I stumbled upon these wooden boats while taking a stroll at the Harbor Square along Manila Bay on Saturday night. At first, I thought they were ordinary boats until I read "Diwata ng Lahi" etched on the side of the boat. I got excited when I realized the three boats are the Balanghais [also called Balangay or Butuan boat]. These boats are replicas of the balanghai, a prehistoric boat that plied in the archipelago and around Southeast Asia centuries ago.
The first balanghai, Diwata ng Lahi (Spirit of the Race) was constructed in 2009. Two other balanghais were subsequently built---Masawa Hong Butuan (Radiance of Butuan) and Sama Tawi-Tawi (People of Tawi-Tawi), all using ancient construction methods. The shell is made of Dungon, the wood used by ancient Filipino boat builders, while the planks are connected with pegs (or dowels)---no nail was used on these boats. And to make the balanghai water-tight, the builders used natural resin from mangrove trees.
The Voyage of the Balangay started in Manila on September 1, 2009 and was completed on December 13, 2010, covering more than 14,000 kilometers in 14 months. The balanghais sailed around most of the Philippines and Southeast Asia ...(read article here) with 40 crew members.
Nine balanghais have been excavated in the 1970's by pot-hunters (those who excavate ceramic antiques without legal permits) in the areas of Butuan City in the northern coast of Mindanao. The oldest boat found was carbon-dated at 320 AD or 1,690 years old, said to be the first water vessel excavated in Southeast Asia.