After a full meal I had in Lutong Bahay ni Aling Cora, I hit the road going to Brgy Libertad through a multicab jeepney . At the intersection of Paradise Street, I hopped into a local pedicab going to Balangay Shrine.
The Shrine is a simple display managed by the Philippine National Museum showcasing the old remains of the original balangay discovered in the area. The artifacts are placed in a giant glass confinement to protect it against further decay along with the coffins, skulls and other materials associated with it.
|Butuan Boat 2 700+790 years 1250 AD, Conserved in 1976, found in Fortun Property|
As I talked to the museum personnel, I learned that it was in Luna, Sitio Ambangan, Brgy Libertad in Butuan City that the first Balangay or "boat 1" was excavated in September 3, 1976 . It was dated back as early as 320 AD by Gakushuin University in Tokyo and can be considered as the oldest watercraft artifact in the world that was standing silently for 1630 years near the river bank of Agusan.
The boat was accidentally discovered during the water draining operation of the City Engineering Office that led to the exposure of the multiple coffins in Libertad, Butuan City
The boat was made from from three Philippine hardest wood tree : the wood planks are made of Doongon or Heretia litorales, wooden pegs with kamagong or Diospyrus philippinensis and Magkuno or Xanthostemon verdugonianus.
She also showed me the original excavation site located just at the back of the building. There you can see an elongated dent in the ground with the shape of the base of the boat. It made me curious, that if the boat was there, then the whole area in which the barangay was standing now was previously part of the Agusan River a thousand years ago. It could have been due to the geological siltation that became a solid ground to its current condition.
Today, the balangay may not be seen sailing in the vast ocean but in respect to the origin of the current civilization , the people of Butuan City continue to commemorate the discovery of the boat through a month long celebration of Balangahai Festival in the month of May since 1979.
The Coffin Burials
|Burial coffin recovered near the boat, wood used is Magkono, Philippine Iron Wood or Xanthostemon verdogunianus|
The coffin burials that led to the discovery of the boat lie 16 meters east of the boat. Similar to the inhumation in Suatan, the coffins contain 14th - 15th century materials associate with remainshaving deformed skulls. Nine of these coffins were discovered in a single trench but all of the materials have been disturbed by pot hunters.
Along with the 3 meter long coffins are small coffins to which skulls of children were found . As you look closer to the skulls recovered from Ambangan grave pit , there were cranial deformations (fronto-occipital ) which was a part of cultural practice seen also in the skulls discovered in southeast Bohol.
If you are not booked to a tour agency, you can reach Balangay Shrine via commute:
Coming from the city proper, take a multicab jeepney bound for Libertad or Bancasi. Tell the driver that you will alight at the crossing of Paradise Street. This is just a block away from the PNP Caraga Regional Office. From the corner of the waiting shed of Paradise Street, you have the options to hop into a tricycle, pedicab, or single motorbike. The fare is Php 10.00 only. The site is more or less 5-10 minutes depending on your type of transportation.