How were the balangays used in the past?
LAYAG NA! The ‘balangay’ or Butuan Boat was the first and oldest wooden boat that was excavated in Southeast Asia demonstrating early Filipinos’ boatbuilding genius and seafaring expertise in pre-colonial times. These boats were instrumental in the settlement of Austronesian peoples in the Philippines and the Malay Archipelago. It was used for cargo and trading, in which Butuan, Agusan del Norte, Philippines was a central trading port.
These were used by our ancestors to maintain trade relations with neighboring islands around the country and empires around Southeast Asia. The extensive utilization of balangay for trade confirms the active involvement of our forefathers in robust commercial activities in Asia as early as the 10th and 11th centuries.
The rise of Butuan as a trading port coincided with the zenith of the Sri Vijayan Empire (700-1377 AD) in Palembang, Sumatra, the Kingdom of Champa (700-900 AD) in the central coast of Vietnam, and the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD) in Imperial China. It is this East Asian trading constellation that situates and explains Butuan’s role in the buying and selling of products, and as a trading intermediary with the neighboring tribal communities. Ironically, the trading port of Butuan was located at the periphery of the Asian empires, not far from the rim of the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest expanse of open water. Still, this unfavorable geographic factor was no constraint to its growth at this period of its history.
Due to the archipelagic geography of the Philippines, boats played a vital role in transportation, commerce, and facilitating contact and exchange between population centers throughout the region and beyond.
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