BRIDGING THE GAP
Baroto, paraw, batil, barangay, etc: Panay's maritime legacy
Now that Iloilo's famous Paraw Regatta has been successfully concluded, it is just proper that we take time to take a look at its historical dimension in early times.
References to the extensive use and construction of boats in prehispanic Panay are numerous both in oral traditions and written accounts. Several factors contributed to the early development of the boat-building industry in the island. These can be categorized as geographic, political and economic in nature.
The archipelagic nature of the Philippines promoted a seafaring people whodepended heavily on boats for livelihood and transportation. Like most of the Filipinos, the Ilonggo-Bisayans had satisfied their protein requirements by subsistence fishing from outriggered barotos or paraws within the lagoons and along the edges of reefs surrounding their islands. For centuries prior to the coming of the Spaniards, the traditional baroto and paraw had been imminently suited to this task. People relied onthem also when they traveled on rivers from one community to another, or when navigating unchartered seas. Likewise, boats were used by the people in theirriverine and inter-island trading activities.
In early times, boats were needed in the conduct of wars and raids which the Bisayan natives referred to as mangayaw (Scott 1995). According to the Spaniards, war was part of the early Bisayans' lives, and Bisayan raiders were especialy feared due to their fast boats.
The rich timber resources of Panay and Negros Occidental provided excellent materials for boat-building. Woods of various species abounded in these places, including Guimaras. A report sent by Sir John Bowring to William Hooker in England in the mid-19th century, for instance, revealed that of the sixty important species of wood grown in the northern and western sections of Panay, the most notable were thosethat madegood boat-building materials (Bowring 1963). He mentioned particularly the dungon,guisoc, ipil, duca, baslayan, obacya, bayog, lawaan, basa and molabe.
The natives themselves were an important factor in the development of the industry. According to the accounts of the Spanish writers, the Ilonggos particularly were skilled boat-builders. While the women engaged in weaving, cotton, silk and pina textiles, the men worked in constructing not only houses and furniture but also different types of boats (Alcina 1668; Colin, Loarca and Morga in Blair & Robertson 1903-1909).
For ordinary purposes such as fishing and traveling from one island to another, there was the boat which the Ilonggos called, as already stated, baroto, bangka or baloto. Its capacity varied. Some boats could carry many persons, while others carried one man (isahan) or two men (duhahan). A boat may be constructed with or without katig or outriggers, bamboo and wood floats attached to each side which serves as a counterpoise so that the boat would not easily overturn.
Popular due to its speed and maneuverability in transporting goods and passengers, and also for fishing trips, was the paraw which usually had decorative edges and was powered by sails. Another boat used in ferrying goods was the bilo, with a small rectangular sail. There was also the barangay or balangay. Made of wooden planks which were put together with wooden nails, it carried two masts and was worked by sails as well as by paddles. It was "very big, , very light" and "fast sailing", according to Jean Mallat (1846), a French traveller who came to the Philippines in the mid-19th century.
Moreover, there was the batil, a large sailboat which functioned not only for ferrying passengers but cargoes of rice, corn, beans, salt, and fishfor places like Manila, Negros and Cebu.
Finally, a larger type of boat was the karakoa which, according to early Spanish writers, "resembled the brigantines of Spain although they were larger in size' (Alcina 1668). This kind of boat was considered the most suitable for war. It had the capacity to carry three to five rows of oarsmen and travel on it could be done much more comfortably than on the other kinds of boats.
As can be deducedfrom the above, the maritime nature of the Ilonggos can be traced back early in time when they were already exploring unchartered seas and engaged both in peaceful pursuits and warfare. This maritime legacy, therefore, explains why up to contemporary times, IIonggo boat-builders continue with the tradition and Ilonggo seamenare found in practically every shipping routes in the world.