The Boat Of A Nation

A national symbol is a symbol that represents the core values and identity of a nation. Whether it be an animal, a person of history, or an object, to have something recognized as a national symbol means that the values and ideas it represents is considered to be reflective of what a nation values.

In case you haven’t heard, a bill has been passed declaring the Balangay, otherwise known as the Butuan boat, the national boat of the Philippines. An important piece of Butuanon heritage is now being recognized for its cultural significance to the country.

In Butuan, we call it the Balanghai. Most of us recognize the name as a festival to commemorate the coming of our ancestors who first settled here. Our best choreographers, dancers, and artists come together to showcase their talents in celebration of our origins. We already consider the Balanghai to be symbolic and celebrate it year after year. So why is having the Balanghai recognized as the national boat important?

A sailboat is common enough that people aren’t going to be confused of what it’s supposed to represent: movement, adaptability, and ingenuity. The Balanghai, while some variations can be sailed by one person, most depictions of it portray several people, sometimes a family, working together to fish, sail, and wrestle storms. It plays an important role in early trade and agriculture as well as function as a home for our ancestors. Now, we see it on almost every landmark in Agusan del Norte and during festivals, we design parade floats like Balanghais sailing on the road. To us Butuanons, it represents solidarity, harmony, courage, and resilience. To have something so common to us that we have it almost on every landmark recognized as a national symbol of these traits is a tremendous honor and gives great pride to Butuanons everywhere.