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It’s a little past 11AM as I waited impatiently in the cargo office of Cebu Pacific Air for my bag of photo equipment to be handed over while the new balangay is about to be launched any moment into the waters of Agusan River, a good 15 minutes away from the Bancaxi Airport. The anxiousness was building up within as the thought of traveling hundreds of kilometers for this one event and to miss it by a hairline will indeed be appalling!
The predicament begun as I set foot again in Butuan the day earlier; having arrived, minus my check-in baggage which they were only able to trace that afternoon, was sent to Tuguegarao instead! What’s more, it can only be shipped by the first flight the next day, ETA 1145.
So there I was, halfway through the launch program, ran to the airport and finally got my equipment at 1130; from thereon, we practically drove like crazy back to the launch site with barely 30 minutes to spare as the newly built 2nd balangay hit water at around 12 noon.
Christened “Masawa hong Butuan” with “hong”, a Butuanon word meaning “of”; the chosen name is in attribution to Ferdinand Magellan’s suppose 1st Easter Mass in March 31, 1521 at the Masawa delta near the entrance to the Agusan River, and not in Limasawa, an island in Southern Leyte.
The new balangay is about 25 meters long, 6.5 meters wide, and 2 meters tall measured at the center. It weights 7 tons and was constructed in about 60 days by the same Badjaos who built the first balangay, Diwata ng Lahi.
The hard woods used were mainly from apitong trees, traditionally preferred boat building lumber. Sourced in the mountains of Butuan and donated by the Monobo tribe from their ancestral domains, the selection and cutting of trees was also marked with an ancient ceremony.
Launch of Masawa hong Butuan
People from all walks of life started arriving at the Luna Compound in Brgy. Bading as early as 8AM. The program started around 10 with the usual fanfare, dedications, and heartfelt appreciations for all those who make this project a reality, particularly the Butuan Global Forum.
Assisted by 2 backhoes near the stern, Masawa hong Butuan was carefully push inch by inch until she gracefully slid into the murky currents of the Agusan River amidst jubilation by all those present. A tugboat was at hand and towed her back to shore for temporary anchor. There she was retrofitted with masts and other provisions the following days and set sail with Diwata ng Lahi last February 4 to continue the Mindanao leg of the voyage.
Voyage of the Balangays
From Butuan, the Mindanao leg will past through the cities of Gingoog in Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Ozamis and Oroquieta, Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte where our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was exiled, Zamboanga City, Cotabato City, up to the city of Davao then head straight to Sibutu in Tawi-tawi.
After the Mindanao voyage, the expedition will go around Southeast Asia; Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, and all the way to Shanghai, China; reenacting the ancient tribute of the Butuanon ancestors about 1,000 years ago to the Sung Dynasty and in time for the 2010 Shanghai World Exposition.
PS: Don’t miss the last 360VR with portion of the balangay song as composed and sung by Doc Ted during the launch; now designated Captain of the Masawa hong Butuan.
All VRs taken on January 31, 2010. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org