By Ben Rosario
A bill naming balangay as the national boat of the Philippines inched closer to enactment after being approved on second reading in the House of Representatives.
Recommended for approval by the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture, House Bill 986 will be presented for third reading approval next week, before its referral for Senate action.
Authored by Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Lemuel H. Fortun, HB 986 proposes balangay to be declared the national boat, a title which remains vacant.
Balangay, a wooden watercraft used by pre-colonial Filipinos and the origin of the word barangay which is the smallest political unit in the country. It is also known as the Butuan boat.
Fortun, the bill’s principal author, lauded the plenary action on his proposal.
Nobody interpellated Cebu Rep. Red Durano, basic education and culture panel chairman, during Tuesday’s plenary debate on the measure.
“The Balangay was the first ever wooden watercraft to be excavated in Southeast Asia demonstrating early Filipino boat-building genius and seamanship expertise during pre-colonial times,” Fortun said.
Fortun said the boat was used by Filipinos to maintain trade relations with neighboring islands around the country and empires around Southeast Asia as early as the 10th and 11th centuries.
“The technology used in building this boat is unique to the balangay. The vessel is a plank boat adjoined by carved-out planks edged through pins and dowels,” explained the bill’s author.
He added: “As demonstrated by our ancestors, building a balangay and sailing it in the high seas entail solidarity and harmony among boat builders and seafarer.”
According to Fortun it is this bond of unity, cooperation and resilience of Filipinos that gave birth to the word “barangay” which became a term referring to the smallest political unit of government.
“The Balangay deserves its rightful place, not only in the museums but also more importantly, in the consciousness of every Filipino,” said Fortun, vice chairman of the House Committee on Ecology.
He pointed out that by declaring balangay the national boat, future generations of Filipinos will learn to recognize the “invaluable contribution of our forefathers in shaping our marine tradition and passing on the values of solidarity, harmony, determination, courage and bravery.”
“The Balangay is a source of national pride that should not be forgotten. It is time to formally include it in our roster of national symbols,” the administration lawmaker stated.