Historic Philippine sailing vessels dock in Hong Kong

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One of the balangay, Sultan Sin Sulu, at sea. Photo: Philippine Balangay Expedition Team

Three traditional Philippine sailing vessels called balangay and the Philippine Balangay Expedition Team arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday morning after making a successful voyage to China.

The three balangay, which are replicas of a type of vessel used in the Philippines as early as AD 320, retraced the 1417 voyage of Sultan Paduka Batara of Sulu from the Philippines to Fujian province. The boats arrived at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club from Xiamen, China, on Sunday.

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The balangay in Xiamen, China. Photo: Philippine Balangay Expedition Team
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The Philippine Balangay Expedition team in Xiamen, China. Photo: Philippine Balangay Expedition Team

On Monday at a welcoming gathering at the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, Arturo Valdez, head of the Philippine Balangay Expedition Team, said the voyage was their third attempt to complete the route of Sultan Paduka Batara, who went to China for trading.

Team 15 may 2018

The Philippine Balangay Expedition Team with Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong Antonio Morales (second row, sixth from right). Photo: Grace Dandan/Asia Times

The team’s first attempt was in 2009 and they were able to sail to Vietnam. However, because of bad weather, they could not reach China and had to return to the Philippines. Their second attempt in 2011 was also unsuccessful.

The three boats, named Sama Tawi Tawi, Lahi ng Maharlika and Sultan Sin Sulu, were built by Valdez’ team in 2007. Two of the boats have engines, while the third is propelled by sail only.

The balangay was used in many aspects in the lives of Filipinos, such as fishing, trade, travel and communication.

Arturo Valdez 15 may 2018

Arturo ‘Art’ Valdez, head of the Philippine Balangay Expedition Team. Photo: Grace Dandan/Asia Times

Valdez, who previously headed an expedition of Filipinos who climbed Mount Everest, said the balangay symbolized the close relationship between Southeast Asian countries and China. He said the team decided to replicate the voyage of Sultan Batara as a way of renewing ties and building relationships.

“The seas unified the people of Southeast Asia, including the Middle Kingdom. It never divided us. We are all unified by the waters around us,” Valdez said.

The voyage of Sultan Batara, along with 350 people and their families, was to pay tribute to the Yongle Chinese emperor Zhu Di of the Ming dynasty, who received and feted them during their stay in China.

Valdez and his team embarked on their journey on April 28 from Manila and arrived in Xiamen at 3am on May 2. They are set to leave Hong Kong and return to the Philippines on Wednesday.

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