National Museum to dig 2 more balanghai boats in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/24 February) — Archaeologists and cultural preservation experts from the National Museum on Wednesday confirmed that an excavation will start soon in Butuan City for two balanghai boats.

“Plans are already underway to excavate Balanghai 3 and 4. We already have the necessary funds which were provided by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). The entire dig will be done by archaeologists from the National Museum,” said Angel P. Bautista, Chief of the cultural property division of the museum.

Bautista, who was in Butuan to speak during the 15th Caraga Tourism General Assembly cited that nine boats were discovered in Barangay Libertad but only three were dug up, namely Balanghais 1, 2 and 5.

“Balanghai 1 is dated back to 320 AD, boat 2 at 1250 AD and boat 5 at around 900AD. After excavating boats 3 and 4, we are recommending to develop the site for heritage tourism,” he said.

He added these treasures should be protected based on the recently approved implementing rules of the National Heritage Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10066.

Agustina T. Tamayo, officer in charge of the Caraga Region Museum pointed out that the National Museum sent a team last December 1 and started a reconnaissance and mapping of the planned excavation site.

“We are happy to have received the 1 million funding from NCCA (National Commission on Culture and Arts). The team surveyed the area from December 7 to 17, they found out that Boats 6, 7, and 9 are already too damaged to be excavated but said that they have more hope on Boats 3 and 4,” she said.

“The entire team is optimistic of the entire excavation that we will be able to retrieve well preserved boats. The archaeological team from Manila consisted of four experts then two of us from Butuan. Actually the dig was supposed to have started last January and February but the constant rain has pushed the team to postpone it to March,” said Roger V. Mitra, museum technician, archeology division of National Museum in Butuan.

Balanghai boats 1,2 and 5 were declared on March 9, 1986 as National Cultural Treasure under proclamation 86 by the late President Corazon Aquino.

Boat 2 which is the most complete among the three is now on display at the National Museum in Manila.

Balanghai was a boat used in early times by Malayan settlers. Relics of this boat were first discovered in Butuan in 1976. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)