By Erwin Beleo
San Fernando City, La Union – Three traditional wooden sailboats, locally known as “Balangay,” with its 33 Filipino crew arrived at Poro Point Pier 2 here Saturday after a 22-day expedition from Southern Philippines to China.
According to expedition leader former Environment Undersecretary Arturo Valdez, the purpose of the expedition was to mark the 600th year since Sultan Paduka Pahala of the Sultanate of Sulu travelled to the middle Kingdom in 1417.
The Sultan traveled to China to pay tribute to the Yongle Emperor of Ming dynasty in Beijing.
“We sailed about 2,700 nautical miles and crossing the vast South China Sea,” said Valdez.
The 33-member crew sailed onboard three identical wooden sailboats, a well crafted centuries-old design.
The crew spent six days in Xiamen, China, rode a train to Dezhou in the eastern province of Shandong where the Sultan’s remains are buried, and was even able to travel through the Grand Canal.
The expedition’s story began in 2009 when Valdez and his crew set sail from Tawi-Tawi in the Southem Philippines on a 17-month voyage that called on the ports of Brunei, lndonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The original plan was to continue and sail on to China. However, due to bad weather, the plan was postponed.
“This was supposedly the first attempt to mark the 600th anniversary of the historical journey of Sultan of Sulu,” said Valdez.
The crew was given distinct arrival honors at Poro Point Pier and was provided with necessary food and materials by the hosts as they sailed back to the Philippines.