the Balangay has entered the mouth of Agusan River, used to be the homecourt of travel companies, slowly navigating towards PPA Port where a good number of crowds were waiting.
However, the strong current makes Balangay to sail at a slow pace since it is manoeuvred manually.
The Balangay anchored PPA Port at exactly 11o’clock in the morning, greeted with cheers from crowds, some are waving flags and others were teary eyed as they watched Balangay slowly cruising her way at the famous Agusan River.
Riverside Barangays in Butuan City also had their way of welcoming the historic event wherein bancas decorated with colourful flaglets joined the approaching Balangay.
City Tourism Council Chairperson in her message said, “Madyaw nga pagkani Butuan. You have honoured our Butuanon people with this epic voyage that highlights the significance of the Balangay boat and validates our claims to history. To Team Balangay headed by former DOTC Undersecretary Art Valdez, let me thank you for your invaluable contribution in awakening our people’s historic consciousness.”
In a grand celebration held at PPA grounds, City Councilor Benjie Calo announced in public that the Sangguniang Panglunsod of Butuan have adopted through a resolution the crew of Balangay as Honorary Citizens of Butuan.
Meanwhile, Mayor Democrito D. Plaza II wished the Balangay Team the success of such historic expedition including all activities they initiate in every port of call. “Being the Honorary Citizens of Butuan City let me assure you that you are still welcome here the next time you will be visiting,” said Mayor Plaza in his speech.
Balangay Team Leader Art Valdez on the other hand said in his speech, “Seeing the big crowd, seeing the warm response, seeing kids, children along the river some waving the flag as we pass by gets us emotional and you get moved and humbled as we enter the PPA port.”
“We in the Team Balangay feel honoured by the warm reception by the people of Butuan,” added Mr. Art Valdez.
Balangay is synonymous with Butuan, as the site of the excavation which makes a glorious history in the Philippines when the first Balangay was dug up in 1976, a proof of good maritime heritage long before colonialism.
The Voyage of the Balangay is a great pride of Butuanons as local historians have once said that this shows proof of civilization in Butuan where trading with neighbouring countries is full of life.
After sailing for 3 months, anchoring at 35 ports and braving 8 storms, Diwata ng Lahi will stay at Luna Compound in Bading –site of Butuan Balangay boat building-to undergo major repair.
Voyage of the Balangay will then wait for the completion of the second replica of Balangay built in Butuan and together they will continue the journey in January 2010.
The Butuan Balangay Crew composed of Toto Calo, Sato Raypon, Nico Calo and Lemzar Manginsay has now been declared by Art Valdez, as official crew members of the Voyage of the Balangay.
Butuanons and neighbouring people in the region of Caraga will also have their opportunity to experience a river cruise in Agusan River with the Diwata ng Lahi.
Agusan River became one of the major seaports in the Philippines in the 1970s turning a hub to travel companies where passengers meet en route to different destinations in the country.
This week, the Balangay Team will conduct disaster preparedness seminar, coastal clean-up at Barangay Masao, mangrove tree planting in Barangay Lumbocan and Marine Conservation and Effect of Climate Change symposiums to different schools before heading home for the Christmas holidays.
photos courtesy from Jocelyn E. Morano